Shirley Bond, Prince George-Valemount MLA
Well, Earth Day has come and gone for this year, but hopefully the challenge will motivate us to take personal action for more than one day every year.
Earth Day was originally created by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson. As Senator Nelson himself admits, while he was the catalyst for an international focus on environmental issues, the public reaction to his idea was swift and dramatic. It was a spontaneous grassroots connection and despite his having neither the time nor the resources to organize demonstrations and events, a movement was born. When asked about the beginnings of Earth Day, Senator Nelson commented, “That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.” And today in more than 175 countries around the world there is an Earth Day celebration.
In the March 2011 Earth Tones newsletter published by Earth Day Canada, they challenged all of us to “Give It Up For Earth Day.” And if you look at the rationale for the challenge, I have to admit it is a pretty compelling argument. Just think about these facts for a minute: The average Canadian watches 21.4 hours of television every week and out of 5,824 waking hours every year 1,500 hours are spent watching TV.
Now even if you think about all the other great things you could be doing during those hours if you consider the environmental perspective – 10 per cent of energy consumption is from TV watching. Or did you know that in a lifetime, the average North American will throw away 600 times their adult weight in garbage? The average Canadian produces 997 kilograms of waste (1 tonne) per year and by the age of 6 months, the average Canadian has consumed the same amount of resources as the average person in the developing world will consume in a lifetime. OK, you might say, “I’m just one person and what difference can I make?”
Now I realize that it is a risky suggestion to talk about turning off the TV in the middle of the NHL playoffs, but do we really want to spend one quarter of our waking hours watching television? There are so many good reasons to turn off the tube, maybe we should just “do it!” I have a habit of working on the computer and having the TV on in the background, sounds like an easy way to make a change to me. And what about a personal plan to reduce the waste we generate?
I discovered some simple waste reduction suggestions like avoiding single-use items like disposable utensils or paper plates. Do we really need to use a bag if we are picking up one or two items from the grocery store? If you need one, why not invest in a sturdy cloth bag? In fact I recently purchased several very durable bags that were being sold by the After Hours Drop-in-Centre as a fundraiser. These bags had been recycled and were previously banners that you see along the highways in our community. Thanks to the City of Prince George and After Hours Drop-in-Centre for a partnership that makes a difference on multiple levels. We are also encouraged to buy what we need and make good purchasing decisions like buying from the bulk section whenever practical to help reduce the packaging materials that go straight back to the landfill or recycling depot.
As I think about the challenge to “Give It Up For Earth Day” it is important to recognize that one demographic is already making the choices and changes that are necessary – our children and grandchildren.
We just have to look at the number of children’s books and programs that focus on teaching environmental responsibility from the earliest ages possible and it is no wonder that many of today’s youth can serve as role models to all of us. Schools and families across our country embrace the need for change and accept the Earth Day challenge every day. Why not accept the challenge? Whether the changes you make are big or small, they all make a difference. Happy belated Earth Day!