Environmental Responsibility – It Takes a Village

When it comes to environmental responsibility, we have become accustomed to thinking small. Thinking small is not a trait commonly identified with North America. Big cars, big houses, big business, big future: Americans (and to a smaller degree, Canadians) think & act big. Yet, we have been inoculated with the idea that small change is the realm of the individual when it comes to caring for the environment. Rubbish!

A 2008 report by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that replacing all incandescent with CFL bulbs would reduce worldwide carbon dioxide output by 16.6 billion tons by 2030. While that clearly is a laudable objective, the reality is that, by 2006, North Americans had converted a mere 5% of light bulb use to CFLs. On top of that, America & Canada were one of the leaders in terms of conversion from incandescent bulb use. At the current rate, we are unlikely to reach 50% of the target rate until 2060!

That is not to suggest that we should abandon waste reduction. Rather, we need to do a little, and do a lot, as well. If we remain satisfied with recycling 20% of our trash, converting 50% of our old bulbs to energy-efficient bulbs, consuming 30% less gasoline by driving a hybrid, or any of the myriad options available to individual consumers to cut our resource use, we will still be producing waste! Pathway Environmental

To reverse the impact of pollution and harm to the environment, we must, per capita, produce less waste than the goods we consume. Think of conservation as a bank. If we owe $10,000 to the bank, and each year we are charged $800 in interest (8%), we need to pay at least $801 per year to reduce the balance owed, even minimally. At that rate, it would take tens of thousands of years to eliminate the debt. Now, if we chose to pay only $400 each year, within 10 years, we would owe $21,590 to the bank. By the end of 20 years (2030), we would owe $50,338. If we are reducing our waste by 50%, we are still increasing our cumulative output by 503% over 20 years. We need to assume a larger share of responsibility, individually. Good news. It’s easy, and we actually can “make a profit” by doing so. Here are just three quick ideas for you. They require that you get involved with your neighbours to share the load.

1. Set up collection pails (plastic garbage cans) at one home on your block (probably yours!) and have each neighbour put their household non-meat food scraps into the pail. If you know someone with a large garden or market garden, set up a compost bin for them to provide fantastic fertilizer. Better yet, help them set up a small biogas digester, and generate a propane substitute PLUS compost!

2. Once each month, take your family along a street, and clean up the garbage along a length of the curb, ditch or pathway that is 10 times longer than the width of your lawn.

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