Like many Canadians, most of my recreational fun involves outdoor activities. Cottaging, camping, swimming, boating, and fishing to name a few. I love nature. It has always been there. It will always be there…

True to my Canadian form, my love of nature has been all talk and no action. Oh sure I might seem to be a little more “granola” than the next person. But what am I really doing to help the environment. Until now, I left it to the government to take care of it. Yeah, right. Time for a change.

I’ve been noticing stories in the news about government licensing for companies to sell large quantities of fresh water. The Americans want to build a shipping canal from Lake Superior to the Mississippi. The power grid is maxed out, logging issues, smog alerts, farming issues….What does this all mean to me? Will there be anything left for me? For my children? I started to worry. I am worried. Where does it end? The short answer is it can’t end. As citizens of this planet we can never stop being concerned about the state of the environment we live in. We need it more than it needs us.
Yes, these are big issues. Can one person really make a difference? Yes.

The good news is that the list of little things each person can do to help the environment is long. The number one and most important thing every person can do is to help raise awareness and motivate others to do something. We need to get a Wella Balsam style strategy in place…I’ll tell two friends….Getting even one other person concerned enough to do something themselves is the biggest thing you can do. If everyone was doing one small thing to help the environment the world would be in a better state.

The big thing to understand is that the root cause of all our problems is over-consumption (Tell me about it… but I’m just going to focus on natural resources and energy here). Reducing our consumption does not mean that we have to make great sacrifices, live like hippies, or do without the comforts of life. And it is not all about money, but you can save money by becoming more efficient.

Future articles and discussions will focus on the four main ways to reduce consumption with a focus on how the individual can:

1) Improve Efficiency: Over 90 per cent of the material extracted for use in manufacturing is wasted. We can make a difference here by demanding higher energy efficiency standards in everything we use from appliances to passenger vehicles, to buildings.

2) Water efficiency standards need to be improved to reduce water consumption. Shifting to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and micro-hydro would also help. I have received many questions from cottagers about this topic. We will focus many future articles on how the cottager can use renewable energy sources. Many cottagers think this is the only thing they can do, but there is so much more.

3) Eliminating waste and pollution is a state of mind. If we change the way we think about waste we can live our daily lives with new eyes. On a grand scale eliminating waste means designing production and consumption processes and patterns so that waste is not created. In addition to reducing environmental impacts, reducing waste can produce economic opportunities, create jobs, and save money. On a personal scale eliminating waste and pollution is as simple as making choices.

4) Building sustainable cities (and cottage communities): We can promote regional and national planning that integrates transportation, land-use and environmental planning; and ensuring municipal infrastructure is sustainable and based on smart growth. It’s also important to put an end to urban sprawl, which causes air pollution, water pollution, habitat destruction, gridlock, and loss of productive farmland, forest land, and increases the costs of providing city services (resulting in higher taxes).

My main message for this month is to start thinking about the environment around you and how much you appreciate it. Make a conscious choice to do something. Then check back here for simple things you can do to make a difference in the world.