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Five ways you may be a top climate change contributor

By Pieta Woolley

Are individuals responsible for the enormous amount of waste the world produces? Or are systems? Is it politics, corporations, laziness, genuine evil or the apathy of the people that prevent significant change? Or globalization?

Whatever is causing it, man, are we good at creating a lot of solid and gaseous junk. And as Alanna Mitchell points out in this month's cover story, it’s costly and totally unnecessary.

In the meantime, here’s a look at how much planet-destroying grub individual Canadians create:

1. Carbon dioxide emissions

The average Canadian produces about five tonnes of CO2 per year in household use. That number includes the stuff we do as individuals: driving our cars, vacationing and eating mangoes in the dead of winter. But our collective responsibility for Canadian industry puts the number much higher: 14.7 tonnes per person. Saskatchewan and Alberta carry the highest per capita emissions, and Quebec and BC the lowest. Still, 14.7 is a better number than nearly every Middle Eastern nation. For example, Qatar produces 40.3 tonnes of CO2 per person and a worse number than nearly every developing nation. In comparison, Nigeria produces a half tonne per person.

2. Garbage

Canadians generate more trash than any other “peer” country: 777 kilograms per year, in fact. That’s more than Americans, Germans, the British and the Japanese. And that’s just municipal waste.

3. Food waste

Ordinary folks who shop at grocery stores — the very last people on the food-buying chain — create half of Canada’s $31 billion in annual food waste. That’s 215 kilograms of edible food per household every year. How much is $31 billion in food waste? More than the combined GDP of the 29 poorest countries. 

4. Water use

The average Canadian uses 335 litres of water per day — and half of all water used in the summer gets sprayed onto lawns. That’s six times more than we used a century ago, and more than twice as much as the French do. If it’s yellow, let it mellow?

5. Gas guzzling

The average Canadian household spends $2,606 on gas for private vehicles per year.

Want to calculate it for yourself? Try this “fun” tool: the ecological footprint.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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