earth-day-2012, How eco-friendly is Canada?

Canada is a country of extremes

So many things exist here as polar opposites: the freezing winters and hot summers, the high quality of fresh fruit and veg and the omnipotence of junk food, the friendly polite people who turn into savages when they get behind the wheel…

The same can be said of Canada’s attitude to the environment. Where else would you struggle to buy an aerosol anti-perspirant  (they’re all roll-ons, in a bid to protect the ozone layer!) but find a race of people so loathe to step outside their over-sized, large-engined vehicles, that there exist drive-thru restaurants, coffee-shops, chemists and banks. There are laws prohibiting the use of certain chemicals in cleaning products and phosphate-free detergents aplenty, yet the ingredients list on some of the convenience foods would make you shudder! Kraft Dinner anyone?

Small scale eco-friendliness

Recycling is pretty good here in Ontario, with separate boxes for card and paper, and cans and plastics as well as compostable waste, and money back on returned bottles (just like in the old days back home!) Many people bring their own bags to grocery shop as most supermarkets charge for theirs, with the exception of Walmart, where they’re handed out willy-nilly, sometimes with only a couple of items in them. But if you want to air-dry your washing, you may be disappointed. There are by-laws prohibiting washing lines in back gardens where we live, leaving me with no choice but to tumble-dry our clothes year round, which means they last about half as long as they should and ensures our hydro (electricity) bill never gets much below $100 a month.

Large scale eco-friendliness

On a macro level, Canada’s environmental record isn’t great. There’s little government effort to encourage people out of their cars, thus reducing the transportation problems that are the greatest contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions. We pulled out of Kyoto on the grounds that if the US wasn’t going to try then we weren’t either.

Canada has a veneer of eco-friendliness but once you scratch the surface it becomes apparent that people don’t really care enough to make a difference. Attitudes towards the “biggest and best” as a reflection of your social status are deeply entrenched. Buying organic and phosphate-free makes you look educated and environmentally aware, but that concern usually stops once outside the front door.

Yes, we recycle. There are solar and wind power generators and lots of hydro-generated electricity and nuclear power, but that’s largely obliterated by personal consumption and government indifference, and a scarily large part of the population still doesn’t trust or believe the science behind global warming or acknowledge the widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

How much consideration do you give to the environment?

Authors edit: The municipal rules concerning clotheslines here in Ontario were overruled by provincial law in 2008. Apologies for the incorrect information.

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