Creating a sustainable future has been a pressing topic for decades now, and green initiatives are more important than ever. When we talk about the effects of climate change, it’s all too easy for some people to downplay the magnitude of the situation, writing it off as a problem for the distant future. However, as natural disasters such as heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts and floods become increasingly more common, and their impact more catastrophic, it gets much more difficult to ignore the fact that change needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Big change starts on a small scale, and one way to start moving in the right direction is by implementing green initiatives in your community.
Cities around the globe are leading by example. For example, Vienna tops GVICanada’s list of 5 greenest cities around the world for its sustainable energy usage, while Vancouver was ranked #1 when it comes to recycling. And when the city of Greensburg, Kansas was destroyed by a tornado in 2007, relief funds were leveraged to create a comprehensive recovery plan that focused on rebuilding in a more eco-friendly way.
While this is indeed a unique situation, eco-friendly initiatives don’t have to be expensive. Let’s take a look at a few green initiatives that can help make your community more eco-friendly.
Switch to Trolley Busses
Trolley busses look exactly like regular busses and can seat just as many passengers, but they run on a type of track and are connected via two overhead wires to draw their power from an electrical grid. They emit far less carbon than standard, fuel-powered busses and cars. Switching to trolley busses for heavily trafficked, popular routes can have an enormous impact on a city’s fossil fuel emissions; plus, you save money on parking.
Use LED streetlights
LED light bulbs use far less energy than incandescent bulbs, up to 75% less, in fact. They also last about 50 times longer, saving your city the cost of materials and labour to replace and change them when they burn out. When an LED light starts to die, it will let city workers know by slowly becoming dimmer and dimmer. At the end of its life, LED lightbulbs are 100% recyclable.
Car and Bike Sharing are Green Initiatives
Melbourne, Vancouver, Singapore are just a few cities around the world that have introduced car and bike-sharing schemes, with stations for charging and storing set up strategically around the busiest areas. Most of the vehicles available are even eco-friendly. Aside from the environmental impact of having fewer cars on the road, mobility sharing services saves the consumer money on insurance, car payments, gas and parking and promotes a healthier lifestyle; why sit in traffic in a stifling car or bus when you could simply ride a bike and leave it at your destination for someone else? Membership availability varies depending on the service, but you can usually pay a day, weekend or monthly rate.
Increase the Amount of Green Space
The greenest cities in the world all have one thing in common: they recognize the importance of including ample green space in their city plans. Areas like parks and playgrounds, nature reserves and outdoor recreation areas encourage citizens to spend time outside, which is not only proven to be great therapy for those struggling with their mental health, the byproduct of time spent outdoors is less energy consumption at home.
You can petition your city to better utilize empty lots by creating green space that the entire community can enjoy, such as a community garden.
Shorten the Distance from Farm to Table
Food production emits roughly one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. One way to reduce this impact is to reduce the distance trucks need to travel in order to feed a community. Being mindful of where your food comes from and making an effort to shop locally is one easy thing you can do to reduce CO2 emissions. The shorter the distance, the better it is for our planet. You might even consider growing some of your own vegetables, either in your yard or in a rented plot in your community garden. While you’re at it, educate yourself on the most ethical and eco-friendly diets out there.
Encourage Businesses to ‘Recycle’ Their Food
Transportation undoubtedly adds to CO2 emissions, but that’s not the only culprit in the food industry.
Food waste contributes to almost 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally. Every day, restaurants and grocery stores throw away hundreds of pounds of perfectly good food to make space for the next day’s orders.
Luckily, some entrepreneurs are taking the initiative and doing what they can to eliminate food waste. Composting is an important one of the green initiatives that’s easy to take part in.
However, apps like Too Good To Go let you register your business with them, and at the end of the day, food that hasn’t sold is discounted so that it ends up on someone’s plate instead of in a landfill.
You can encourage local businesses and even large chain stores to join over 130,000 food industry professionals and partner with Too Good To Go.
Up Your Community’s Recycling Game
Recycling is important as it reduces our need to create new plastic products, but it’s useless if not done correctly. Unfortunately, when recycling is not properly sorted, the container becomes ‘contaminated’ and ends up getting thrown in with the garbage, where it sits in a landfill or spends years floating in the ocean.
The best approach is to teach the next generation about the importance of recycling and how to practice it. Make children aware of what can be recycled and more importantly what can’t be.
Stuff like plastic bags and styrofoam can’t be put in with regular recycling, but there are drop-off recycling centres you can take them to. Some cities (like Greensburg, mentioned above) have partnered with local recycling businesses and have contracted some recycling collection to them. Can this be done in your city?
Reduce Water Waste by Harvesting Rainwater
It’s estimated that our planet will run out of fresh water by the year 2040 if drastic changes aren’t made to the way we use water.
It’s difficult to come up with exact estimates, as each community has diverse water needs, populations and rainfall, but by collecting rainwater and using it for some water needs (like for sprinkler services and grey water tanks) communities can reduce their reliability on freshwater.
If your community can’t or won’t harvest rainwater, you can put a rain barrel in your yard to reduce your domestic freshwater reliability.
Petition Your City Planners to Construct LEED Buildings
LEED is a green building rating system; it stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
In order for a building to be LEED-certified, it must meet certain criteria for energy use and water conservation. In addition, the location of the building and the environmental impact is considered, indoor air quality and the use of natural daylight is scrutinized and the construction material must be sustainable.
LEED certification is available for commercial and residential buildings.
Invest in the Type of Renewable Energy Unique to Your Area
Wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower are the four most popular renewable energy sources that come to mind. However, everyone has equal access to these types of power. For example, a town situated in the far north can’t rely on solar energy to provide enough power all year long, because the amount of sunlight available in the winter is scarce.
Encourage businesses and government officials to invest in the type of renewable energy that is readily available.
Green initiatives require voices of environmentally-friendly people like you who care about the planet. You can be a voice for change in your community. Write letters to your members of parliament and business owners, show up to town council meetings, and be an active member of the PTA to implement eco-friendly changes in schools. The future is in our hands, let’s not forget to do something about it.