Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Learning From Our Neighbors: Part I

This past weekend I had the opportunity and pleasure of traveling to visit family in Ontario, Canada.  It was a beautiful day, eh?  There were good times, excellent food and it was great to reconnect with cousins and meet brand new ones.  Throughout the course of the afternoon, many discussions were had about the differences between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to health care, recycling, and regulations surrounding food supply. And you know what?  Canadians do a lot of things right when it comes to all of those things. 
For example, they recycle disposable plastic plates!  Yes that's right, they do not throw them away like we would in the U.S.  In the U.S., the majority of "disposable" plastic plates would end up in a landfill somewhere. The town we were visiting actually picks up compost (fruit & veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc.) from homes and redistributes it.  In 2006, approximately 90% of households in Canada participated in some sort of recycling program. Additionally, the Canadian province we were in also has restrictions on the amount of garbage that can be thrown away every week!   We in the U.S. (and other places as well) should take notice, and then we should follow suit!  Since Americans throw away an average of 4.5 pounds of garbage per day, per person in the United States (most in the world, by the way), we have some work to do.  

Despite those scary statistics, there is some encouraging news for those of us in the U.S.  In the past decade, participation in recycling programs in the U.S. has increased by 100%, so we're not all that bad.  We just can't sit on our collective duffs and think that it's good enough and let it go at that. We need to DO something.  And by doing something we can be kinder to Mother Earth and help out our sluggish economy at the same time.  The EPA estimates that 75 percent of our garbage in the U.S. is technically recyclable and that the recycling process could create jobs.  Recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs. Wow!  We could be throwing a whole lot less away and create jobs.  Talk about making more green!

In the spirit of Eco-Steps, here are a few links to learn more about what you can do to recycle:
Many thanks to our Canadian neighbors for setting such a great example on how to get recycling done right!


  1. It is encouraging that our neighbors to the North are working towards a cleaner earth. Maybe some of these practices will be contagious.

  2. From D in Tokyo:

    YEP! Canada the place to live.

    In addition, the Canadians ( leaders, people) weathered the recent financial melt down because their leaders did not deregulate ( like the US did with the Glass Steagal act). They also possess the first or second largest amount of fresh water of any country on earth and having only 10% of the US population and an equal abundance of natural resources ( of which water will become the next OIL), the country is able to offer many benefits to their citizens.

    I do not know how their gasoline prices compare to the US but we know that Europe and Japan impose a heavy tax on petro energy for vehicles. Today is Wednesday in my suburb of Tokyo and we separate PET, glass and cans into separate bags for today’s garbage pickup. Mondays and Thursdays are burnable days, Tuesday is paper and wood products ( news paper and magazines are bundled separately), Friday is non-burnable day. Japanese hang out their wash, 95% of households have no dish washer ( no heavy greasy or baked food to clean).

    Though admirable, small individual steps will not come close to rectifying the problem… educating the people who are not in your socio-economic bracket and getting politicians to act accordingly is the answer. Money talks! Support one or more consumer/environmental groups that already exist and get involved….hit the streets like an activist.

  3. Thanks for blogging about this, Amy. I live in Ontario and am happy to see that every year, more and more initiatives and programs are set up to improve our waste diversion efforts. However, you shouldn't have to look beyond your country's borders to find a good eco-role model: when I visited Portland earlier this year, I was blown away by the city's environmentalism. They're doing lots of things right, and I'm sure those ideas will eventually spread to other areas.

  4. Hi Andrea! Thanks for commenting. You are right in that there are many places around the US that take recycling and environmentalism seriously. I would say that they're usually found in more progressive areas, like Portland, Seattle, Burlington (VT). On the flip side of that, in many southern states like Georgia, recycling is somewhat of a foreign concept and the infrastructure is not quite in place yet to efficiently and effectively deal with recycling, or waste diversion. I am hoping that by raising awareness, environmentalism and recycling will catch on in these areas (sooner than later!).