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My 7-step stimulus package

My 7-step stimulus package
BY ADRIA VASIL

Yeah, we know, you’re pretty green most of the time (especially when people are looking), but a gnawing voice in your head keeps telling you that you should be doing more.

Why is it so damn hard to break on through to the next level beyond, say, turning down the thermostat or keeping the taps off while you brush? You need a new catalyst, new challenges. Here’s a guide to making your own green quantum leap. Consider this a friendly kick in the pants.

1. PICK A KID/CAMPSITE/KOALA  

First things first – you need a spirit guide. It can be your offspring, your sister’s offspring or really any beloved person/thatch of nature/cuddly-wuddly animal (especially an endangered one) that warms your cockles and can act as a personal motivator on your breakthrough quest.

Post your inspiration’s photo above your desk with a little “I’m doing it for them,” “The future matters” or “This is why I give a shit about the planet” banner above it.

If you’ve got a family member with enviro-linked health woes like asthma, allergies or worse, make him or her the Anthony Robbins force driving you toward a full eco-style household and lifestyle detox.

2. SIGN UP FOR SHOCK THERAPY

It may not be practical (or carbon sensitive) to fly to shrinking glaciers and visit soon-to-be evacuated South Pacific isles to give yourself a motivating “aha moment” on the state of the world.

But if you find your green behaviour lagging, give yourself a wake-up call by paying a visit to environmentally depressed (or just plain depressing) sites like the Highland Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s dirty secret: an aging sewage incinerator right smack dab in Scarborough.

Or take a ride up to Highway 2 in Ajax, 10th line in Mississauga or any of the GTA’s edges to see farmland swallowed up by cookie-cutter sprawl. Can’t make the trek? Host your own shocker film fest. Top 2009 docs like Food, Inc., The Cove, No Impact Man and The Garden should shake, rattle ’n’ roll you right off your couch into direct action.

3. CARBON FAST FOR LENT

You don’t have to be a Christian to follow the Church of England’s call to fast from carbon and pray for climate justice globally.

What’s involved exactly? Well, the progressive bishops at the UK development group Tearfund ask that you commit, during this period 40 days before Easter, to an eco action a day. Try giving up TV, Internet, texting and, yes, your iPod one full day a week; find a nice quiet patch of nature and, paraphrasing the Church, ask Gaia what she wants you to do to “restore your relationship with the world and your neighbours.”

Also, avoid buying anything new for the next six weeks. That means no retail therapy and mending old clothes and gadgets before caving to the craving for new ones.

And if you haven’t already, Tearfund asks you to switch to a green energy provider (like Bullfrog – renters can sign up, too), eat more vegetarian meals by candlelight (actually, full-on Lenters give up meat entirely) and lower your water heater to 60°C, or 140°F, to help you ascend to a higher green level in time for Earth Day.

4. BUILD YOUR GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Hurting for cash and can’t quite figure out how to stay enviro in the face of a shrinking wallet? Take a page from South Korea. The pioneering nation has allocated 80 per cent of its stimulus money to enviro projects (versus a dismal 8 per cent in Canada), because it wisely realizes you can pocket more green by going green.

How do you mirror that in your own life? Well, for one, try to filter 80 per cent of every financial transaction you make this week, from buying gum to RRSPs, through a green lens, asking yourself if you a) really need it, and b) can invest in a greener version with long-term savings, like choosing an energy-saving crock pot to cook in bulk, or lobbying your super  to spend some upfront cash on efficient heating upgrades (easier to do if you’ve formed a green tenant committee).  

And don’t forget to sign up for every eco incentive and tax rebate you can get your hands on, from tax credits for monthly and weekly transit passes, rebates for green renos (ecoaction.gc.ca) and alternative fuel cars (rev.gov.on.ca) to stellar feed-in tariffs for hoisting solar panels on your roof.

Even low-income renters can tap into free home weatherization retrofits through utility providers like Enbridge. As well, you can generate more cash flow by following your grandma’s reduce, reuse and recycle-your-old-shit-for-a-profit-on-Kijiji techniques.

5. LIVE LIKE YOU’VE PEAKED

Since senior insiders from the International Energy Agency blew the whistle this past November on how the org has been flat-out exaggerating its stats on the world’s oil reserves to avoid global market panic, well, nothing much has changed.

Confirmation of a peak-oil cover-up might not be much of a shocker to you divining cynics, but I encourage you to taste the news again for the first time and meditate from your couch/desk/subway seat for the next 60 seconds on what your world would look like without oil.

Now, without petrochemicals, that essentially means empty grocery shelves, empty pharmacies and empty roads if we keep up the status quo. I’m no doom-and-gloomer, so my off-the-grid cabin has yet to be purchased and prepped, but to get in position for your own peak oil breakthough, try going a starter week without any hidden plastics or petrochemicals (even Tom’s of Maine mouthwash has an oil and gas derivative in it.)

Up your local, organic produce – tough in winter, I know, so at least go for fossil-fuel-fertilizer-free organics or sign up for winter shares in a  community shared agriculture plan like Plan B Organics. Start planning your spring veggie garden by attending a heritage seed swap near you (seeds.ca), or host a blackout night at your pad once a month.

6. GO TO TOWN

We can hold our breath waiting for green geeks in lab coats to save us from our shaky future with high-tech solutions, but we need to get the big picture, fast, and the most tangible way is to target your town.

David Miller and friends have made T.O. a solid green leader, but an election is coming up, and the only way we’ll have any new breakthroughs is if you get involved.

Toronto Environmental Alliance has made it real easy by posting a list of six priority actions pols should commit to if they hope to secure your vote (torontoenvironment.org). Without leaving your house, you can email, call and plain-old demand that riding candidates and mayoral hopefuls put it in writing in their own electoral platform. The more you push and pester, the greener our next council.

7. TRY PARTICIPACTION

Final homework assignment: walk out your front door and participate. In anything. Well, anything that helps green your local community. (Find hundreds of eco orgs to volunteer with at oen.ca.) You’ll tap into the strength of neighbourhood vibes and magnify your personal breakthrough results. (Hint: you’ll find the strength of 10 Grinches, plus two.)

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com

NOW | February 24-March 3, 2010 | VOL 29 NO 26

As published here: http://www.nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/ecoholic.cfm?content=173821

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