Living Green

As I travelled across Ontario in 2009, meeting with people from all walks of life, and listening to their concerns and good ideas, I was reminded time and again that people in our province are ahead of their governments in living green every day. In fact, Ontarians are among the most aggressive adopters of new green technologies and smart economic ideas. We need governments - at all levels - to catch up.

As we begin 2010, I want to share some thoughts on five ways to go green this year.

1. Buy local. When was the last time you took a walk in your neighbourhood or town and visited local stores? Shopping at these businesses is a great way to foster strong, sustainable local economies. Farmers markets, bazaars and fairs are all excellent ways to support your neighbours. Ask store owners about their own local purchasing policies and the production practices used in the goods you are buying. Government can do the same with strong procurement policies that prioritize local sustainably-made products and food for Ontario’s public institutions.

2. Get involved in your community. There are countless ways to make your community better simply by volunteering a few hours each week. Connected communities are strong communities that promote individual and public well being and social bonds that encourage stewardship of our local resources. Government can help empower local communities by providing financial support for community organizations, recreation facilities, festivals and fairs and through better use of public buildings such as schools, as community hubs.

3. Walk more. Although it’s hard in this weather to permanently put the car keys aside, especially for those who live in rural areas, there are ways to reduce the kilometres you drive. Consider carpooling, public transit, walking or biking to work and combine your work and personal travel as much as possible to avoid multiple trips. Government needs to increase support for better quality public transit, safer streets and better planning so that people have other options to personal vehicle travel.

4. Produce less garbage. Make a serious effort to buy fewer packaged products, avoid disposable and toxic products, use reusable bags to carry items and support businesses that use sustainably produced and biodegradable materials. Government can join citizens in this effort by passing Extended Producer Responsibility laws that reward businesses that use minimal packaging, durable and reusable materials.

5. Reduce your home energy needs. Now is a great time to insulate your home and replace appliances and electronics with energy efficient models. You can take this a step further by installing solar, wind or geothermal home energy or by purchasing green energy through resellers such as Bullfrog Power. Although there are government rebate programs in place to help you finance such projects, we need an ambitious and comprehensive Green Building Program in Ontario to create jobs today that will save money tomorrow. production

All the best for a prosperous, Green 2010!

Mike Schreiner is the leader of the Green Party of Ontario.