It’s not easy being green

July 11 2007 by Ellen Roseman

Did you catch some of the Live Earth concert last weekend on TV? I was impressed by the musicians, but bemused by seeing them fly around the world in air-polluting aircraft to urge others to fight global warming. Many people saw the irony, not to say hypocrisy, in this environmental consciousness-raising event.

So, what’s the answer? Should we stop flying and avoid destinations that we can’t get to except by plane? Is China or Japan off the map (literally) and is Newfoundland our newfound eastern paradise?

Adria Vasil, a columnist for Now magazine in Toronto, has written a terrific book called Ecoholic. It’s a bestselling guide to the most environmentally friendly products, information and services in Canada and has some suggestions about how to keep flying without a guilty conscience.

Air travel is never environmentally friendly, she says, but it’s hard to swear off flying in a giant country like Canada with miles of ocean on three sides. But you can ease the impact by getting green tags. With green tags, you offset the carbon your flight creates by supporting renewable energy or planting trees. If you have to fly for work, ask your employer to foot the bill.

I tried the carbon flight calculator at Green My Flight, which showed a cost of $38.73 to neutralize my round-trip flight from Toronto to London, England. Then, I tried another calculator at Offsetters, which let me off more lightly at $29.79. You can buy carbon offsets from these websites or do it on your own.

Eatling locally is another way to help the planet. You can become a “locavore” and buy only foods that come from a 100-mile radius of your home. To find your safe-eating zone, check the instant mapping tool at The 100 Mile Diet . You can also read about the book by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, who did it for a year from their apartment in Vancouver. Their book sprang from a blog they did at The Tyee, an independent alternative daily newspaper in B.C.

Here’s an interesting Q & A from these two Canadian pioneers in eating locally:

What did you miss the most?
Every region has foods that are hard–or impossible–to find. We went without wheat for seven months. We missed pasta. We missed bread. We missed pancakes. Then we found our wheat farmer, and we pigged out.

Were your meals repetitive and boring?
At first, yes. As we found more and more local food sources, though, our meals became more interesting than ever before. Farmers and farmers’ markets introduced us to foods and flavors we’d never tried before.

Did it take a lot of time?
We won’t lie–it takes time to find local food sources, to make food from scratch, to do canning for winter, and so on. But it also raises interesting questions about how we’re spending our time. What if we spent more time on self-sufficiency and less time at the office?

1 comment

  1. brad

    Jul 11 2007

    Unlike local air pollution, greenhouse gases mix evenly in the atmosphere worldwide, so it doesn’t matter where you reduce emissions. A pound of CO2 avoided in Tuvalu is as good as a pound of CO2 avoided in Toronto. Thus it makes sense to shop around for the greatest carbon bang for your buck. Projects in developing countries or Eastern Europe tend to be the most cost-effective, because avoiding emissions there is cheaper than in more developed nations where many of the cheap steps to reduce emissions have already been taken. It’s far more expensive to reduce a ton of CO2 in Tokyo, for example, than it is in most parts of Canada or the US because Japan is already quite energy-efficient.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that “green tags” or offsets are really designed to get you the last bit of the way toward neutralizing your greenhouse gas emissions. Try to reduce your own household and transportation emissions as much as possible first (which saves you money in the long run anyway because you use less energy), and then use green tags or another similar product to offset your remaining emissions.