At Scout, we’ve set up a weekly calendar of environmental challenges — daily goals that we can do together as a team and as individuals. Follow along with our Meatless Mondays, Transport Tuesdays, Waste-Free Wednesdays, Trade-It Thursdays, and Fresh Fridays to shake up your day-to-day habits, reduce your eco-footprint, and re-engage with some core environmental issues.
As individuals, we can only do so much to have a meaningful impact on the environment. It’s not that our choices can’t add up, or make us healthier, or save us money or peace of mind. They certainly can! It’s simply that one person’s eco footprint is tiny compared to those of large corporations and governments. We can be squeaky clean green consumers, and probably be healthier and happier because of it, but our ethical decisions won’t mean a thing if we don’t meaningfully engage as citizens, lobbying and voting with the planet in mind.
Still, we’re not allowed to be so jaded and cynical that we turn a blind eye to our own consumption habits. Despite the difference in scale, exploring how to become a more environmentally conscious citizen can lead to some profound realizations. Genuine change comes from first getting educated. If we stick to comfortable biases and rote behaviour, we’ll have a much harder time understanding the full scope of the problems.
Here at Scout, we’ve decided to roll up our sleeves and run a weekly calendar of eco-friendly challenges to push our boundaries and interrogate our choices. Follow along with us!
A good place to start is by filling out the Eco Footprint Calculator from the Global Footprint Network. Answering their questions will show you how many Earths we’d need if everyone ate, traveled, shopped, and lived like you. It’s a great way to see how resource-intensive our lifestyles are and where we can make changes for the better.
Eating a plant-based diet is not only amazing for your health, but it’s quite possibly the most significant choice you can make to reduce your environmental impact (go read the data if you’re not yet convinced). For Meatless Monday, we challenge you to avoid animal products at three levels of commitment: meatless, vegetarian (i.e., no eggs), and vegan (no animal products whatsoever).
For those of us who area already vegetarian or vegan, this is just another day — but for those who haven’t made the leap, Meatless Monday is a great way to taste or experience new foods, explore new recipes, and take tentative steps toward a more sustainable diet. Putting your money where your mouth is and lobbying for cleaner standards in the meat industry (or investing in non-animal proteins, a booming new industry) will also help corporations see that the future is plant-based and humane.
It’s no secret that the ways we get from Point A to Point B can be both resource intensive and a major source of harmful emissions — for our atmosphere, climate, ecosystems, and bodies. The tough truth is that our personal vehicles burn fossil fuels and produce air pollution (while also slowing down our roads, causing accidents, and draining our wallets). For Transport Tuesday, we’re doing what we can to make our transportation choices more sustainable, either by carpooling, taking public transit, or biking or walking (the ideal choice for your eco footprint, bodily health, and more manageable bills).
We live in Canada; not everyone has the luxury to leave their car at home. But we can make small steps: we can learn to drive less often and much more efficiently; some of us can investigate lower- and zero-emissions vehicles; and we can all lobby for more efficient and accessible public transit systems, cycling options, and pedestrian-friendly roads.
We’re all consumers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be more mindful and conscientious of how we buy, use, and dispose of products. Landfill should be the last resort of any purchased item. If we can reduce our consumption, reuse or re-purpose goods, or, failing that, recycle or divert our waste, we’re taking positive steps toward a more circular economy — and a healthier planet. As we become more aware of our choices, we can also investigate the packaging and supply chain considerations of the companies we patronize and hopefully invest our money in brands that have legitimate commitments to social responsibility and the environment. We can more meaningfully engage with our elected representatives and respond to waste management dilemmas with our votes and with more vocal and informed actions.
Join Scout in having your own Waste-Free Wednesday, and commit to producing as little waste as you can. Challenge yourself to produce zero landfill items, to producing zero items containing plastic, or to producing zero waste, period! Even if it’s a small drop in a bucket (or Instagram-friendly mason jar), cutting down on how much you consume can save you money that might be better spent on supporting community action or simply those who have far less.
The majority of our purchases are entirely unnecessary. We live in a disposable society, which bombards us with reminders to buy, use, and discard with abandon (or at least thoughtlessly) in order to raise our self-esteem and boost our status or fill some hard-to-face void.
Today, more and more people are embracing a more minimalist lifestyle, deeply questioning the things they supposedly ‘need’ to bring them happiness. As a complement, here at Scout we’re pledging to investigate the pillars of the circular economy: where a product’s life-cycle is extended through reuse, re-purposing, and recycling, and where disposal is a last resort. For Trade-It Thursday, we’ll be bringing gently used or unwanted goods into the office to trade, and committing as best we can to either purchasing only used goods or nothing at all.
Now, you might be inspired to hold your own clothing swap or trade-in event. But if not, you can always start asking questions and investigating how your municipal government and local businesses engage with the circular economy. How are the businesses you frequent exploring this crucial shift in mindset? Do they offer second-hand goods or repairs? Do they accept donations? Do they manufacture new products using recycled or repurposed materials? Your questions matter.
Local food has a much smaller impact on the environment than food that takes a long time to get to your plate (it’s simple mathematics). Likewise, fresh food has a smaller footprint than food wrapped in plastic and ensconced in protective containers. Fresh food is also better for local farms, soil health, genetic diversity, and you, as it’s less likely to be sprayed with pesticides and preservatives. For Fresh Friday, we’ll be trying to find and consume the freshest, most local foods we can, with the least amount of processing, packaging, and transportation emissions involved in their production.
Have you ever looked into where your food comes from? Have you visited Ontario farms and spoken to producers? Have you ever stopped to consider the raw volume of packaging waste in every grocery store across the province? Attempting this one challenge will help you see the food you eat in an entirely different light, even if it means failing! In fact, finding yourself unable to eat totally fresh, local foods will likely be a better learning experience than if it’s a total breeze.
Reduce Your Eco Footprint
So, check our your baseline Eco Footprint. Record how much energy, land, and resources it takes to support your lifestyle (and how many planets we’d need if everyone lived the same way). Then try our weekly challenge for a few weeks, or months. See if you can shrink the size of that original footprint.
Even if you can’t make a difference as an individual, you can always get involved in other ways by lending your hand as a volunteer for community groups and organizations directly involved in the fight against climate change, deforestation, deteriorating air quality, clean soil, and water, and so much more.