Climate change is one of the greatest threats to humanity, scientists warn, and to prevent more harm to the planet, many people are taking it upon themselves to be eco-friendly.
A survey from polling organization Ipsos, shows Canadians believe climate change is a threat and want to see more action.
They say they’re experiencing the effects of the warming planet, from rising sea levels to forest fires, and some feel anxiety about the future of the world.
While the onus of reducing carbon emissions falls largely on governments to create policies and large corporations to implement reduction targets, the individual response —although small — can make an impact as well.
To understand how people are going green, CTVNews.ca asked readers to tell us how they’re limiting their impact and received emails from dozens of Canadians across the country. The responses have not all been independently verified.
For Linda and Paul Kearney, each day presents an opportunity to give back to nature but also to fellow Canadians.
The married couple lives in Hartford, N.B., and both are retired military personnel who served the country in various roles over their decades-long careers. The mindset and values they learned in the Canadian Armed Forces have shaped the way they live in retirement, they said.
“We both love Canada, we fought for Canada…we want to maintain the clean air and clean water,” Linda told CTVNews.ca in an interview.
In order to reduce their impact, the two created a “zero fuel burn” (ZFB) day they incorporate into their weeks.
“Declaring a ‘zero fuel burn day’ means no lawn mowing, no snow blowing… nothing,” Paul said in an interview.
Instead of using the car to get groceries, go to the bank or run other errands, Linda and Paul instead try to complete their tasks using their electric bikes.
Pictured is Paul and Linda Kearney’s bikes. (Contributed)
As the concept grew, the couple said they were surprised by how many days they made “ZFB” days. Now, they usually have three to five days of no fuel-burning emission activities per week.
On ZFB days, the couple likes to include what they call “self-propelled adventures” that still gets them out of the house.
“Go somewhere where you’ve never been on your bicycle and explore and maybe find a new trail or a new conservation area,” Paul said.
Research suggests this strategy can make a big difference over time.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says if individuals chose lower-carbon transportation alternatives like biking, walking or public transit, it could divert two tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly per person. This is equivalent to 4.1 barrels of oil consumed.
On the other side of the country, Jennifer Halldorson is also seeing the benefits of using her bike as opposed to her car. Living on Vancouver Island, the RCMP information technician regularly bikes to work to cut down on emissions and improve her health, she told CTVNews.ca in an email.
“Since I bought the bike, I have tried every way I can think of to either quickly pay off my rather predatory car loan, or sell the car, period,” she wrote. “I LOVE cycling. It has completely changed how I do most things. It has jump-started weight loss, it has helped my sleep, it has vastly reduced incidences of anxiety and deep depression.”
Knowing how biking changed her life, Halldorson is now advocating for the B.C. government to build more protected cycling lanes and further educate drivers on sharing the road.
Droughts are not uncommon in Western Canada, where the heat can climb well above 30 C in the summer.
A number of municipalities have water restriction bylaws pertaining to lawns, something residents need to be aware of as they maintain their grass by cutting and watering periodically.
Lawnlift Canada offers a solution to the routine maintenance beyond watering rules in communities where lawns may get a bit dry.
“With the climate changing, homeowners are looking to conserve water, stay green (and) have alternative methods to keep the grass green,” said Nicole Lundy, CEO of LawnLift Canada.
Instead of getting the natural green through water, dead and dried grass can be painted to look lush and healthy.
According to Lundy, the formula does not transfer easily to pets, skin or clothing once dry, depending on usage. It is created with a natural pigment, using no chemicals.
“If you roll around in natural grass, you get grass stains on your knees. It’s very similar because it’s a dye,” Lundy said. “If you do get it on your clothes or shoes, it comes off with soap and water.”
Homeowners who choose to go this route can even select a shade of green. The company offers concentrated dye that is then diluted with water. Lundy says it lasts about three months, depending on conditions.
Some Canadians have decided against traditional grass lawns entirely, and instead opt to use their space to give back to nature.
Wild Bird Trust, a B.C. conservation non-profit, encourages selecting native plants for gardens, instead of grass, saying on its website that these help attract pollinators and restore natural environments for wildlife.
Rosemary Pauer lives in Brampton, Ont., and allowed nature to take over her backyard.
Native plants can also provide food for a household, like in the case of Lynn Heap in Saanichton, B.C., who is using her plants to help cut down on her food bills.
“I’m learning to forage for food in my garden,” she told CTVNews.ca in an email. “I made nettle pesto the other day, which was delicious, and the water I used to cook it made some amazing broth for soup.”
In order to yield different plants, Heap has started sharing seeds with friends, allowing her to have the “best” butternut squash and never needing to plant garlic again.
Outside of her garden, Heap has removed invasive species on her property and allowed native plants to flourish with “little intervention.”
Food is harder to grow in some parts of Canada than others, especially in areas where winter temperatures can drop to -30 C — another argument to select native species for your garden, or to research what will thrive where you live.
Ariane Wasilow, in northeast Alberta, has a passion for planting fruit trees that she says are “hardy enough for Prairie winters.”
“My beloved husband, Daryl (who died in 2014), had asked me to plant a tree for him,” she told CTVNews.ca in an email. “My idea grew around the tree for my husband. I decided I wanted to plant a memory garden. Then, I decided why plant one tree when I could plant a small forest?”
As she collected trees and plants, Wasilow’s passion grew and so did the amount of food she yields. Her backyard hosts pears, raspberries, cherries, blackcurrants and — one of her late husband’s favourites — Saskatoon berries.
It’s one thing to keep the backyard low-carbon, but it’s another to create an entire living space with a reduced impact. For Micheal Archer and his husband, creating a green home was their goal as they prepared to renovate.
The pair lives in Peterborough, Ont., and told CTVNews.ca in an email about the many sustainable swaps they made to their home.
“In 2022, we started investigating options for energy-efficiency upgrades through the Greener Homes Grant program (federal at the time, now provincial), so we had a home assessment done,” Archer said.
The couple has invested in a hybrid water heater that primarily uses source heat pump technology, sealed living spaces and an uninsulated attic, and installed an air source heat pump for heating and cooling of the home.
Eliminating our impact on the environment includes reducing waste in landfills and purchasing fewer items.
Heap says to do her part, she makes her own soap, conditioner and lotion, cutting back on plastic waste.
Ariane Wasilow loves planting fruit trees and bushes in her backyard. Pictured (left) are blackcurrants, a pear tree and a cherry tree in northeast Alberta. (Contributed)
Waste can also come in the form of food that ends up in landfills and emits harmful greenhouse gases like methane while it decomposes.
Debrah McCabe, in Strathmore, Alta., tries to reduce what ends up in her local landfill by using her backyard composter, which helps her garden grow, and by avoiding purchasing plastics “as much as possible.”
McCabe even tries to reduce her water consumption by not flushing her toilet as frequently.
“If it’s yellow, let it mellow,” she told CTVNews.ca in an email of her bathroom mantra.
Although seemingly small on their own, the actions taken collectively by Canadians are reducing the impact on the environment.
“I hope that more Canadians…will begin to understand that every one of us, not just companies and industries, have a part to play in saving the environment that sustains all of us,” McCabe said. “Here’s to a cleaner, greener future for all our children and grandchildren.”