The Environment / Consumer
Power :Ten Things you can do to save the world!
Buy things that were made near home.
Transportation is an energy hog. Sure it’s cheaper
for a brewery to bottle its beer in Edmonton and ship it to Winnipeg -
cheaper for them! But what about the
environmental and safety costs associated with hauling the stuff across
the prairies? We pay - for the damage to our highways, for increased
insurance costs to cover accidents, in loss of life, for health care,
in traffic policing, in bureaucracy surrounding the regulation of a
trucking industry that wouldn’t field safe vehicles unless forced
to do so. We pay in the inconvenience felt on congested highways, the
noise of the big trucks.
And speaking of close to home, why would we buy bread that
comes from another city when we have a bakery right around the corner?
We can all think of
countless similar examples.
Buy things that were made by people. A
number of forces ranging from Globalization to our Taxation System
conspire to make it easier for companies to invest in machinery than in
people. Governments could change that, but
they won’t. We as consumers can make
a real difference.
Choose to buy goods that come in sensible packaging.
goods are over packaged. Ask the bakery to just put the muffins in a
paper bag instead of styrofoam topped with cling-wrap. I know a meat
shop that will still wrap the steaks in waxy brown paper.
For regular shopping consider your own packaging (cloth
bag) instead of the plastic sacs they hand out.
packaged in cans and plastic, add metal and plastic to your diet. They
don’t taste as good. They promote a throw-away culture and even
though both cans and plastic are recyclable, many end up as litter that
we have to pay to have cleaned up. Until
recently, you couldn’t buy a canned soft drink in P.E.I. They
still had the old fashioned bottles, but the government caved in to
pressure from both manufacturers and consumers and allowed cans. It is
up to consumers.
while we’re on the subject, just in case you didn’t know,
bottled water is seldom necessary in our country.
Ask where your food comes from.
I remember when a can of cashews proudly announced itself
as a “Product of Brazil”. I assumed that such information was mandatory,
but that is not so. It was just that they were proud of the source of
the product. The fact that packages don’t indicate the source, or
worse still, offer misleading information, (“Product of
Canada” might mean it was packaged here!) tells us that many
suppliers are not proud of the source of their products. What does that
tell us? Our governments have been woefully negligent; in fact they
have been complicit in what amounts to wide-scale deception. Ask your
retailer where food product are grown and processed. If
they don’t know, consider shopping elsewhere. They will get the
Don’t accept unsolicited Junk Mail, Don’t deal
with companies who send it.
We have such incredible power as consumers. Companies can
afford to send out a steady stream of flyers and inserts because they
aren’t paying the cost of the disposal and cleanup, and we should
press our governments to act on that. But if we just say
‘no’ to junk mail saturation advertising, the companies
could channel that money into lower prices or better service.
Eat a Manitoba carrot.
Or even two. If a vegetable
was grown in your home province you stand a better chance of knowing
what chemicals were used in it’s growth and processing. You
reduce transportation requirements and you provide a job for a neighbor. Refuse to buy food products which have
depended upon unnecessary chemicals. Save the planet, save your life,
have a better tasting carrot. The same goes for milk. Imagine my
surprise when I looked at my milk carton and it didn’t even say
where the milk was packaged. But the head office was in another
province. I’m still looking into that one.
Okay for some of us that’s a bit difficult, but we
should at least examine the options. We know we should cut back on
carbon fuel consumption and we know that exercise is good for us.
Isn’t it handy that we can kill two birds with the one stone? The benefits are amazing.
Healthier people, less health care expense, less
pollution, safer streets, less maintenance on both roads and vehicles,
less expense personally. The list goes on. In fact, consider replacing any motorized mode
of transportation and compare with the human-powered equivalent. For
example; motorboat vs. canoe, snowmobile vs. cross-county skis,
jet-skis vs. sail boarding, ATV vs.
bicycle. Examine the cost of these
transportation toys. Financial cost - no
comparison. Health cost - obvious. Pollution cost - also obvious.
Abilty to annoy others wanting to peacefully enjoy nature? Don’t get me started!
your home an environmental makeover
There are hundred of websites, government pamphlets,
newspaper and magazine articles that will show you how to both save
money and help the environment. Don’t
forget that when you update windows etc. to save energy costs
you’re also increasing the value of your home.
The Shopping 5 W’s: What, When, Where, How, and
above all, Why?
Shopping has become a recreational activity. Have you been to the West
Edmonton Mall? It’s no accident that the concept of shopping is
now closely linked with entertainment. Fight
that by considering the 5 W’s. We’ve dealt with some
choices regarding what to buy. Does the “When” matter? Do
you shop on Sundays, holidays, or late at night? Would
you like to be working those hours? Keeping shopping outlets open
around the clock adds to the cost of retailing and is environmentally
wasteful. How about the “Where”? A
local shop or cafe or a national chain? Will you really save money by
taking your car three kilometers compared to walking to the
neighbourhood retailer? That takes us to
“How”. When you must use the car plan your trips. And last
but not least, “Why”. Consumer experts have long told us
never to shop while hungry. It seems that we as a society are being
manipulated to a state of constant hunger. Do you really need those
Exercise your Free Trade options
Free trade can be a good thing. It’s based on the
idea that Costa Ricans may be really good at producing a particular
product and we Canadians might be really good at a different product.
So let’s trade based on our strengths. What
it shouldn’t mean is that we buy products we can produce right
near home just because they are produced cheaper elsewhere. If things
can be shipped half way across the world and still be cheaper there are
reasons. Labour standards perhaps? Child
labour? Farm safety standards? It makes sense to buy South American coffee,
but we grow perfectly good cabbages right here at home.
And when we do shop for coffee we should try to be aware
of which countries do have reasonable good human rights and labour
practices. It can make a big difference to a struggling democracy if we
Canadian consumers support their efforts.