Making environmental engagement an ongoing team effort of individuals, businesses, organizations and government
Earth Day presents an opportunity to highlight the commitments of individuals, communities, companies and countries to advance environmental sustainability. But how to convey a sense of the myriad efforts and initiatives under way in Canada? By collecting – and displaying – the signatures of Canadians on a giant flag unveiled for Earth Week.
“We’ve engaged people across the country to sign the pledge to make every day Earth Day and to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Deb Doncaster, president of Earth Day Canada. It’s a tried-and-true method for delivering the message, she explains. In 1992, the Canadian Earth Day flag – which was as big as a stadium – was displayed at the Earth Summit where the first agreement on climate change was signed. It’s time to again express the collective desire to lead on the environmental agenda, Ms. Doncaster believes.
Last year, Earth Day Canada focused its messaging on transportation – a significant contributor to carbon emission – by asking people to “clean their commute,” says Ms. Doncaster.
Céline Bak, president of Analytica Advisors, the think tank that compiles the yearly Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report, says curbing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation has to be a team effort. The private sector, for example, can establish strategies for reducing emissions, which may include converting to cleaner fuel sources, utilizing electric vehicles, car-sharing and placing company locations close to public transport hubs. Flexible work arrangements can also mean less commuting and reduced emissions.
Buildings – which represent 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions – can also benefit from clean technology solutions, says Ms. Bak. “The private sector can make choices about which kind of buildings to locate businesses in. And from the citizens’ perspective, there is an opportunity to be more efficient in energy use within the home.”
An area that has already seen major advances in applying clean technology is electricity generation. “Greening the electricity grid and bringing renewable energy online has made a big difference,” says Ms. Bak. And a greater integration of clean technology into all resource sectors as well as infrastructure and manufacturing has the potential to improve not only their environmental footprint but also overall performance.
Greater support from companies, government, organizations and individuals for the development and implementation of clean technology could have a significant impact, says Ms. Bak, since the sector advances environmental objectives and also has the potential to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Ms. Doncaster says interest in environmental actions tends to be heightened on Earth Day, and she sees the occasion as a “gateway for environmental engagement.”
Earth Day Canada will highlight tree planting this year. “Many countries, companies and individuals are making a renewed commitment to restore global forests,” explains Ms. Doncaster.
The global network of Earth Day organizations has launched a campaign to plant 7.8 billion trees – one for every person on the planet – by 2020, in support of the New York Declaration on Forests, which aims to curb natural forest loss as well as rebuild global forests.
Canada’s contribution will receive a boost from the #Rooting4Trees campaign – a partnership of Earth Day Canada and Tree Canada. “By planting 25,000 trees for Earth Day and every day, we’ll reach the target of 35 million by 2020.” says Ms. Doncaster.
She is encouraging Canadians to keep up their efforts year-round and believes that partnerships with the corporate sector, including companies like Kruger Products, help Earth Day Canada to amplify the message to reach citizens of all walks of life. “There is a role for every sector of society: individuals, corporations, non-profit organizations and government to do their parts for environmental sustainability.”
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