Canada is one of the leaders in a multitude of policies on a global stage. We often pride ourselves on our environmental and social beliefs, welcoming to immigration and our almost nauseating politeness and political correctness. Despite these positive attributes Canada can do much more to improve it’s overall sustainability in Landscaping, Farming, Energy, and Industry and Environmental protection. A country as vast as Canada with seemingly endless natural resources has a number of challenges and strengths to play off of, striking a balance between economic and environmental preservation are at the forefront of discussion in recent years, most notably the newly approved pipeline projects, which put profit before the environment.
Sustainable Business Practices
Sustainable business practice refers to companies which do not put profit before the well-being of the environment nor the health of their employees or the community. Click here to see an example of a landscaping company located in Vancouver which shares these values. They believe that treating their employees fairly goes a long way in creating a positive work environment. Additionally, they often encourage sustainable landscaping practices for their clients. Rather than planting a shrub which is not native to the location and would require an abundance of additional care and attention, the commercial landscaping company encourages native trees. They suggest that their clients use less fresh water and have used items like rain collection barrels to help offset some of their water usage.
Sustainable business, sometimes referred to as a green businesses, must include sustainable business practices in all of it’s business decisions. Focusing on environmentally friendly alternatives, these businesses tend to be much more conscious of their community and it’s long term health.
One of the major players in sustainable businesses is those which facilitate the use of renewable energies. Companies who install wind turbines, solar energy or geothermal energy are typically green businesses due to their company’s commitment to reducing CO2 levels.
Canada is ranked number 4 globally in production of renewable energy thanks mostly to it’s use of hydroelectric power. Roughly 64% of Canada’s energy comes from renewable resources, which places is roughly middle of the pack overall. The vast country has almost unlimited options to produce energy yet the majority of it comes from energy which is not overly environmentally friendly. Hydroelectric dams have a substantial impact on the environment and aren’t the ideal solution to the ever increasing energy production challenge. Beyond hydroelectricity Canada has not invested heavily enough in alternative technologies like solar, wind or ocean power. They also are slow moving in getting off of the dependency of fossil fuels.
Sweden recently set the bar by committing to becoming one of the first nations to be completely free of fossil fuels.
Germany has made a huge push toward renewable energy in the past decade, up to 78% of the country’s energy demands are met through solar power throughout the day. Western European countries as a whole have made a big push with their solar power, many offering subsidized incentives for residents to purchase solar panels individually for their houses.
Uruguay has managed to improve it’s renewable energy production without the use of subsidies.
China has gone from one of the biggest polluters to now one of the leaders towards green energy. Although China continues to pollute heavily with coal energy, it has been forced to adapt and change it’s methods due to the staggering pollution levels.
Canada has committed to phasing out coal energy by 2030, coal is only responsible for 11 percent of the country’s energy yet it produces 70% of the carbon emissions for the sector. This is a huge step for the country as it is the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road. As smaller, less developed countries move off Coal and countries like Sweden make a much more aggressive push towards moving away from the heavy polluting power generating industries the question is why will it still take another 13 years? This is an opportunity to prove Canada’s commitment to clean energy and push the economy towards building new clean, modern alternatives.
Alternative energy sources:
Wind Energy: wind energy is a great source of power, it’s clean, sustainable, abundantly available in Canada, cost effective once it’s been constructed. The erecting of these wind turbines would provide many technicians with jobs. The downsides of wind energy are the initial cost associated with installing them, wind sites tend to be far from populated areas, they take up a lot of space that could be used for other developments, visually they dominate the environment they are located in, and birds have been known to be killed by the spinning blades. Wind Energy, like most renewable energy sources is not the perfect solution; however, when it is practical it needs to be implemented more often to take some of the load off of fossil fuels. Grouse Mountain in Vancouver has a single wind turbine atop the mountain which on it’s own generates roughly 25% of it’s resort’s power.
Solar Energy: Solar energy is a highly researched and very efficient renewable energy. Canada is not known for it’s sunny weather but there is enough light produced each year to create a worthwhile savings for houses to install a rooftop solar panel. Recently Tesla released a full solar roof which can be used along with a large battery called power wall to help alleviate the issue of being in darkness for half of the day. Although again solar energy is not perfect it is very efficient and highly researched. In sunnier climates it is a no brainer to install rooftop panels to help with electricity bills.
