Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd – a day when environmentalists, activists and citizens organize and attend events that demonstrate support for environmental protection (we’re holding our own with Evergreen Brickworks!). Earth Day was launched April 1970 by Denis Hayes and has evolved into an international day of action – observed by 200 countries around the world! – to change human behavior and provoke policy changes.
On that note of changing human behaviour, we’ve put together a list for those of you looking to make it Earth Day everyday!
1) Avoid Buying Things
When you purchase an item new in a store, you are creating demand in the market for that product, essentially voting for more of that thing to be made. But over-consumption is harming the planet, is a big factor in climate change and also negatively impacts human emotional well-being. Drop below the radar of the invisible hand by swapping, trading, borrowing and utilizing Toronto’s ‘free markets.’ Where you can, try:
- joining us at our gigantic bi-annual Drop, Swap & Shop event with Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto (one coming up on April 23rd)
- trading for items using the popular app Bunz Trading Zone. This app is fantastic because it has a search bar – if there is something in particular you are looking for, you just plug it into the search engine and any user with that item up for trade pops up.
- borrow items from your local Library of Things or from your neighbours using the handle app Peerby.
- looking for items at Toronto’s Really Really Free Market, which takes place the first Saturday of every month. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds – people bring things they no longer want or need and everything it placed out on tables in a park for others to take. it. is. amazing.
- looking for items on Toronto’s Freecycle app, another great resource where Torontonians put up items they no longer want for free on the app, which also has a search function so you can search for specific items you need.
2) Dare To Repair!
When something breaks down, rather than tossing it out, take it to a Repair Cafe to get it fixed instead. The repair cafe in Toronto is an incredible resource – we now have a space for them at our 830 St Clair West location where they will be holding weekly Repair Cafes every Sunday afternoon from 12-4pm!
How does a Repair Cafe work? Bring your broken item and an expert volunteer will fix it up for you while you have the provided coffee/tea and snacks! I was thoroughly impressed with them when I brought in a clothing hand steamer that would no longer put our steam. This thing was tricky to get into – I never would have figured it out on my own – but once inside, they discovered it was nothing more than a little calcium buildup blocking the tube where the steam comes out. It now works good as new. Without the Repair Cafe, I would have had to throw it away and purchase a new one.
Getting things repaired supports a culture of repair and shows governments that there is a demand for this sort of thing. We want to get as loud as possible about this to pressure the Canadian Government to do what Sweden did – implement tax breaks on repairs to incentivize people to use repair services, create jobs in the repair sector and put pressure on companies to design better products!
3) Practice Proper Disposal
When an item has definitely reached the end of its useable lifespan (or you are just finished with it), retire it with dignity by disposing of it properly and with care or donate it responsibly:
- Check out this list of charities in Toronto for where to donate various items that are still in good working order.
- Use the search bar on Toronto’s Waste Wizard for inspiration and answers to questions about where to properly dispose of items (which will also generate a list of charities for still functional goods).
- For textiles that are no longer suitable to nonprofits, charities or swaps, check out this amazing service in Toronto – Textile Waste Diversion. They take everything in their bins and ensure it’s properly recycled. Textile waste is a growing problem and we should do everything we can to keep textiles from the garbage can.
- For electronics, there are a number of options in Toronto, including Recycle My Electronics (who will actually be with us for our Earth Day Drop, Swap & Shop event at Evergreen Brick Works), ReBOOT Canada, Free Geek Toronto, ADL Process Electronics Recycling, Shift Recycling (which has a number of convenient drop-off sites around the city) and Canada Iron & Metal (which takes both big machinery and smaller household items).
4) Transition to a Zero Waste Lifestyle
The zero waste movement is growing around the world and, while Canada has been a little slow to catch on, it’s finally gaining momentum here as well (as an example, Bulk Barn finally began allowing customers to bring their own containers rather than forcing them to use plastic baggies!). While saying no to plastic bags, carrying a reusable cup at all times and saying goodbye to take away containers may not save the world, the collective actions of many who are saying no to single-use items will let governments, policy makers and producers know that we’re not going to stand for it anymore. Here’s a resource guide to get you started on transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle in Toronto. And before you get overwhelmed, have no fear – rule number one is that you shouldn’t try to do it all at once!
5) Make Your Own Cleaners/Personal Care Products
Skip the nasty chemicals found in everyday cleaning and personal care products by learning how to make them yourself out of natural ingredients (this will simultaneously help you reduce waste as you won’t have to buy them pre-packaged):
- Anarres Natural Health in Toronto runs workshops on how to make your own cleaners and personal care products. Get it all done in one go with their fantastic workshop series devoted to making your own products (it repeats every 6 months).
- Check out our Pinterest Board full of different DIY recipes for skin-care and care personal products.
- Follow the SheMade Factory, who runs courses on natural DIY personal care products and natural cleaners.
- For The Love Of Body in Toronto runs DIY Workshops on nutrition and healthy living, including a range of personal care products. They will also run custom workshops for small groups so you can request something specific. And FIY, they’ve got a Spring Cleaning Products workshop just around the corner in May that looks fantastic.
- Wanna Be Toxic Free runs monthly meetup groups in Toronto that discuss these issues.
- Make Your Own Cosmetics runs online courses/workshops and sells kits for making your own healthy cosmetics, hair and skin care products.
Need a new reusable bag? Garden watering can on the fritz? Wallet seen better days? Before you go searching out new items, explore the many ways that the things around your house can magically transform into that thing you were about to go buy. For instance:
- An old t-shirt becomes a NO-SEW tote or reusable shopping bag (the same thing can be done using a pillow case).
- An old juice or milk jug is actually just a watering can waiting to happen.
- A juice carton can be made into a surprisingly durable wallet.
- Plastic bottles have too many alternative uses to even count
On and on and so forth. The Internet is just FULL of creative, interesting and fun transformations for old items that will make them totally useful for you while saving you money and being less hard on the environment. Follow us on Pinterest for more great ideas!
7) Organize Community Cleanups
Community cleanups often happen around environment days such as Earth Day. These are a great way to not only cleanse our public spaces of unnecessary trash, but also serve to bring people together to form community – and community is the backbone driving grassroots social change.
Consider launching a community group that organizes on a monthly basis to do cleanups around various parts of your city. You can combine this with a special potluck picnic to allow people to engage and socialize. And, since we all know conscious consumerism alone isn’t going to save the world, you can use these meet-ups to strategize and brainstorm various ways to become politically engaged, developing an action plan to pressure political figures to make decisions that will help the environment.
When we live our lives like it’s Earth Day everyday, the gears start turning faster and the pieces begin falling into place sooner.
This is a guest blog by @itsahashtaglife, who has been perfecting the art of online storytelling as a method to amplify the important messages of non-profits and charities in Toronto for the last three years. She takes the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and applies them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet.