Things may be dire as heck, but if Al Gore has faith, then so should we. Here are a few things you can do to help save our planet:
1. Skip the beef and go veg
Where’s the beef? Not on your dinner plate if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. According to Oxford scientists, if most of us switched to a vegetarian diet it would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by nearly two-thirds. Someone pass the tempeh!
2. BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug)
In 2010 alone Canadians used over 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups (equaling half a million trees). Think that paper cup you get with your daily low-fat, double-shot latte is recyclable? Nope. The polyethylene or wax lining means it’s headed straight to a landfill. Bring your own, then go hug a tree.
3. Turn most of it off
Using less electricity doesn’t just save you cash, it also reduces the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants. There are bunch of ways you can lower your consumption, but a big one is unplugging unused electronics (like TVs, phones and computers). They account for up to 10 per cent of an average home’s electricity use. Cha-ching.
4. Make your neighbours jealous by going solar
Freestanding or on the rooftop, installing solar panels can be a pretty big investment, but prices are coming down and the long-term savings in money and emissions is humongous. Basically, they convert sunlight (which was still free the last time we checked) into electricity. Look out for provincial rebates and enjoy your neighbours’ envy when you show them your rock-bottom hydro bill.
5. Stop Using Plastic Bottles (Just Stop)
Over 1 million plastic bottles are produced each minute, and that’s set to rise by 20 per cent by 2021. Sure they’re convenient, but recycling can’t keep up. Plastic is clogging up our oceans, killing off fish and are a blight on humanity. There are a zillion re-usable options out there and besides, the dirty looks you’re probably getting in yoga class just ain’t worth it.
6. Rethink Your Menstrual Products
The average female person uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. Want to do your part to reduce the load? Try silicone menstrual cups or reusable cloth pads. At the very least lower your exposure to pesticides and bleach by buying organic and avoiding plastic applicators (or any applicators for that matter). With billions of pads and tampons filling up landfills each year, it’s win-win, period.
7. Dig A Hole
When it rains, toxic water runs off your property and contaminates municipal drains. Dig a small trench in your backyard and the rain will collect there instead. Add native plants that thrive in moist soil, attracting birds, bees and butterflies. David Suzuki will give you a gold star sticker.
8. Attempt to work from home once in a while
Think about it. When employees work from home, companies use less office equipment and there are fewer cars on the road, reducing carbon emissions and energy use. Saving on lunch and getting to wear sweatpants seven days a week is really just a bonus.
9. Beg and Borrow (just don’t steal)
Every time something is manufactured it uses resources from the planet and contributes to our eco-footprint. Instead of buying more crap, how about borrowing instead? Get books or movies from the library (they have e-books too), ask a pal to borrow camping gear, visit a freecycle website or a tool library. Just think of all the extra closet space you’ll have.
10. Do *this* in the shower
It sounds gross, but peeing in the shower saves one flush a day, which over the course of a year, could add up to a whopping 4,380 liters of water. If you really can’t stomach the idea, switch to a low-flow toilet or put a plastic bottle filled with water in the tank to reduce the amount used per flush.
11. Cut The Junk
Junk mail, that is. All those deals on duct-cleaning and pizza use billions of gallons of H2O and kill trees. This may be the easiest planet-saving thing you can do and it’ll take you less than five minutes: Register with the Canadian Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail Service then stick a ‘No Junk Mail’ post-it on your mailbox. Boom!