Sustainable Consuming

By Don Ross – Special to SUNonline/Orillia

If you like to grumble about products —things that self-destruct, things with too much packaging, things that we really don’t need – grumble to us, the goods and services sector of Sustainable Orillia. We look forward to your grumbles and your pet peeves about what is wrong with our community’s approach to sustaining our environment and life for the next generation.

Orillia consumers and our local government have been ahead of the pack for a long time. We have experience in recycling and the blue box, composting, controlling hazardous wastes, reclaiming metals and materials, and often finding a re-use for products. Orillia residents have always responded remarkably well to initiatives established by the municipality. So have many of our local businesses in the services, consumer, and retail products sectors.

But have you seen the recent chilling pictures of plastics in our oceans? Seen the insides of dead whales clogged with plastics? This is just one issue among a myriad of issues about the ineffectiveness of some of the initiatives that are part of consumer behaviour. The environmental commissioner of Ontario, Diane Saxe, recently reminded us in a document called Beyond the Blue Box that some practices for reclaiming, re-using and diverting waste have been undermined by loss of markets, inadequate education, and more diverse products with changed packaging. Both producers and consumers need to find better ways to handle our products. The short life-cycle of a smart phone is one such worry. Do we just throw them away?

Carbon dioxide emissions top 40 countries 2013/Chris55 – Wikimeida

Every week more municipalities are taking action on these issues. Montreal, for example, plans to ban single-use plastic by 2020. The City of Orillia would like to make needed changes, but the citizen advisory groups need your help. The carbon footprint for Canadians is among the highest in the world; our goal is to lower the average carbon footprint of those of us living in Orillia and area.  As the saying goes, think global, act local.

So, if you do have a grumble, we will listen, but we hope you can also offer some solutions to pursue to help resolve the issue you raise. A hands-on approach is what we want. What current practices of packaging and marketing need review? How could they be tweaked or overhauled to effect an improvement? Let’s get down to the basics. Can a non-polluting cleanser replace a not-so-friendly one for cleaning boats? Can more consumers take their own bags shopping to reduce single-use plastics? Can we reduce cross-contamination which condemns materials to the dump when recycling?

Think about how you can make a difference and tell us – local ideas and local action from local citizens and local businesses can be revolutionary. Could we go back to repair shops that save us money and let us keep stuff longer? Leave a clamshell at the store? With your help, strategies for reducing, refilling, refusing, and other R’s will be analyzed. Ideas from our inbox will shared with other sectors of Sustainable Orillia. Our plans will be compared with strategies of other communities. We can even create opportunities for municipal and regional progress.

Collaboration, education, co-operation and recognition for changes made in the workplace and in the retail space which result in strong benefits for our community and the natural environment. Innovation and application, rather than regulation and intimidation, is where we are headed.

United Nations Secretariat Building (UN Photo / Andrea Brizzi)

Please embrace this effort of constructive change as if you and your children’s life depends on it. Not because it may be true – because it is true and this month’s UN Report on Species Changes with Climate Change said so:  “One million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans, scientists warned last week in what is described as the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss ever.” Documentarian David Attenborough believes we are finally paying attention.

We will soon provide you with the gripe pipeline to send us your issues and your suggestions. Or, bring them with you to Sustainable Orillia’s launch May 24 at the Orillia Community Church and to the discussion May 25 at Lakehead University. ( register here )

Editor’s Note: This is the 7th in a series of articles by members of the Sustainable Orillia mayor’s task force in advance of the launch of a community initiative May 24 and 25. The initiative is designed to provide local, attainable, solutions for the effects, economic and quality of life, of climate change. The Sustainable Orillia launch weekend, register here, takes place at the Orillia Community Church (Friday night) and Lakehead University (daytime Saturday).

(Photos by kalhh / Pixabay, U.N. Photos, Wikimedia)


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Also see – The Mayor’s Task Force: Sustainable Orillia

Climate Change: A Learning Opportunity

Sustainable Orillia: The Agricultural Sector

Sustainable Orillia: The Arts And Culture Sector

Sustainable Orillia: The Housing Sector

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