5 steps to keeping a light eco-footprint

5 steps to keeping a light eco-footprint

Posted on January 21 by Jennifer Dance in Kids
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We all know that burning oil contributes to global warming by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But it's not fair to point the finger of blame just at the oil companies. The only reason the industry thrives is because of us— the consumers.

We’re gas guzzlers. Energy eaters. And it's up to us to change that.

If we don't demand so much oil,  then more oil will stay in the ground, and eco-friendly alternatives will have a chance to be developed. So how do we reduce our consumption of oil? It's easy to see that cars, trucks and planes use oil, and we can try to reduce that by riding our bikes, walking, sharing a ride, and using public transport. It's also easy to see that we use energy to cook, heat and light our homes. Again, we can do our part by remembering to turn off lights and adjust the thermostat. These are obvious remedies.  But there are also hidden uses of oil that we need to be aware of. Here are a few things to consider. 


1. Eat locally grown food wherever possible

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It takes a lot of oil to transport food around the world, and that means lots of emissions coming from the tail pipes of trucks. Also transporting fresh food over long distances means more refrigeration of food on route. The David Suzuki Foundation says that the ingredients for a typical meal travel 1,200 kilometres to reach our plates. So talk with your family about choosing local produce at the grocery store, and visiting farmers markets in season. It's great to have a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables from around the world every day of the year, but do we really need to eat strawberries all year round? Why not pig out on local berries in July and go easy on the ones flown in from California the rest of the year. 


2. Reduce the amount of meat that you eat

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Cattle don't digest food the way we do. They have four stomachs, and they belch and fart— a lot! The methane and nitrous oxide they release make up 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases! Sheep are big farters, too. Chicken and pigs not so much. However, chicken and pigs eat grain which needs masses of fertilizer and pesticides… which also use oil to produce and transport. Remember that farm machinery runs on diesel. The planet would be a better place if we were all vegetarian, and if we ate only local, organically grown food, but even I can't go that far. So I'm just saying be aware, and cut back. Talk to your family about it. If you are a a mega meat-eater, start by eating one meat-free meal a week. And don't forget that the same applies to animal products, especially milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, even real ice cream.


3. Cut out the extra packaging

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If you have the choice, buy things with less plastic packaging. Ideally choose no packaging or packaging that is biodegradable. Simple alternatives… chose reusable containers rather than single-use ones, and take your own bag to the store. Where plastic packaging seems ridiculous, hop online and write to the manufacturer. For example, "Hi, I'm Joanna and I'm 12 years old. I want to inherit a planet I can live on, so I'm wondering why you don't minimize the packaging on your product."

All that plastic is made from oil and a lot of it ends up in landfills or oceans where it takes forever to biodegrade. Do you know that little pieces of plastic floating in the ocean look like plankton, which is what many fish eat? It kills them and affects the whole food chain. And the harder, more colourful plastic that you use in your product… well all sorts of marine animals like dolphins and seals and turtles think that it's food, and they die from choking or starvation because their stomachs are filled with plastic! And the worst thing is the Albatross! They regurgitate plastic to their chicks. Do you know that 40% of albatross chicks born on Midway Island die each year due to eating plastic? 


4. Take a good look at your products

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Read the ingredients on the labels of all the things you use on your skin and your hair. Many of these ingredients come from the petroleum industry. Do you want to put that on your face? Our skin EATS what we put on it and our livers have to work overtime to detoxify all that stuff. Plus, when we shower, the residue goes down the drain and ends up in our lakes and rivers. So be kind to your body and the planet and use natural products. Basic Rule... don't put anything on your skin that you cannot safely eat. If you can't pronounce the ingredient it’s usually a chemical.  Even the ones that you think are all natural, generally, are not. 


5. Don't accept the status quo

That means don’t accept things the way they are. You can change them! Yes you!
We all consume way too much, and these days, almost everything we buy uses oil, either in its manufacture or in its journey across the world to reach our homes. I'm talking food, clothes, gadgets and electronics. I challenge you to ask the following questions before buying anything

Do I really need it?
What happens to it when I'm done?
Can it be donated to Goodwill, or recycled, or does it end up in the land fill, or even worse, the ocean?
If so, how long does it take to biodegrade, and does it release toxins in the process?

Remember that as a consumer you have power! Every time you spend your money, or your parents’ money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want. You can choose sustainability. 

Check out the trailer to the third book in the White Feather series, Hawk!

Jennifer Dance

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Jennifer Dance photo

Jennifer Dance

Jennifer Dance was born in England and holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Animal Science from the University of the West Indies. She migrated to Canada in 1979. With family in the Native community, Jennifer has a passion for equality and justice for all people. Her first novel, Red Wolf, was endorsed by Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden. An avid environmentalist, Jennifer lives on a small farm in Stouffville, Ontario.