Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Green Economy Demands Individual Choices, Policy Direction

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, June 15 / 15

Zack Gross

I recently made a decision that moved my family up the green lifestyle ladder. My wife and I bought a Greenworks cordless mower, powered by a lithium battery.  It is a green alternative in the sense that it takes a lot of green to buy one!  But it also uses no gasoline (so I won’t blow myself up!), doesn’t need a cord plugged into an outlet (so I won’t electrocute myself!) and runs very quietly (although my hearing is pretty much gone anyway!).

Thus, hopefully, I am no longer contributing to air or noise pollution, nor using up global petroleum supplies every time I mow.  As well, given that we compost our grass clippings along with leaves and kitchen waste, we are also ultimately enriching our soil without using synthetic fertilizers.  As the lithium batteries fit conveniently into a range of Greenworks products – grass trimmers, chain saws, snow blowers and more – we may soon be the quintessential cordless and renewable energy family!  Of course, we do need to plug the batteries in between uses, so we haven’t gone solar yet!

It’s easier for a middle class family like ours to make a financial decision to buy the latest green product.  The same is often said about other green and ethical goods – that they may lie outside what the average person can afford.  These kinds of alternatives may also lie outside the information bubble that each of us lives in.  We may not be aware that such products exist or why they are essential to the sustainability of our world – a cleaner environment, good jobs and social progress.

There are decisions, however, that we can make individually that will help move us toward that dream of green.  Composting has been mentioned as a positive effort toward good soil.  Of course, that implies that people will have at least a small kitchen garden in order to grow some of their own food.  Too many of us rely on expensive and often tasteless veggies available commercially.

Recycling cuts back on landfill growth and creates jobs for people turning used products into new ones, for instance glass into highway divider lines and newsprint into more Brandon Suns!  Reusing products also cuts back on the growth of consumption.  Buying household items or clothing at second hand shops is a tried and true method.  People can intentionally take public transit if they live in cities and avoid single-person commuting by car.  When in the car, we can avoid idling.  Even in winter, if you have to run your car to keep it going, there is something wrong!  As well, we can take advantage of programs that support upgrading our home with insulation, better windows and doors, low-flow toilets and more.

Of course, many of these individual choices are just a drop in the bucket, unless business and government also take them on.  You might switch off your lights when you leave a room, but if an office building leaves theirs on all night, then your initiative is rendered meaningless.  Municipalities, campuses, crown corporations, school divisions and other large institutions are moving toward sustainable practices as they and their public becomes more aware of the impact of environmental problems.  Businesses are also climbing on board as a higher profile in corporate responsibility helps to grow their market share.

We as consumers can vote with our dollars for policies we believe in.  If we support fair trade or green purchasing, we can buy these products, thus sending a message to our grocery or hardware store to bring in more.  As voters, we can do the same not only at election time but also in our communications with our elected representatives.  If we want a greener world, we need to let the powers that be know that our vote will go to those who are working toward that goal.  A frustration has been targets that are announced by governments but never achieved. 

People often think that it is impossible to have a growing economy and a green environment at the same time.  We need to think more creatively about how greening our economy can both save money through new efficiencies and how money can be made and jobs created through new technologies.  While there is a defensive side to the green economy – that is, to stop doing things that hurt our natural environment – there is also a positive side, to take on new ideas and applications.  What would you like to see happen in Manitoba

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of the Marquis Project in Brandon.

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