May 6, 2013

Environmental Impact Essay

I've been working very hard, over the past year especially, to lower my impact on the environment in any way I can think. That includes everything from becoming completely committed to recycling, driving less and with the more efficient vehicle when possible, to purchasing more sustainable and organic products.

I've gone on a crusade this year to minimize all sorts of packaging, and becoming acutely aware of where said packaging comes from in the first place. I am trying to buy things that are packaged in less material and that comes from sustainable sources. I've switched to entirely recycled paper towel and toilet paper, and that was no small feat due to “texture issues”. Something was feeling very wrong with using trees to clean nether regions, despite the manufacturer's claims of “tree replanting efforts”. Why do “that” with trees of any size or age, when I can do it with post-consumer waste?

As far as recycling, I have made a concerted effort to fully employ our excellent recycling services in my city. We even have curbside composting! It has been an effort to get what recyclables out on what day down pat, but it's coming slowly. It's amazing how much we have cut down on our garbage by composting. It's difficult to see how this in particular has helped the local environment, as we have always shipped our garbage out of town to a bigger processing site. However, less garbage here will make less garbage somewhere else. In the meantime, it will make for some excellent compost for gardens in the local community!

My formal education was that of Civil Engineering, and I was certified by the powers-that-be in my province as a wastewater and drinking water technician. That has long since expired, but it made me acutely aware of what affects our drinking supplies. I've put a ban in our household on chemicals of any sort that could find their way into the water table or into the lake (Ontario) from runoff. I make a point of collecting our old or expired medications and recycle them properly instead of flushing them. I do not control weeds in my yard in any way, shape, or form, except possibly pulling them if I find them particularly bothersome. I endeavour to buy organic as much as possible due to both the health benefits and the fewer pesticides being put in our precious soils. It is more difficult to obtain and afford more responsibly raised meats, but I have found a middle ground in some grocery store free-range brands instead of the more expensive butcher shop farm fresh meat. Slowly, I am working towards becoming a vegetarian, mostly for the health benefits, but also due to the smaller footprint it leaves upon the Earth Mother. This summer, I plan to frequent the farmer's market. Reducing my “food-print” in this way would be great for the environment and would help the local economy, as well as being more healthful.

Along the same vein, I have been trying to buy personal products that are of the more Earth friendly variety. I have so far been unable to find suitable substitutions for some of my old stand-bys, but I am working towards finding at least products with a higher percentage of biodegradable ingredients. I am slowly weeding out those products that test on animals, and have been switching to those that don't. I also have been letting the manufacturers of said products know why I am no longer purchasing their brands.

I have also been a big proponent of improved infrastructure. Unfortunately, our fine city has a storm sewer almost as old as the soil in which it's built, and we invariably dump thousands of litres of wastewater into Lake Ontario after a big rainstorm as a result. No one is quite sure how the system is laid out. Whenever possible, I take the opportunity to explain this to my fellow environmentally minded people (and some who aren't), and try to spread the word about this unconscionable situation. We really need to bite the bullet, and have the sewer fixed correctly. Lake Ontario is far too “clean”, by which I mean lacking in life. Crystal clear water is not a sign of a healthy lake, and we need to do whatever we can to ensure it is around for many generations to enjoy.

As far as gas consumption, I drive a relatively efficient compact car that I keep in good working order. Keeping the tires inflated and keeping it properly maintained helps keep the gas bill down. It's pretty unavoidable to have to drive in my town, because the mass transit system is terribly slow and inefficient. I try to minimize driving though and try to do all my errands in one fell swoop, especially in the summer. We often have smog warnings as we are situated smack dab in the centre of the most populous area in Canada, and every little bit helps in this regard.

In my own backyard, I have planted several trees and shrubs. The previous owners had all of the trees removed, which is terribly sad. My husband and I have been working diligently to protect our little green babies despite wind and ice storms. They are doing very well this year, and often get little offerings placed beneath them. This year, I plan on dedicating a part of my lawn to a “fairy patch”. I am going to let this little patch of lawn grow absolutely as wild as it likes, to encourage local bugs and critters to make a home, and, of course, to invite the sidhe to make a home as well!

As far as my future plans for improving, I hope to, as previously stated, be able to move towards more organic and local foods. I hope to be able to invite lots of other green friends into my yard (after I have convinced myself that I'm not going to inadvertently murder the ones that are currently living there). I hope to try to encourage the Nature Spirits to visit by planting milkweed for the Monarchs, and maybe try a bird feeder or two as budget allows. I hope to be able to further spread the word about our impact on the environment, at the very least, by leading by example. I am doing my best to accept my limitations, as it's hard to feel as though you're making a difference when all you can manage are a few changes here and there. I am, however, adopting the mantra that “every little bit helps”.