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The choice of goods and services we use every day in our lives can mean the difference between going green and having a large carbon footprint. Because this touches many parts of our lives, the going green solutions here are broad and diverse. The general rule of thumb is that if something is convenient, chances are high that it is not good for the environment and will have an impact on climate change.

Impact

Solution

Lifestyle Change

Health

Financial

Large

Stop Using Gas Powered Equipment

One-Time

$

Large

Green Investing

Habit

-

-

Meduim

Avoid Disposable Items

Habit

-

$

Medium

Avoid the Drive Thru

Habit

-

Medium

Avoid Waste From Fast Food

Habit

-

-

Medium

Green Lawn & Garden

Habit

-

Medium

Use Less Water

Habit

-

$

Medium

Compost Food Waste

Habit

-

-

Medium

Reduce Paper Consumption

Habit

-

$

Small

Purchase for Durability

Habit

-

-

Small

Donate Unwanted Items

Habit

-

-

Small

Precycle & Recycle

Habit

-

-

Stop Using Gas Powered Equipment

Stop using Gas powered lawn mower, leaf blower, grass trimmer, or snow blower. "Using a typical gas-powered lawn mower produces 48 kilograms of GHGs in a season and as much air polution as a car driven 550 kilometers" Your Guide to the One-Tonne Challenge, by the Government of Canada.

Using a reel push mower is not only good for the environment, it is also a higher quality method of cutting the grass. You can purchase reel push mowers at most stores now, so check one out to see if itís right for you. If not, an electric plug in mower is the second best option.

Green Investing (Socially Responsible Investing - SRI)

There are many choices we make in life that affect the environment, but investing somehow hasnít seemed a priority until now. As more and more people are starting to go green, they understand that their investment dollars in corporations may not align with their social values. [read more about Green Investing]

Avoid Disposable Items

The idea of convenience items may save you some time, but they are a waste of resources. Consider plastic utensils are made from fossil fuels, produced in a factory requiring energy (likely from fossil fuels), shipped vast distances, only to be used once and then thrown in the garbage. Does it make sense when you have utensils in your home? If you need more for a party, ask a friend to bring their set to help out. While youíre at it, ask for some plates too.

Donít use plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or paper towels. These are also convenience items that have evolved and become part of our disposable lifestyle. Use containers with lids and traditional cloth towels that can be washed and reused. Going green will not only help save the environment, it will also save you money.

Avoid the Drive Thru

A basic rule of thumb is that Idoling a car for more than 10 seconds is a waste of fuel, and the engine should be turned off. In light of that, using a drive thru is a waste of energy and a source of pollution. Challenge yourself not to use drive thru restaurants anymore. Walk in and youíll get a little exercise too.

Avoid Waste From Fast Food

Have you notice how much garbage you throw out after a fast-food meal? This is another convenience of disposable dishes. You can go green by switching to restaurants that donít use disposable items when dining in such as Tim Hortonís who uses china mugs and plates.

Green Lawn & Garden

Avoid using chemical pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn and garden as they damage the environment. Chemical fertilizers are a source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. In addition, many artificial fertilizers are nitrogen based, which use considerable amounts of fossil fuel to produce.

There are natural fertilizers available at most gardening stores. For treatment of pests and weeds, seek out natural solutions for the problem. There are many resources available on the Internet.

Use Less Water

Does flushing your toilet contribute to climate change? Yes, in urban centres it does because the water we use in our homes and workplaces is filtered and treated which requires energy. The waste water also requires a great deal of processing to ensure itís safe to dispose of. The City of Toronto estimates that over 50% of their electricity costs are for water treatment.

To reduce your water consumption, consider the following:

  • Take showers instead of baths (50% reduction)
  • Replace showerheads with low-flow showerheads
  • Use a front-load washing machine (40% reduction)
  • Flush the toilet only when needed (borrow the cottage motto)
  • Collect water from your downspout in a rain barrel for watering plants
  • Only run a dishwasher when itís full & run on the economy cycle
  • Donít water your lawn
  • Install a grey-water system when building/renovating

Compost Food Waste

When food waste is buried in a landfill or dump, it isnít exposed to the oxygen needed in the process to break down the food. Instead of breaking down naturally, it changes much more slowly and release methane gas. Methane is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, meaning methane is a concern for pollution.

The solution is to compost our food waste. Composting is easy and odour free if you follow some guidelines on what to put in the compost and what not. In general, only put in fruits, vegetables, and garden waste that do not have any oils, fat, or meat with them. Coffee grounds and egg shells are also great for the composter. The added bonus in this solution for going green is that you will have rich natural fertilizer for your lawn or garden.

Reduce Paper Consumption

Cutting down trees has an impact on our environment as the trees help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus reducing the impacts of climate change. The fewer trees we use, the better off we will be. In addition, the energy required to convert a living tree into paper is very large, not to mention the water used in the process.

The easiest way to address this issue is to conserve our use of paper. Here is a list of suggestions to start going green:

  • Placing a "No Junk Mail" sticker on your mailbox and Canada Post will not put anything in your mailbox that is not addressed to you
  • Reuse envelopes from your mail as note paper
  • Use both sides of the paper
  • Consider the environment before you print something. Rethink how you can avoid using paper.
  • Avoid newspaper, catalogues, and magazines
  • Sign up for paperless or electronic statements for investments, banking, and credit cards

Purchase for Durability

With so many imported products available, the price for goods has dropped dramatically in the past 50 years. The problem that comes with that is how disposable these goods have become in our eyes.

If for example you purchase a drill on sale for $20, it wil not last as long as a quality brand name, but why not just buy another one, right? Wrong. It requires a great deal of resources to produce a drill. Think of all the energy required to mine the ore that is made into metal for the motor and wires. Think of the energy required to extract the oil required as a raw material for the plastic gears and housing for the drill. Think of the energy required to produce the parts, package the parts, and ship the parts from around the world. This illustrates how we, as the end consumer, need to re-think how we purchase goods and the impact our decision is having on the environment. Going green means thinking about goods in a more sustainable way.

Businesses such as Brooklin Home Improvements focus on quality products that are durable and will reduce the need to replace them more frequently.

Donate Unwanted Items

Donít send it to a land fill, donate it. You can donate clothes, toys, even used building supplies to organizations that will make use of them and resell them. All of these things took resources and energy to produce, so we should reuse them.

Precycle & Recycle

Precycling is a term used to describe thinking ahead about your purchases. Recycling is a good way to reduce our waste, but precycling is about avoiding excess packaging in an effort to reduce the need to recycle. After all, recycling still requires energy to pickup the material, process it, and re-make it into something useful.

Check out this video about the origins of curbside recycling in Ontario.