It’s an inevitable fact that stress on the environment has a harmful effect on the human population. Increased motorized vehicle usage causes poor air quality, overfishing and pollution lead to a decrease in fish catchment, and poor garbage separation skills lead to toxic leakage in the soil. Humans live in a cycle of cause and effect that can, not only negatively impact the environment, but also negatively impact us. It’s the beginning of a new year, a new you, and a new and healthier planet, so what are some ways you can help?
When brainstorming methods to improve your ecological footprint, the common examples such as recycling, turning the lights off, and carpooling come to mind. There are many other approaches, however, which will help you become more environmentally cautious. If you’re not up for a trek to Costa Rica to save the sea turtles, a journey to Peru to protect the Amazon, or even down the street to your local conservancy to raise money by bird watching (although you definitely should), then you can start your new “environmentally friendly you” right at home.
The David Suzuki Foundations post titled Canada’s emissions, states that the country of Canada has been seen to use approximately the same amount of energy as the continent of Africa. There are many generators of electricity, however fossil fuels and nuclear energy are the most commonly used in Ontario and the most damaging. There are many affordable ways to decrease your energy usage, here are some great examples:
- Replacing furnace air filters can reduce the strain on your furnace, which will decrease energy used.
- Installing or purchasing fans can be an eco-friendly alternative to air conditioners.
- Installing curtains or blinds will decrease sun reflection during the summer, which will limit your need to use an air conditioner.
- Switching from incandescent bulbs to light emitting diodes (LEDs) will decrease energy usage and waste given the longer lifespan of LED’s.
If you’re a commoner to the Orillia area, the bitter winters that seem to last decades are not a new phenomenon. Turning the heat up seems to be the only solution, but it can have a huge impact on the environment, especially when trying to heat a large home. Why not try some of these energy saving tips:
- Sealing doors and windows with weather stripping, as well as insulating the roof, floors and basement of your home to reduce heat loss.
- Installing a “set-back” thermostat is another cost effective method to lower your energy usage. The thermostat will automatically decrease and raise the temperature in your household to whichever temperature and time you set, saving you energy and money on your electricity bill.
Your diet can also contribute to your ecological footprint. Supporting local food markets means you’re supporting limited fuel usage. It will take less time to transport a locally grown cob of corn than it will to transport an exotic orange from Florida. Limiting meat consumption also decreases your footprint. The meat industry uses an unruly amount of water when processing the meat. Calculations show that the meat industry accounts for approximately 14% of negative effects on aquatic environments caused by Canadian households. Considering a meat free day each week can limit this amount substantially.
Finally, transportation is a huge contributor to the poor health of the earth. Greenhouse gases released from burning fossil fuels used in vehicles contribute to a multitude of negative impacts. For this reason, consider biking, during appropriate seasons, walking, or taking public transit the next time you need to travel 5 minutes down the road. There are also various websites, including Canada’s AutoSmart website, which will show exactly how environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient a car is. Check it out the next time you are buying a vehicle.
You do not need the beginning of a new year to begin a new you. Everyday is a new day and a new opportunity to change your daily habits into more environmentally friendly ones. We must remember that how we live not only influences the planet’s health, but our health as well.
Vanessa Klimuk is a volunteer with the Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting the special natural places in our region for future generations.