Six small promises for Earth Day

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article reflect only those of the author and not necessarily of SFU Volunteer Services.

April 22, 2010 marks this year’s Earth Day, the largest and most celebrated environmental event worldwide. It also marks the 20th anniversary of Earth Day Canada.

Earth Day, as a lot of people know, is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment. The event has grown so much that celebrations usually take a whole month. April, for many, is now considered as Earth month.

While most find the issue of environmental degradation daunting, it doesn’t have to be this way. Every day, we can make small changes that will positively impact our natural environment.

In celebration of Earth Day, I decided to list six small things I can commit to start immediately to support the environmental movement:

  1. Buy local food. In BC, we’re lucky that many high-quality food products are grown within the province. According to the SFU Local Food Project, the average North American meal travels 2,400 km from the farm to your plate, so buying local is a great way to reduce your impact on global climate.I’ve signed up for the SFU Harvest Box, an easy way to buy quality, local and in-season fresh produce. This project is an affordable way to eat more fruits and vegetables (and help sustainability in the process) –  all SFU students should consider supporting it.
  2. Reduce paper use. Paper is not only expensive, it’s also very bad for the environment! There are practical ways to reduce the amount of paper I use – for instance, by avoiding printing unnecessary documents or by sending a soft instead of a hard copy. GoogleDocs, for instance, is a great way to collaborate with others without printing documents. Printing on both sides of the paper is a great tip as well. Also, SFU also has a recycling program that everyone should make use of. Canada Post’s epost allows you to get bills delivered electronically. What I like about this program is that it helps manage your bills online, reduce the clutter in your house, and minimize your paper use all at the same time. If junk mail annoys you, you can also participate in the Red Dot Campaign.
  3. Avoid bottled water. Did you know that it takes more water to produce a plastic water bottle than the bottle itself will hold? If that’s not compelling enough to bring your own stainless water bottle, consider this: despite the fact that it is more expensive, bottled water is not any better for you compared to tap water. If you’d like to learn more about the effects of bottled waters in our environment, you can contact No Bottled Water, a Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) action group.
  4. Bring my own coffee mug. There are days when one cup of coffee is not sufficient to help me get through all the tests, papers and projects. Each time I buy a cup of coffee, though, I also end up wasting paper cups. By bringing my own coffee mug, I’ll help reduce paper cup use and help save trees. And some restaurants around campus, such as Nature’s Garden Organic Deli, provide discounts for coffee purchases if you use your own mug. It’s a win-win situation for you and the environment!
  5. Volunteer for a green organization. Supporting non-profit organizations that promote sustainability is a great way to become ‘more green’. At SFU, SFPIRG, Sustainable SFU and the SFU Local Food Project provide many green volunteer opportunities. For more ideas, read an article on the Online Learning Community about volunteering for green organizations.
  6. Go meatless – at least once a week. This may be the most difficult challenge I’ve committed to. As a self-professed carnivore, I eat meat every day. However, there’s a growing body of research that suggests that going meatless is better for the environment. According to the David Suzuki Foundation:

“Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. It is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land and 26 per cent of the land surface of the planet. Because of their sheer numbers, livestock account for a large share of greenhouse gases (such as methane) that contribute to climate change. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that livestock are responsible for a larger share (18%) of greenhouse gases than the world’s transportation sector (14%).”

Although I can’t commit to fully avoiding meat (at least not yet), I can at least go vegetarian once a week. Meatless Mondays, a movement that encourages individuals to improve their health and reduce carbon footprint by avoiding meat once a week, is something I can be part of. On campus, the Ladle provides delicious and meat-free meal alternatives. It may be a bit challenging to prepare meals that are meat-free, but the planet Earth – and my waist line – may thank me in the process.

Saving the environment requires action on a global scale, but small commitments from many individuals will result to big changes. For events such as Earth Day and Earth Hour to work, we all need to pitch in, no matter how small.

I challenge you to tweak some small things in your life today and contribute to the preservation of our natural environment. What are some of the things you’re committing to?

By Kelvin Claveria