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Why Care?

Consumerism and wasteful lifestyle puts planet at risk

Being at the top of the list isn't always best. Especially when it shows that Canadians are world leaders when it comes to consuming scarce energy and other resources and producing garbage. According to Statistics Canada, our country produces more than 21 million tonnes of garbage annually. That figure puts Canada in the top five in the world when it comes to per capita waste generated. The chart below shows among the 29 countries with advanced economies, the top "most wasteful countries" with the RDN included to indicate how we measure up.

Our increasing burden on the environment

Our human economy depends on the natural capital of the earth to sustain it. But what if we take more than the earth and our environment can sustain and deplete this natural capital? The "ecological footprint" is a tool developed by William Reese of the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning that measures the human load on the earth in terms of the area of productive ecosystems that a human population requires.

The ecological footprint shows how much productive land and water we require to produce the food and material goods we consume and to absorb the waste we generate. Residents of Canada, the U.S. and other western countries each require up to 30 acres of productive land and water to support their consumer lifestyles. By comparison, the per capita ecological footprint of even a rapidly developing country such as China is less than 5 acres.

If the entire population of the world consumed resources at Canadian levels, four additional earth-like planets would be required to continue sustainably. The environmental impacts of our unsustainable lifestyle include climate change, collapsing fisheries, and increasing loss of biodiversity.

How Zero Waste can lighten the load

Zero Waste means changing our attitudes towards the earth's resources. Michael Jessen, a waste management specialist who has written on "The Need for a Zero Waste Policy" in B.C., says "the first thing we do is discard the idea of waste. Everything is made from resources and waste is a resource going in the wrong direction. To throw away resources is to be inefficient and noncompetitive."

As we move towards the goal of Zero Waste, we pay up front the full environmental costs of products and services. We prevent waste and ban products that don't facilitate their reuse, repair, recycling or composting. We redefine economic success from unlimited growth and consumption to delivering more services with less energy and resources. As individuals we use our democratic process to demand change, take responsibility for our purchasing decisions and refuse to buy products that aren't consistent with the goal of Zero Waste.

Zero Waste Resources and Links

Last Modified:  Nov 15, 2011
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