Earth Day – Let’s Do Our Part

Excerpts from Earth Day: Take it up – Patrick Langston, the Ottawa Citizen April 20, 2012

Earth Day’s call for collection action aims to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet

…The climate is warming, wildlife habitats are vanishing, resources – from water to oil – are being squandered…“It’s a numbers game: It’s not the contribution one person makes; it’s the collective action. “The only control we ultimately have is over our own actions. (The situation) is scary, but it’s not hopeless,”  – Jed Goldberg, president of Earth Day Canada. None of which means that industry and government are off the hook. Large-scale moves, like controlling environmental damage from resource extraction, for example, are critical.

But individual initiatives can make a huge difference and we’ve come up with 10 that you can implement easily, just in time for tomorrow’s Earth Day… While you’re there, sign up for contest prizes.

Chillin’ out

Get paid up to $400 and reduce the strain on our electricity system while chilling out this summer. ­Hydro Ottawa/Ontario Power Authority’s Heating & Cooling ­Incentive program reimburses you $250 for replacing an existing ­central air conditioning system with an Energy Star-rated one (energy efficiency rating of at least 14.5 SEER and 12 EER) and $400 for a Tier 2 system (minimum 15 SEER and 12.5 EER). There’s also $250 available for upgrading your furnace. Info: 1-877-797-9473,

Green catering

Got a wedding or family reunion? Hire a catering service with an environmental conscience. In Ottawa, The Whalesbone, for example, says it sources fish and seafood from producers using sustainable harvesting techniques (613-266-6743, The Westin Hotel’s sustainable business meeting service includes green elements, like reusable dishes and cutlery and locally sourced food: 613-560-7000,

Go Energy Star

Switching to energy-efficient appliances can reduce energy consumption, saving householders about 30 per cent a year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Using an Energy Star clothes washer during off-peak hours (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.) will save roughly $700 in electricity bills over 14 years. That washer will also use 194,000 fewer litres of valuable water during its lifetime compared to a conventional washer.

The Green, Green Grass … or Not

An inefficient gas-powered lawnmower produces as many emissions as driving a typical car 550 kilometres, says the Clean Air Foundation. Options: Go longer between cuts; for smaller areas, switch to a manual lawnmower or a solar-powered model; replace some of your lawn with native plants. As to that leaf blower, don’t even think about buying it — invest instead in an old-fashioned, muscle-building rake and push broom.

Get Off the Bottle

Just say no to bottled water. Not only is tap water in Canada generally safe, but producing and transporting bottled water consumes vast amounts of resources and energy: three to five litres of water, for instance, are needed to produce a one-litre bottle of water, according to the Council of Canadians. Here’s the clincher: a CTV report in 2006 found that a litre of bottled water costs about 3,000 times as much as the same amount of tap water.

Power Bars

Costing as little as $5.77 at Canadian Tire, a power bar can reduce energy use and your hydro bill by shutting off power to televisions, stereos and other electrical devices when they’re not in use. Devices like these typically have an “always-on” feature to power their digital clocks and instant-on capability. That feature can account for five to 10 per cent of a household’s annual electricity usage.

Being a Drip

A drip irrigation system that delivers life-giving water directly to the roots of your vegetables or flowers is about 90-per-cent efficient compared to roughly 60 per cent for an overhead sprinkler, which allows a lot of evaporation – available at Lee Valley Tools starting at less than $50. Just remember that drip systems can clog if the water’s not filtered and the lines not maintained.

Not Just for Fries

To banish food-borne pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, from your home, try vinegar instead of pricey store-bought cleansers. That’s one of multiple tips on Toronto green author and columnist Adria Vasil’s website Vasil’s new book, Ecoholic Body, is one of the prizes in the Take It Up for Earth Day contest. It brims with eco-conscious tips on everything from shampoos to clothing.

Avoid the Drive-thru

Next time you need a Tim Horton’s coffee, park your car and walk into the restaurant instead of joining the drive-thru queue. Allowing a car to idle more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more exhaust than restarting it, according to Natural Resources Canada. Besides, walking will burn up some of the calories in that double-double.

Electronic Waste

Slipping that burnt-out cell phone into the garbage bag won’t doom Mother Earth, but multiply that action by billions of humans with billions of electronic devices and that’s a lot of valuable materials — some of them toxic – going into landfills. Electronics recycling opportunities abound from municipal e-waste drop-off events to partners in the City of Ottawa’s Take It Back program ( Take It Back includes dozens of other products from engine oil containers to bicycle parts.

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