Source: Best Health magazine, September 2015
Canadians are often viewed as tree huggers ‘ and for good reason: A love of the great outdoors is definitely in our DNA. But, we have to keep striving to take better care of our environment if we’re going to be able to enjoy it for generations to come. Luckily, there are eco visionaries hard at work across the country teaching all of us ‘ from grade schoolers to teens to grown-ups ‘ the latest about the three Rs.
Ensuring that empty juice cartons and shoeboxes end up in the blue bin is still important, but recycling doesn’t end there. Ziya Tong, co-host of Discovery Channel’s show, Daily Planet, is the ambassador for a car tire recycling program called Rethink Tires. Since its launch in 2009, nearly 75 million tires have been diverted from Ontario’s landfills.
The rubber has been repurposed and made into everything from roofing shakes to playground surfacing, which Tong explains is a win-win deal: With the Community Renewal Fund, grants of up to $50,000 are given when building these playgrounds, which means bigger and better equipment for kids in neighbourhoods across the province.
In addition to simply diverting trash, Tong encourages people to actually make less of it. Small lifestyle changes can be really impactful, she says. For example, she brings her own cutlery to work instead of using plastic forks.
Tong is also trying to teach the value of buying quality products with longevity, whether it’s jeans, shoes or a living room sofa. ‘I want to be able to show people you can have killer style without it killing the environment,’ she says. ‘The most important thing is for people to think, where did this come from and where is this going? Those are the two questions I ask myself all the time.’
You’re never too young to start caring for the environment. That’s the motto of Earth Rangers, a national program for kids ages six to 12 that aims to get the next generation involved in eco issues. There are about 100,000 members and they learn about conservation through the Earth Rangers school presentations and online community.
A recent ‘battery blitz mission’ had kids collecting 20 used batteries and taking them to their local recycling depot. As a result, more than 330,000 batteries were diverted from landfills and disposed of properly. Every Earth Ranger learned about the consequences of landfill waste and the harmful leaks that can occur when toxic waste isn’t handled right. In another mission, Earth Rangers identified sources of energy leaks and water waste at home and then worked with their parents to fix them.
In Vancouver high schools, Can You Contain It? is an ongoing program that encourages students to opt for reusable drink and food containers. But that’s not all teens can learn about eco issues at school. Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Toolbox programming also includes a unique eco camp program: Students in grades 10, 11 and 12 have the opportunity to attend a week-long leadership field course.
Teens attend Camp Alexandra in Surrey, BC, and participate in a classic summer camp experience, with activities like swimming and hiking. They also make trips to local watersheds and farms, where they’re taught about the complex eco-systems they depend on every day, prompting them to address issues like where food comes from and where waste ends up. Bruce Ford, Metro Vancouver’s sustainability education coordinator, says: ‘The central goal is to inspire and support our students to get to know, value and actively care about their region ‘ as change makers and as youth leaders.’