Every year, at 8:30 pm on the last Saturday of March, millions of people across the world show their support for our planet. They help to raise awareness of nature loss and climate change; the two biggest threats facing our only home. But Earth Hour is more than just an hour for the planet; it’s a movement for our future. If you are you looking for ways to minimize your impact on the environment, here are tips for going green with sustainable living ideas to get you started.

1. Shop local 

One of the best ways that you can reduce your environmental footprint is to shop from local businesses, wherever possible. Aim to buy sustainably-sourced, high-quality local products. This not only benefits the environment but also the local economy, helping to reduce packaging waste, create local jobs and reduce the distance that the food travels to reach you. This is also known as its “food miles”. The bigger the distance that the food travels, the more fossil fuels burned, resulting in increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Buying local produce can also help support local farmers and the farming community.

If you are located in the GTA, the Saturday Farmers Market at the Brick Works is a great place to shop for a variety of local and seasonal food.   

2. Conserve energy

According to the Government of Canada, in 2019, the Energy sector emitted 589 Mt or 81% of Canada’s total GHG emission. This is due to Canada’s extreme temperatures, large amount of land and dispersed population. If you haven’t already, consider purchasing solar panels for your roof and using other forms of renewable energy. If each of us makes even the smallest of changes, it can drastically decrease our overall energy consumption while saving money.

To become more environmentally-friendly at home, take a look at our suggestions on how to Go Green at home here.

3. What’s on your table

Being careful with what you’re consuming is at the heart of being more eco-friendly. There are a variety of ways to go greener that don’t only include eating salad. Try some of these simple tips for a greener table:

  • Grow your own veggies: It isn’t just a good way to save money, it’s also a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint. Windowsill boxes are a great way to brighten up your view, filter the air coming into your home and offer plenty of space for herbs and small vegetable patches.
  • Eat less meat: Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat can have a huge impact on the environment. Not having red meat – even if it’s just for two or three days a week – can have quite a significant impact on reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Don’t waste food: Waste not, want not. According to the National Zero Waste Council’s research on household food waste in Canada, almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food is wasted each year, costing Canadians in excess of $17 billion. This isn’t just a huge waste of food and money; it adds to the amount of CO2 being created in landfills.
  • Have your food delivered: Home delivery is like the public transport of groceries. This can not only reduce the number of cars of the road, it also means that you’re less likely to impulse buy, which can help to reduce any food waste.
  • Use your microwave: Microwaves are much more energy-efficient compared to conventional ovens. They’re not just for reheating anymore! Do a little investigating into some of the new kitchen gadgets out there.

When buying appliances, it’s crucial to remember the cost of energy to operate a product over its lifetime is just as important as its purchase price. Make the switch to an ENERGY STAR certified appliance to cut down your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint.

4. Composting

Composting can help you to prevent food waste. Instead of throwing out food in the trash, you can use leftover food scraps to nourish your garden and reduce landfill waste. To compost, put a container in your kitchen or create your own DIY compost container with the family. Items that are suitable for composting include: grass clippings, tree leaves, vegetable food scraps (coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc.), black and white newspaper, printer paper, cardboard, wood shavings or sawdust.

Do your part and take full advantage of the Green Bin program in the GTA. For a detailed list of items that should and should not go in the Green Bin, click here.

5. Reduce waste 

One of the first and simplest ways of going green is to consider reusable options. Here are some of the ways that you can aim to reduce the amount of waste that you produce:

  • Use reusable grocery bags: Using a reusable grocery bag reduces the amount of plastic bags that end up getting thrown out. It can also save you a few cents each grocery trip.
  • Avoid single use bottles, containers and utensils: Avoid using single use products whenever possible as they are disposed of after only being used once.
  • Learn how to recycle correctly: It is important to understand which items can and can’t be recycled where you live, so as not to contaminate the recycling stream.

6. Recycle everything you can

Recycling is an easy way to help the environment. Chances are that if you’re thinking about taking on an eco-friendly lifestyle, then you’ll already be recycling. But could you do more? You can recycle almost everything, from batteries and electronics, to paper and cars. Before you throw it away, take a minute to find out if you could recycle it instead. Products today, especially items like clothing or footwear, are made to last longer than ever before. Be sure to donate used items to a charity shop or a friend that would give the item a second life.

7. Transportation

We all need to get around. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us at home, which has reduced the traffic on the roads and pollution in the skies. As restrictions begin to lift, going green is still possible:

  • Flying is one of the most environmentally-damaging things you can do. With the COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us have started to rediscover Ontario and all it has to offer. From hiking trails and campsites to RV rentals, staying closer to home and avoiding flying can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint.
  • Depending on where you live, you may have to rely on your car to take you places. To become more environmentally-friendly, consider buying a eco-friendlier vehicle, like an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • You can also try carpooling with co-workers once or twice a week, or take public transportation if you can. If the weather is warm enough, you can even opt to ride a bike or walk instead. Less cars on the road can help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

8. Use eco-friendly cleaning products 

Many cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment, such as chlorine, phosphates and nitrates. By using eco-friendly cleaning products, you help to lessen the negative impact that these products have on the planet, which reduces your environmental footprint. A few great eco-friendly cleaning products include Attitude LivingNature Clean, and Biovert.

9. Go paperless

Jumping on the digital bandwagon can potentially save millions of trees each year. With the availability of digital resources, you can receive and pay bills online, view and manage medical records, as well as use your smartphone or computer calendar to stay organized.

10. Turn it off

Energy conservation is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Leaving your electric appliances on standby needlessly uses up energy. Want to go further than simply turning it off? Make sure that the tech you have is as energy-efficient as possible. This way, you’re using much less energy, saving money and reducing your energy output. Click here for more suggestions.

Making a donation to environmental organizations, such as Evergreen, is also a great way to help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, such as climate change and access to nature. 

11. Eco-friendly home improvements

Homes that aren’t well-insulated are much harder to keep warm when it’s cold, and cool when the weather is hot. Insulating your home is one of the best eco-friendly tips for your home, and going green as a result is a great way to reduce costs.

12. Fix it, don’t throw it

Repairing or fixing something is more environmentally-friendly than simply throwing things away, although the latter may seem easier. The internet gives you access to the tools and information (think YouTube) that you’ll need to fix practically anything. Your next DIY project awaits!

Regardless of whether you’ve decided to go green to help the environment, save money or to just see how easy it is, every step you take towards eco-friendly living is one that helps the world. For more information about Earth Hour and other environmentally-friendly tips, please visit earthhour.org.

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