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Walk Softly – You alone can’t save the planet, but …

by Geoffrey Carpentier

You alone can’t save the planet, but you can try.

Here are some things you can do, to move in that direction.

Take baby steps but make each one count. If you, your friends and neighbours each do a little, a lot of good will result.

Shop at thrift stores, save money and help recycle in the best way. Not only may you find a bargain but a replacement product (new in the box) wasn’t manufactured in another country, flown to our country and trucked to a store nearby. Buy recycled building materials or share your leftovers with the community through a local barter group. Consider sharing tools and appliances with friends, neighbours and family rather than buying your own. This leads to the same outcome as a re-store, less manufacturing and fewer emissions.

If you must buy new garden tools, consider buying battery-operated tools rather than gas-powered ones. Now be aware, lithium must be mined, so, there is a bit of a downside to this. Still, I think the positive outcomes outweigh the negative ones. When done with your old tools, presuming they can’t be fixed, recycle or sell them for scrap metal.

Walk when you can, especially if you live near your kid’s school or shops. Bike at other times and use your car only when necessary. Drive a well-tuned car, at the speed limit with properly inflated tires. You'll get better mileage that way and you vehicle will produce cleaner emissions. Bring a friend along when you can, so you can travel wisely and sustainably to run your errands. I found an interesting website called Trip Chaining ( which allows you to plan trips by any mode of travel. It enables you to see best routes, carpool lots, public transit, etc. It’s pretty neat, try it. There’s lots of other similar apps in the online app stores. The concept is simple, plan your route in advance, so you don’t backtrack and waste gas. Likewise avoiding congested routes can show great benefits in time and fuel savings. According to Natural Resources Canada, if drivers of light-duty vehicles avoided idling, by just three minutes a day, each year, Canadians would collectively save 630 million litres of gas. Think of that at the drive-throughs or when stopped at traffic lights.

Consider fire hardening your home. This is a technique where retrofits are designed to reduce the damage from wildfires. Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant building materials, such as stucco, fibre cement wall siding, fire retardant treated wood or other approved materials. While you’re doing this, upgrade your home to meet climate-friendly building codes and diminish your impact on the environment.

Indoors, use only LED lights and turn them off when not in use. The phantom power from the many appliances, we have, wastes a lot of energy. While often inconvenient, this impact can be reduced substantially by simply unplugging devices completely.

Seasonally, there’s lots you can do. Keep your programmable thermoset set at a lower and reasonable but comfortable temperature. Close the shades and curtains to keep the heat of the sun at bay. Never open the windows if the outside temperature is hotter than inside or vice versa. In winter, do the opposite, open the blinds and curtains on the sunny side to let the fading light in. Use extra blankets, “snuggle-fests” and warm clothes rather than simply raising the heat. Even a local heater in your office or den is much more efficient than heating the entire house, so you can be warm in one room.

Outdoors, plant native trees (a mini-carbon-sink which will help the planet) and remove alien species from your own property or help other neighbours or agencies do so.

Going on vacation? Plan your trip and think about the impacts to the local environment. Maybe, consider a stewardship holiday. That’s one where you go somewhere to build a house, install a well, and/or learn about local agriculture. Consider an eco-holiday, where the local economy and environment benefit from your visit. Everybody wins in a case like this.

This is just a short list of the many ways you can make a difference, to offset the impacts of our generally consumptive life styles.

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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