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Get saving! Five sustainability tips to benefit the environment and your wallet

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The Eat Local: food and sustainability challenge is upon us starting this Sunday September 29 through to Sunday October 6.

We're diving into recipes, researching local food markets and getting out our pickling jars, ready to start and share our local experiences.

But, what about the sustainability side of the challenge? How can we all incorporate that part into our week?

We've assembled a quick list of tips, five tips to be exact, for you to consider adding in. Some you may already do, so that's a great reason to add a few more!

Wait, you do all of them?! Awesome! Let us know what other sustainability tips you have for our challenge in the comments section, in our Facebook group or on our babble thread.

Let the winds of change blow!


tip #1: Bring a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottle

potential drawbacks: A water bottle can add some weight to your bag, take up some extra room desperately needed for books and, in an absent-minded morning stupor, there can be a spill, or two.

There is a one-time cost factor (dependent upon aforementioned absent-mindedness) of buying the water bottle as well.

Real positives: Carrying around a water bottle reminds you to, you know, drink water. That's always good for you and not to mention things like your kidneys.

That one-time cost from buying a water bottle will be offset by all those twoonies you'll be saving that used to go towards purchasing plastic water bottles from the corner store. With that extra money you can buy candy, or local jam and fruits!

Along with money, you'll be saving those additional bottles from being produced and dumped. Yes, some are recycled, which is great, but those bottles still contribute to huge energy consumption and leaching harmful chemicals.

And, there is the old tale that bottled water tastes just like tap water. Maybe that's a coincidence or maybe that's because companies, like Nestle, have been taking over 265 million litres of (free!) B.C. freshwater and bottling the water to sell. When you use your own water, at least the money doesn't go to Nestle, right?

Awesome factor: 10! It's super easy, cost effective and a great start to sustainability.


tip #2: Unplug and switch off all your electronics

potential drawbacks: You now have to remember to plug in the toaster before using it or remember to switch off the power bar with the tv and dvd player hooked up to it and remember to unplug your cellphone charger.

(Yes, all these things were said with sarcasm.)

Real positives: Given that the biggest barrier to this one is your memory, it also serves as a great litmus test to a spacey mind. Along with your crosswords, remember to unplug your chargers and blenders and you're ahead of the game.

Unplugging reduces in your home's phantom load -- a fancy term for appliances and devices hat are drawing power even when unplugged -- and saves you money on your power bills. Big money. We're talking like hundreds of dollars. Again, that can go towards candy or a bike share annual membership.

Awesome factor: 10! Super easy, low energy and simple.


tip #3: Park your car and take alternative methods like walking, biking or public transiting

Potential drawbacks: Ah, there are a few ... if you really, really love your car.

If it's raining: you could get wet. If it's snowing: you could be cold. If it's windy: you could get windswept.

No, seriously, we get it. Walking on a windy, rainy day, umbrella flipping inside and out is not ideal. Biking in the snow is sometimes seriously impossible. Waiting for the bus or train (if you even have them in your town!) can be seriously annoying.

Bikes get stolen, bikes need repairs, bikes are expensive, cars don't know how to drive (in general) with bikes on the road.

Walking takes longer, the buses are never on time, people on the subway can be dangerous or strange.

Transit passes keep rising in cost and some systems don't really serve the public.

But excuses, excuses, amiright?! Sometimes changes take energy and commitment!

Real positives: Biking is fun (see above photo) -- not to mention healthy, intrinsically cool and getting safer by the minute.

A lot of time people say biking is more dangerous than driving, but that's not really true. Yes, there is always a threat of danger, I mean, we live in the world, but according to a 1994 study by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, brought to our attention from The Urban Country, there are about 13.3 cycling fatalities per million versus 156.8 motor vehicle fatalities per million. And that was in 1994! So yeah, biking is pretty safe.

The infrastructure for biking keeps getting better and as more people take to the streets and utilize what is there, hopefully the supply will meet the demand.

And, a lot of Canadian cities are in the process of planning out their bike share co-op. A lot of cities already have them, like NYC's citibike, DC's Capital bike share, Ottawa's Capital BIXI bikes and Montreal's BIXI Montreal. This co-ops remove the factor of stolen bikes and repairs and allow you to ride from point A to point B hassle-free.

Walking is great too, not to mention an excellent way to see your town in a whole new light. Look up and discover the architecture of buildings, walk off that stress after work or find new stores you whipped by in the past.

Taking transit -- a bus, a Skytrain, an LRT or a subway -- is sometimes the fastest way to get around a city, especially a big city. You don't have to worry about directions, other drivers on the street or parking, just sit down, read a book and get to your destination.

Why worry about stuff and pay for things you don't need to? Parking is crazy expensive and so hard to find. Gas is never going to go down and your car won't last forever.

Taking transit, walking or biking means you get to forget the hunting and save the cash.

Awesome factor: 10! A bit more effort, but you'll be hooked riding in style and walking like a champ!


tip #4: Bring reusable grocery bags to shop instead of getting plastic or paper

potential drawbacks: Again, it's the whole memory thing. You have to remember to bring them. One of our staffer's parents always remember to bring their usable bags, but they never seem to make it out of the trunk into the store!

There is an added cost too. Most grocery stores sell them right at the counter for a dollar or so, so that is easy!

Real positives: Saving money!

Most businesses now charge five cents a bag -- it won't break the bank, but it's annoying and why throw the money away for crappy plastic bags, when that money can goes toward buying reusable ones (and candy) AND stores usually give you a bag discount when you bring your own! They give you money!

Under your sink will love you for not accruing a million of those little plastic bags that you say you're going to use as garbage bags or what have you and then don't.

If you already walk or take transit to the grocery store you've realized you can pack and comfortably carry a whole lot more in four reusable grocery bags than you can in four plastic bags. Reusable bags cut down on the amount of bags your carry either on your walk home or out of the car or off your bike when you get home.

Using reusable bags also mean you are not contributing to producing more plastic as well as potentially dumping those bags back into the environment -- there's actually a giant garbage pile floating in the middle of the ocean made up mostly of plastic bags. Along with that, you will not contribute to polluting the ocean or the air and birds and turtles and other sea animals will not die by the thousands after ingesting plastic.

Awesome factor: 10! Super easy, low cost and you save sea life!


tip #5: If you are driving, don't idle!

Potential drawbacks: You have to turn your car off and on when you want to use it and you don't get to sit with the heat or air conditioning blasting while you wait.

Real positives: Contributing to clean healthy air!

Idling pollutes the air with a lot of bad things including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which contribute to smog and also increases health risk for respiratory illness. Stop idling, reduce dangerous emissions and health risks.

Save money!

When you idle your car, it means it's not moving; however, it's still consuming gas. When you turn on the car to go nowhere and still use gas, eventually you will have to refill more times than you actually drive. Since gas prices aren't going down that means if you idle, you're spending more money. A lot more money. So turn off your car.

Oh, and since idling is illegal in places like Vancouver, it means you won't have to pay huge fines. So that's a plus too.

Awesome factor: 10! Turn a key to clean air and lower cost! 


What are your sustainability tips? Let us know below!

Image Daniel Latorre/Creative Commons

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