It's the small things that can go a long way
The concept of climate change is not new. Since its formation, billions of years ago, the earth has been re-shaped and altered by, amongst other things, plate tectonics and the organisms that inhabit it. More recently, humans have been instrumental in driving planetary changes. Actions we have taken over the last couple of centuries have contributed to a changing atmosphere and environment, causing concern for future generations .
Even before the United Nation's released their latest report on climate change, concepts such as global warming, global cooling, carbon neutrality, and rising sea levels had become household terms. People have started to take notice of what the potential dangers are to the planet because of our actions. Businesses and governments around the world are making commitments to limit and control carbon outputs . But large organizations are not the only ones who can enact change. All of us can contribute to reducing emissions by making small lifestyle changes.
One way to combat this difficulty is incrementally, taking one small step at a time. As an example, let's quickly look at personal vehicle use. By car pooling, using public transit, biking, purchasing a fuel efficient or electric vehicle, and walking more to get to our destinations, we can significantly reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn . We can also reduce emissions by purchasing locally grown food. By minimizing the distance our food travels, we both reduce the carbon emissions associated with food transportation and support local economies .
The production of electricity is another major source of greenhouse gases, with many power stations around Canada and the world still burning coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity. By lowering our energy needs at home, we can reduce the fossil fuels power stations need to burn to meet our demands. Turning off lights when not in use and switching to energy efficient bulbs and low-flow faucets are simple modifications that can be made to any home. Using alternative energy sources, like solar power, is another effective way of minimizing our personal carbon outputs [2, 4].
Reducing the garbage we produce each month is another small action that produces big results. Much of the garbage we create is picked up by dump trucks, which run on fossil fuels. Our garbage invariably ends up in landfills, often resulting in the conversion of farm or forestlands into open dumps. Thus, there are less trees and plants available to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. Furthermore, as garbage breaks down, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Think of the difference we could make if each person in Canada produced one less bag of garbage per month. That would translate into about 33 million fewer bags in our landfills every month .
It's important to avoid becoming discouraged, even if we do not see immediate results. Overcoming the climate change challenge is not an easy task. It's time that we all begin to recognize how our actions affect the environment around us. Fortunately, some of the smallest things we do lead to the greatest changes. What can you do to reduce your contribution to Canada's greenhouse emissions?
1. Overpeck, J.T. and J.E. Cole, Abrupt change in Earth's climate system. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, 2006. 31 : p. 1-31.
2. What you can do: Go carbon neutral. 2007, David Suzuki Foundation.
3. Local food 'greener than organic'. 2005, BBC News.
4. Monbiot, G., Heat: how to stop the planet from burning. 2006: Doubleday Canada.
5. Welcome to Statistics Canada. 2007, Statistics Canada.