Compressed Natural Gas: Although CNG is still a fossil fuel it offers a cleaner and safer alternative to gasoline and diesel. It is currently more common in Europe; however, it is gaining traction here in Canada as well. Canada has a large quantity of Natural Gas so it stands to reason that it could be a good intermediary alternative as we move away from heavy polluters.
Agriculture can be a massive drain on the environment. It uses huge amounts of fresh water, cash crops ruin biodiversity and transportation of the goods adds more pollution into the environment. Farming in North America is largely based on industrialized farming. Although typically more cost effective these industrial farms consist of monocrops, mistreated animals and overall poor environmental standards. The idea of industrialized farming makes sense on the surface. Have more specialized farms focusing on single crops or industries to maximize profit however, the result of this has been devastating for the environment.
Livestock production accounts for roughly 1/3rd of the world’s fresh water usage and is likely the single greatest impact humans have on the environment. Factory farming is often blamed for it’s practices, which in a lot of cases are warranted, at the same time with the population continuing to grow exponentially many of the practices are necessary to keep up with demand. That being said, the agricultural industry is not sustainable in it’s current methods. Furthermore, our meat consumption habits as the end consumer in Canada are at the root of the problem.
The treatment of livestock by factory farms is often sub-par, cages are too small, the animal’s diet is poor, hormones and antibiotics are used and the transportation and slaughtering of the animals is often done in a very inhuman way. Disregarding the suffering element and looking only at the human impact, factory farming is creating largely unhealthy people. Heart disease and diabetes are on the rise as the obesity epidemic continues to present itself. The consumption of meat alone is not the sole culprit in this as sugars, refined foods and sedentary life styles are also to blame, but the over consumption of meat is a factor in our poor health. The prevalent use of antibiotics among farm animals increases the odds of a super bacteria’s which are resistant to traditional treatments is just another one of the many concerns with our current unsustainable farming methods and consumption. In addition to meat impacting our health, the nutrients present in vegetables is greatly reduced as a result of factory farming. Pesticides, genetically modified seeds and mono crops draining soil of minerals. In an ideal world we would all buy from local farms and eat a modest amount of meat, this isn’t a likely scenario though so finding a balance and improving industrialized farming practices may be the best alternative to sustain our growing population.
One of the biggest issues plaguing Canada is our rate of consumption. China is one of the countries which uses the most energy worldwide, however, before we start pointing the finger at other nations we should look at ourselves first. Despite using less energy overall, Canada uses far more than China, India and even the United States per capita. Part of this is no doubt because of our colder climate creating the need for heating but our country wastes a lot compared to others.
Our energy, our consumption of meat, our use of fresh water and our dependency on cars all contribute to the damaging effects of global warming. Before we should start blaming the government for not doing enough to encourage cleaner energies and more effective policies we should look at our own glutinous behaviour.
There are a lot of ways Canadians can begin to reduce their impact on the environment which start at the personal level.
Reduce our electricity consumption:
- Unplug devices which aren’t in use. Things like cable boxes can continue to drain a considerable amount of power even when they are turned off. If it’s not going to be used for an extended period of time, consider unplugging the energy thirsty device.
- Rather than drying all clothes in the dryer try hanging them outside or on a drying rack
- Install energy efficient appliances like washer machines and refrigerators
Reduce Environmental impact:
- Shorten the length of showers
- Collect rain water to water your plants
- Water the garden early in the morning or later on in the evening
- Plant trees and shrubs to provide shade rather than using the sprinkler to maintain lawns during the summer months
- Instead of sending food scraps to a landfill a start small compost or properly sort through green waste if your area supports such an initiative.
- Avoid pesticides or other harmful chemicals in your garden
Reduce dependency on factor farming:
- Buy local as much as possible to reduce the strain the transportation puts on the system
- Buy from sustainable farms which do not practice monocrops and treat animals ethically
- Grow your own food and your health, wallet and stress levels will all benefit. Obviously we aren’t all in a situation where this is possible; however, using a community garden is a good alternative.
It will take all hands on deck to move Canada towards being one of the true leaders of the world in sustainable living. Not one factor will solve all of our environmental and social problems but working together and educating ourselves on the best ways to mitigate our damaging habits and tendencies is the first step towards a greener, healthier Canada.