Getting greener, one step at a time

Recycling is great, but reducing our overall consumption is even better.

Yann Fortier

"We all have the power to change things, and it doesn't have to be painful," says Louise Hénault-Éthier, who manages science-related projects for the David Suzuki Foundation. The green steps she proposes are simple, but can make a huge difference.

Hénault-Éthier is adamant: It isn't that complicated to change behaviours that harm the environment. All you have to do to adopt new habits is take advantage of a little break in your routine.

Think "zero waste"
Lunchboxes often contain disposable plastic and over-packaged products. To start the school year and return to work on a greener note, prepare a zero-waste lunch, even if it's just once a week. "This simple action is easy and helps you eat better," says Hénault-Éthier.

And all you need to start are durable utensils and accessories that you can keep in your lunchbox at all times. To take it even further, why not replace your paper napkin with a cloth one.

When you're buying food, opt for larger packaging over individual portions. Not only will you save money, you'll also reduce your waste by using your own snack containers.

Be greener inside and out
There's a faster and greener alternative to raking your leaves. "Leaving them on the ground provides nutrients that feed the soil," says Hénault-Éthier.

You could also get the same benefits and save time by mowing over your leaves, breaking them down into tiny pieces. And lawn clippings left on the ground also provide the best winter cover--your perennials will come back healthy and strong in the spring.  

You can also help the environment and save money by programming your thermostat to automatically go down at night and when you're away for long periods. To enhance these benefits, use caulking to seal your home's windows and doors before winter comes. Stopping cold air, however little, from coming in can make a big difference. 

Walk more, drive less
Hénault-Éthier suggests that your kids walk to school whenever possible. "Besides saving on gas, you'll be encouraging them to adopt healthy habits--which are good for them and good for the environment." 

For adults, she recommends carpooling and public transit. Besides having a positive impact on the environment, these options free up your time for reading, answering emails or simply relaxing. And you'll also avoid traffic stress!

Become a more eco-friendly shopper 
"Back to school often requires new clothes and school supplies. You can score some great finds and save money by shopping at second-hand stores." She also recommends replacing plastic school supplies, like duo-tangs, with their paper equivalents. You'll be investing in greener products that will last just as long.

Same goes for your plastic toothbrush, which Hénault-Éthier encourages you to replace with a wooden one. A new bamboo brand that recently came out can be easily found in most drugstores.

Bulk buying, which has become common practice, is a good habit to adopt. Although buying food in bulk is already popular with consumers, it's worth our while to do the same with household products. "Refilling our hand soap or dish detergent bottles at a bulk distributor is a simple eco action that's easy to incorporate into our shopping routine," says Hénault-Éthier.

Put an end to waste
"Recycling is great, but reducing our overall consumption is even better.  I really encourage people to buy less stuff they don't really need!" says Hénault-Éthier.

And, studies show that we waste roughly 30% of our food. "People complain that organic food is expensive. But if you buy organic products and throw out less food, it costs essentially the same. And you'll also be eating better-quality food!" she says.

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