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Take it up for Earth Day, Canada!


Natalie Thomas, reporter

April 20, 2012 — Earth Day is celebrated across the world every April 22nd. From the Edmonton Earth Day Festival at Fort Edmonton Park, to Victoria's Earth Walk, millions of Canadians will spend this Sunday standing up for the environment.

Avoid bottled water this Earth Day
Avoid bottled water this Earth Day

"Earth Day is really the day for the environment," says Jed Goldberg, President of Earth Day Canada.

This year, Earth Day Canada has a new campaign called Take It Up For Earth Day.

"Take it Up for Earth Day is really all about giving people some options on ways that they can have less impact on the earth," Goldberg told us. "So we're asking them to eat vegetarian for a day, or a week, or a month. Or not to drink bottled water."

Take It Up For Earth Day can be split up into four actions that anyone can take part in: eat, drink, move, care. With the help of different experts, we were able to break down each action and find practical ways for Canadians to get involved this Earth Day.

EAT

Eat refers to our diets.

A recent United Nations study found that roughly 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions is related to animal agriculture. That is more than any other sector, including transport.

"Eating vegetarian is a great way to have less impact on the environment because raising cattle has a HUGE impact on the environment," says Goldberg. "So minimizing the amount of meat that we eat, and eating lower on the food chain, is going to use less fossil fuels, is going to create less greenhouse gas emissions, and it's also going to be healthier for you."

This does not necessarily mean you have to cut out meat completely. David Alexander is Executive Director with the Toronto Vegetarian Association. He says a lot of people start out by reducing the amount of meat in their diet.

"Whether that's through something regular and scheduled, like Meatless Mondays," Alexander says. "Another thing people can do is look around at what you're eating right now and see if there are recipes in your repertoire that you can eliminate meat and replace it with something like tofu, or lentils, or navy beans. So vegetarian chili is an easy one. It's really easy to do tacos in a vegetarian or vegan way."

If you are interested in trying out a more vegetarian diet, David says there is a seven-day program called the Veggie Challenge.

"What that program does is it helps you by providing recipes and information about vegetarian cooking that you can use in your every day life to reduce your reliance on meat in your diet," Alexander adds.

To take the Veggie Challenge, you can sign up at www.veggiechallenge.com.

DRINK

Drink is all about avoiding bottled water.

"Bottled water as we all know is a real waste of energy and resources," Goldberg told us."Everybody drinks bottled water.
We're asking people to stop drinking bottled water, drink tap water."

Goldberg suggests keeping a container of tap water in your fridge that can easily be refilled. Keep reusable water bottles handy, and you can fill them up before you leave the house.

"Municipal tap water in Canada is by and large very, very good quality," Goldberg adds. "So, there's really no concern about drinking water from the tap, as long as you live in a municipality." 

The Canadian Federation of Students is also campaigning for tap water. Roughly 25 campuses across the country are phasing out the sale of bottled water. Most recently, York University in Toronto announced that they would be bottled-water free by 2015.

"First of all it's extremely wasteful," says Alastair Woods with the York Federation of Students. "And you know, a lot of people will buy a bottle of water, they'll drink it, they'll throw it out. So, it uses up too much plastic. And the other thing is that it costs almost thousands of times more than public water."

Reduce your emissions and save money on your gas bill this Earth Day
Reduce your emissions and save money on your gas bill this Earth Day

MOVE

"If you want to do one thing this earth day to help the environment, park your car," Goldberg says. "Leave it where it is. Take public transportation, or walk or bike.
Get outside and use your legs."

Move is all about active transportation: walk, bike, rollerblade.

Goldberg also suggests carpooling or "at the very least, bundling together several different trips into one. So, you know, you don't have to go out in the car so often."

The convenience factor, however, is also very important to people. People do not want to be inconvenienced.

So for most Canadians, that means we will still be using our cars. Silvana Aceto with CAA says there are many ways to reduce your fuel consumption while still using your vehicle.

"One of the easiest things and most effective ways that drivers can save on gas is to change their driving habits," Aceto told us. "Try to go easy on the gas pedal as well as on the brakes. By avoiding jack rabbit starts and hard braking you will use less gas."

Reducing your highway speed can also help. "That's because fuel consumption starts to increase above 90 km/h," Aceto adds. "A heavy vehicle also uses more gas, so try lightening your load. If you're not using those golf clubs or maybe that hockey equipment in your trunk, just clean it right out."

CARE

Care refers to the products we use daily: from skincare to cleaning supplies.

"The products that people use every day can have a very harmful effect both for your body and for the environment," Goldberg notes. "So we're asking people to try to reduce their use of materials that do have toxic ingredients. And there are so many alternatives out there that it's so easy to do."

When it comes to cosmetics, Health Canada maintains a Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist. It is basically a list of ingredients that are banned or limited in cosmetics in Canada.

Kristen Vinakmens is the Editor-in-Chief with Cosmetics magazine, and she says the Hotlist is a good reference point.

"If you're interested in following ingredients," Vinakmens says," and are concerned with ingredients, with what you put in your body as well as potentially with what will be released into the environment, it's a good list to refer to."

Vinakmens suggests reading labels closely. If you are interested in buying natural products, look for labels that say 90 percent natural or higher. "That's generally a good benchmark," she says.

Vinakmens also told us that many of the big brand names are putting natural ingredients in both their products and their packaging.

"So that's just peace of mind," she adds. "It gives you a little bit of something extra to know that these products that we buy so much of aren't going to necessarily leave such a big carbon footprint." 

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