Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sustainable Living

What can community members do to create change in their own communities that fosters respect for the environment and public health?

People can go green. They can change their lifestyles to better suit the environment around them by reducing their household consumption of electricity and reducing waste therefore reducing their footprint on the environment. This can have a positive impact on family and in the community. Maintaining an eco-friendly home can have benefits on the health and financial well-being of a family as well as on the environment. There are many ways to transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle and it can start at home.

As a homeowner that cares for the environment I am encouraged to maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle because it has so many benefits for the homeowner and the environment. I've recognized the importance of monitoring consumption of electricity and disposal of waste. It is easy to power your electronics and appliances as well as buy products packaged with materials that cannot be recycled because we are not always aware of the environmental consequences. The increased demand for electricity in Ontario has lead the Ontario government to implement several conservation initiatives, such as the Smart Meter program which involves the installation of smart electricity meters in 800,000 homes and businesses across Ontario by the end of 2007 to encourage consumers to shift their use of electricity or load to off-peak hours and use electricity more wisely. Furthermore, the Ontario government is in the process of shutting down all of Ontario's coal-fired plants in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and sulpher dioxide, gases that negatively effect public health and the environment.

At the local level, citizens can do their part to aid in the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle that directly caters to the quality of the environment and our health. This is the responsibility of the citizen and if we all embrace this transition and maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle we can set a new local long-term strategy for the safety of the environment and public health which our children can adopt and pass to their children. The following is a list of 10 ways to transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle that can be shared with your family and within your community:

10 Ways to Go Green
1) Look for items without extensive packaging. Most food packaging material uses some petroleum-based plastic. Instead purchase brands that use bio-based plastic. Recycle or reuse packaging materials you end up having to buy.

2) Bring a cloth bag to the grocery store or buy the eco-friendly bags sold at Loblaw's stores for 99 cents instead of using its plastic bags. The size of eco-friendly bags is equivalent to 2 plastic grocery bags. Disposing of plastic bags will clog landfills, create litter, choke streams and harm marine wildlife, like whales, seals and sea turtles.

3) Buy local and organic products. Buying local food drastically reduces the energy spent on food shipping. Local goods also tend to use minimal packaging, are fresher and come in more varieties.

4) Instead of regular aluminum foil or plastic wrap, purchase recycled aluminum foil. It uses just 1/20th of the energy needed to produce regular foil.

5) Reduce junkmail by posting a No Junkmail sign on or next to your mailbox. Signs can be purchased at Canadian Tire or Home Depot. Reducing junkmail dramatically reduces residential waste disposal.

6) Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Purchase cleaning agents that are nontoxic, perfume-free, and that are plant-based instead of petroleum-based (Method brand at Shoppers Drug Mart). Use microfiber cloths to apply the products to your furniture, counters, and sinks. These cleaning cloths are machine-washable and recyclable.

7) Use energy efficient florescent lightbulbs. GE Energy Smart bulbs use 70 to 75 percent less energy than incandescent lightbulbs and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. The Ontario government has recently sent out to electricity consumers coupons for energy-efficient products such as outdoor solar lights, compact florescent lights, and ceiling fans.

8) Use Nalgene water bottles or premium reusable bottles. These water bottles are durable, inexpensive, can be used repeatedly and are widely recyclable. In addition, this greatly helps reduce unnecessary environmental waste caused by plastic water bottles.

9) Use smart power strips. After turning off a computer, power continues to flow to computer peripherals like printers and scanners. The power strip stops the energy from being wasted.

10) Use major appliances like the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer during off-peak hours (late at night or early in the morning). In the summer, dry your laundry outside on a clothesline to save money on dryer-operating costs.

These simple tips can help you and your family become more environmentally responsible and set a good example for your community and others. Let's all go green!!

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