.There is no Planet Earth 2 – The Ecological Footprint.

Ecological footprint! What does this even mean? The ecological footprint measures the amount of nature’s resources an individual, a community, or a country consumes in a given year. Let’s focus on Canada. Here are some numbers for you taken from the WWF Living Planet Report:

As far as energy usage, Canada is ranked third in per capita and ranked in the top ten for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The average Canadian household uses 500,000 liters of water annually. Canadian households generate 31 million tons of garbage each year. That is 2.7kg per person per day! Canadians toss more than 140,000 tonnes of electronic waste into landfills each year. Plastic use? Worldwide, over one million plastic bags are used per minute. We throw out 100 million plastic bottles every day! There are roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. Sick yet? Let’s talk food.

In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kilos of food waste each year. Worldwide, 50% of food produced is wasted! Households waste an average of $1,456 worth of food annually. You like salmon? Over 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or past the point of collapse. Unsustainable methods such as bottom trawling, drift nets, dynamite, electro and poison fishing are being used.

Fashion? Do you love fast fashion? Consider, water pollution, toxic chemicals, carcinogenic dyes, sweatshops, waste. Have you ever wondered how it is possible to produce a sweater sold for $7,99?

What can be done?

Decrease Your Footprint:

Reduce, reuse, then recycle. Share, DIY, buy used, buy local (farmers market), buy toxin-free. Eat less meat and choose high-quality meant and sustainable seafood. Cook at home. Use less energy, drive less, turn down heat/AC, power down gadgets and standby lights. Get involved. Talk, volunteer, share, lobby, engage store managers, bosses, schools etc.

Buy less stuff! Before you buy, ask yourself: Do I really need this? If it is replacing something, can it be fixed? Can I do without it? Can I make it myself? Can I grow it? Who am I supporting when I buy this (small family business vs multi-national cooperation)? Is there a way to buy this from a local business? Is there a more sustainable option (Fairtrade, organic, recycled, sustainably made)?

Make smarter food choices! According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian has 26 tsp of sugar daily; teenage boys have 41 tsp! Only 1/4 of Canadian families eat a homemade meal made from scratch every day, compared to half of the families in 1992. On any given day, 1 in every 3 children eats a fast-food meal. Children see 10 million ads a year just ion their ten most visited websites – 90% of those ads are for unhealthy food.

Avoid Farmed Fish! This includes salmon, shrimp, mussels, oysters, trout, bass, and tilapia. The main concerns are: Extreme over-crowding leads to antibiotic use and poor health. Farmed fish is fed with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-meal, often with added dye hence the nice pink color. Atlantic salmon is engineered with a growth hormone gene. GM (genetically modified) Atlantic salmon eggs are produced in Prince Edward Island (PEI), shipped to Panama to grow, then to the US for processing and finally back to Canada for sale. Yikes! The problem is the missing transparency in Canadian Regulation of GMOs for example product labeling. To be on the safe side: buy only wild – and not farmed salmon, or no salmon at all unless you really know where it comes from locally.

Meat: Overall, reduce consumption to what your body needs. Find a good farmer for meat, eggs, and dairy. Go to organic butchers that source locally. Emphasize grass-fed, hormone-free, GMO-free feed (the meat tastes so much better!) Did you know that “grass-fed”, “grass finished”, “pasture raised” are not regulated terms? Antiobiotic free means only that the animal didn’t receive antibiotics for a period of time before slaughter. Ethically or humanly raised terms are meaningless. Again, organic meat is best, ideally 100% grass-fed.

Eggs: Try to buy organic feed, animal welfare standards, and local (farmers market!). Do you know what it means when it says Cage-free on the egg carton? Cage-free means that hens are not confined to battery cages (but no access to outdoors and no idea what feed is). Free-run means hens can move around in open-concept barns (may still be overcrowded and may not have access to outdoors). Free-range: Hens can go outdoors. Yay!

Watch this: Michael Pollan’s documentary Cooked (actually, read and watch anything by Michael Pollan!)

“Cooking for yourself is one way to take back control of your diet from the food scientists and food processors” – Michael Pollan

Lifestyle questions to ask yourself:

How far is too far to walk or to cycle? What is the smallest amount of money you could live on for one year? What was the last thing you bought that you really didn’t need? Why did you buy it? Could you live without a car? How would it affect your life? Do you think that the best things in life are free? If you had no money, would you still have the same friends? How do you decide what clothes to buy? Do you know where your food comes from? Are you willing to buy second-hand? Are you comfortable borrowing things?

Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.