Reduce your environmental footprint in simple and surprising ways
Sometimes, Earth Day can feel a little like Christmas. For one day a year, we really focus on giving back to the planet and on the changes in behaviour and attitude that might lighten Mother Nature’s workload.
Then, the next day, well, we head to the mall.
But, were the analogy to hold, it could also be said we receive something invaluable in return. Each year, April 22 offers the chance to pause and reflect on our relationship with the environment. What impact do our actions have? How might we reduce the footprint we leave? How can we make every day Earth Day?
We put that question to NAIT instructors, staff, alumni and students and discovered that giving back to the planet may not be all that costly. Here’s a list worth checking not once but twice for simple ways to green up our daily routines. Merry Earth Day!
1. Take stock
Dave Critchley (Biological Sciences Technology - Renewable Resources ’89, Forest Technology ’90), co-chair of Biological Sciences Technology, advocates awareness. “We are fundamentally linked to our environmental surroundings and yet so out of touch with them.” He asks that we consider the sources of the things we use and where they end up, as well as recycle, repair, and examine wants versus needs in an effort to consume less.
2. Eat local farm-fresh food
As a chef and Culinary Arts instructor, Dave Whitaker (Cooking ’83) likes to know where his food comes from and hopes that’s not far away. In the summer, his source is Riverbend Gardens, in northwest Edmonton. As an example of community-supported agriculture, this family farm offers weekly packages of vegetables available for collection across the city. “They use central pick up locations, so I can bike to pick up my hamper each week,” says Whitaker.
3. Fix a toilet
If you think your toilet may have a leak, there’s an easy test, says Matthew Lindberg (Plumber ’01). Put a few drops of food colouring in the reservoir and check the bowl about a half hour later. If the colour has seeped into the bowl, you’ll likely need to replace a part called the flapper. The water savings can be measured in litres per minute.
4. Rethink the lawn
“Somewhere in the history of homeownership, the idea of a manicured, green lawn was perpetuated to the masses,” says Landscape Architectural Technology instructor Jennifer Jones (class of ’05). “As such, we have a city full of non-native ground cover, using potable water and fertilizers to achieve unrealistic aesthetic ideals.” Shrink your lawn to save water and cut fertilizer and weed control, she adds. Replant with native groundcovers and shrubs.
5. Eat pulses
“If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint through dietary changes, incorporating pulses is your answer,” says Nick Creelman, NAIT’s registered dietician. Not only are they rich in protein, vitamins and fibre, “they are also a superfood for our environment.” Pulse crops require almost no irrigation and have a way of making their own nitrogen fertilizer, which also improves the soil.
6. Switch to LEDs
As a founder of Generate Energy, an environmental consulting and solar installation firm, Brandon Sandmaier (Industrial Heavy Equipment Technology ’04, Alternative Energy Technology ’16) points out that 95% of the energy emitted by an incandescent bulb is heat. “So something that we use for light is actually more of a heater.” You’ll save more money, he adds, by switching to LEDs today (and reducing energy use by as much as 70%) than you will waiting for the old models burn out.
7. Get a reusable coffee mug
For the final project of their Bachelor of Technology in Technology Management program, Lance Draper, Ron Dunn, Shelly Stevens and Ali Raza recently completed an assessment to help NAIT reduce its environmental footprint. One simple fix: kick the disposable coffee cup habit, says Stevens. In Calgary, where the plastic-paper items are recycled, consumers toss roughly 800,000 a day. Edmonton might differ in one important way: we currently send them to the landfill.
8. Inflate your tires
Maximizing vehicle efficiency may be simpler than we think, suggests Automotive Service Technician instructor Dan Brochu (class of ’81, Bachelor of Business Administration ’16) “Keep your tires inflated and follow your maintenance guide in the owner’s manual.” Fill your tires to the pressure recommended on that paper stuck to the driver-side door to boost fuel economy. Sticking to your vehicle maintenance schedule can also reduce emissions and boost efficiency.
9. Prevent a forest fire
Most wildfires are caused by lightning or people, says Forest Technology instructor Chris Klitbo. Here are his three tips for preventing accidental blazes:
- Put out your fire. Especially in spring, nearby dead grass can burn easily and quickly. And always mind the fire bans.
- Be careful with your ATV. If organic matter builds up around the muffler, a spark can lead to a fire.
- Use an ashtray. Cigarettes are a common cause of wildfires, including a 2017 blaze near Airdrie.
10. Inspire future generations
“With sustainability, we forget who’s watching,” says Kate Andrews, Personal Fitness Trainer chair. “If you want to be really sustainable, you have to model the way. If you want your kids to walk to the grocery store even when it’s cold, bundle everyone up and do it. They’re going to do it when they’re older. And they’ll do it with their kids. When we think about sustainability, it’s not just in the moment. It’s planning for the future.”