1. Start with your home
When Hadley Archer, a vice-president at WWF-Canada, and his wife bought their first home they were careful to choose one that was just big enough – not one that they would grow into. "This way we are not using energy to heat rooms that we don't need," says Archer.
The couple also switched to green energy provider Bullfrog for power and replaced the house’s old furnace with a high-efficiency boiler system. Bonus: they're now saving about 30 per cent on their energy bills.
Taking a few extra steps, Archer says they added more insulation in their attic to retain heat in the winter and keep it cooler in the summer, installed a programmable thermostat, which they turn down in the evenings, and replaced their decorative front door with a storm door that is more energy efficient.
2. Strike up a conversation with your kids
One of the best ways you can help the environment is by raising eco conscious children, says Annette Cake, regional coordinator for WWF-Canada's Mackenzie River Basin in St. Albert, Alberta. "I have a six year-old son and we talk about greenhouse gases and cars burning fossils fuels and that these things warm our environment," says Cake. "You have to make the connections for kids and use powerful images, such as sea ice melting and a polar bear with no where to go and no way to hunt food to survive."
3. Be the packaging police
"We look at the packaging carefully before we buy anything," says Darcy Dobell, vice-president of WWF-Canada's Pacific Region in Vancouver, and a mom of two. Here are a few of her tips: look for minimal packaging; buy in bulk whenever you can; and if the packaging is plastic, check for a biodegradable label.
"Degradable plastic is recyclable but it will never break down completely," says Dobell.
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4. Eat locally
"Our menu is based on what is in season and we buy as much of our food as possible from local farmers’ markets so our kids can see and understand where food comes from," says Christina Topp, vice-president of marketing and communications with WWF-Canada. She adds that food grown locally has a smaller eco footprint because it hasn't been transported long distances and it's less likely to have environmentally damaging pesticides. It also tastes better.
5. Go meatless more often
"Meat is one of the largest contributors of green house gases in the world," says Archer "So I am eating less these days and my wife is a vegetarian."
6. Green your travel plans
Planes and cars have a big impact on our environment and that's why Peter Ewins, who directs WWF's species conservation work, avoids them when vacationing.
When his family of four was planning a trip to Florida they took the train from Toronto. "We booked sleeper cars and it still cost less than if we had all flown down and had a lower carbon footprint than if we had driven," says Ewins. "It also gave us a chance to slow down the pace of our lives and spend some fun time together."
7. Do your shopping at second hand stores
Kristy Woudstra, director of communications with WWF Canada, has taken on a personal challenge: not buy anything new for a year. There are a few exceptions, such as food and hygiene products.
Woudstra, who has a five-year old daughter, says "the ultimate goal is for us to have a smaller footprint on the planet." That means shopping at places like Value Village and accepting that she may not get exactly what she wants. "For example, I was looking for a pair of curtains and realized I might have to get a different style or colour than I was hoping for."
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