Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

28 Dec 2017

It ain’t easy becoming green

Posted by Michael Keating

It was over a long Christmas dinner that I got an insight into some of the challenges of moving toward sustainability. We started talking about recycling, and the host said people were having a hard time figuring out what to put in Toronto’s three bins: garbage, recycling and compost. He talked of buying food in a package that had a clear top [recyclable] and a black bottom [not recyclable because of the recycling machinery]. It’s too confusing for most people he added, asking why companies are allowed to mix recyclable and non-recyclable materials in the same package. I can sympathize. After some 40 years of writing about the environment, it’s hard work to keep up with the changing rules. I have my own cheat sheet taped inside a cupboard door to help with such choices as which containers get recycled, and which go with caps or without.

We’re in a period of great transition. In the past, people invented things, and consumers bought them based on their needs, tastes and desires. Now we need to factor in the environmental impact. There is a growing discussion about how much meat to eat, or whether to go vegetarian, given the amount of natural resources it takes to feed an animal and bring it to your dinner plate. Cars are another big choice. It looks as if the gas burning engine will go the way of the buggy whip, but when? Should one spend extra for a hybrid? Should it be a plug-in hybrid? Where does one put the recharging plug, especially if parking some distance from the house? How about a pure electric car? It’s probably the greenest choice, but you don’t want to get stuck in a snowstorm without a very long extension cord. We’ve hard rumblings of a need to stop burning fossil fuels to heat our homes, offices, schools, hospitals recreation centres and factories. When is it going to happen? What kind of heating system should I put in a new building?

There is a growing list of questions. The answers are not always clear, but we need to spend more time looking at choices and looking ahead.

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