You can have a big impact on moving us all toward a greener future in the individual choices you make each day. These are some of the easiest and most effective ways, in four key areas, to reduce our carbon footprint and help improve our quality of life.
Boy do we get around — cars, trucks, buses, boats, planes! All that transportation accounts for almost half of noxious air pollution, more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions, one quarter of common air contamination and almost one-fifth of water toxicity. Not surprisingly, cars are the worst offenders — they contribute the most carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, cause urban blight (with all those jammed, ugly freeways) and pollute our water and air through exhaust and road runoff. To make a difference:
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- Check the Canadian government's Auto Smart ratings for the next car you intend to buy to make sure it's fuel efficient and low polluting. A typical SUV uses almost twice the fuel — and releases nearly twice the emissions — of a modern station wagon, although both seat the same number of passengers.
- Walk, bike, carpool or take transit to get to one of your regular destinations each week.
- If you are moving, choose a home within a 30-minute bike, walk or transit ride from your daily destinations. A convenient place to live reduces the amount you drive, which means you'll lower your greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
You've probably heard that Canada is the largest consumer of energy in the world on a per capita basis, and the second largest producer of greenhouse gases (after the United States). We have just over 30 million people, but we use as much energy as the entire continent of Africa, home to 700 million! Wasting energy hurts nature and your wallet because energy efficiency means lower bills as well as less pollution. Here's how to stem your energy leaks:
- Reduce your home heating and electricity use. A more energy-efficient home will lower your utility bills and reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Find out how you can increase energy efficiency in your home through the EnerGuide for Houses program.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances. New refrigerators, for example, use 40 per cent less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
There are so many humans on the planet, simply feeding ourselves has led to all kinds of environmental havoc — air and water pollution, loss of soil and reduced biodiversity. It's time to clean up our act. We can have a huge effect on climate change by simply changing a few of our food habits. Here's how.
- Eat wisely. Choose foods that are local, organic and low on the food chain whenever possible. Make the most of seasonal foods.
- Buy sustainable seafood.. Check out our handy wallet guide for tips on the best catches.
- Take care of your trash. Composting all organic waste — and recycling paper, cardboard, cans and bottles — will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills.
As individuals, we can green our homes, schools and offices and have a huge impact. But we also need policy movers and shakers to step up to the plate — with incentives for fuel efficient technologies, legislation banning toxic chemicals and strategies to protect endangered species, to name a few.
We've even made it easy for you to send a message to our leaders on issues that are important to us and the environment.
No one's asking you to stay home and lock yourself in a closet. Get out in the world! Just try to lighten your footprint.