By Jason Haug, Program & Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health
Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day – the largest environmental event in the world. Usually when people talk about Earth Day, they associate it with recycling and picking up garbage. These are great places to start, but they are not the only things we can do.
Earth Day is the perfect time to think about what changes we can make on a daily basis that make this world a little bit greener, cleaner, and healthier. It is about reducing our carbon footprint. This includes thinking about things like the amount of fuel we use in our cars, the amount of energy we consume, and what products we choose to purchase.
REDUCE FUEL BY USING YOUR OWN
One of the best ways to reduce your family’s carbon footprint is to change the way you get around. Making actual footprints will reduce your carbon footprint. That’s right! Walking for short trips instead of using the car is one of the best ways to cut back on fuel and pollution. Think about the many trips we make every day: to work, school, or to the grocery store. How many of these are short trips? Ottawa Public Health recommends walking for short trips of 2 km or less. A trip of 2 km is about 30 minutes of physical activity, which can help adults reach the recommended 150 minutes of actvity needed each week. Children aged 5 to 11 years should be getting 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
One way school-aged kids can squeeze in more physical actvity is by walking to school. If walking alone is an issue, consider organizing or joining a walking school bus. A walking school bus is a group of children who walk to school together with one or more supervising adults. This idea helps keep kids safer and gives them some much-needed social time.
Another way to boost physical activity while also being a bit greener is to reduce screen time. Consider implementing an electronics-free day once a week and replacing that screen time with a fun activity such as skating, swimming at the local pool, or going for a bike ride.
EATING GREEN MAKES THE WORLD GREEN
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet. How about introducing Meatless Mondays into your weekly menu plans? One great way to make sure you are eating mainly plant-based foods is to follow Canadas Food Guide. Most of your daily servings should come from two plant-based groups: vegetable and fruits as well as grain products.
Eating local produce is also another way to keep things a bit greener. “Food miles” refers to the distance food has to travel to get from the farm to your plate. The fewer miles your food travels, the less fuel is used and the fresher your food will be.
Ottawa families can celebrate Earth Day by joining a community organization called Hidden Harvest. Hidden Harvest encourages residents to plant fruit and nut trees on their property and share the harvest with local food banks. Not only does this teach kids important food skills, but it also shows them a way they can give back to their community.
For more information, visit ottawa.ca/health or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with OPH on Facebook (facebook.com/ottawahealth), Tumblr (ottawahealth. tumblr.com) , Twitter (@OttawaHealth) and on Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/otthealthsante).