How Green Are We?

In the second instalment of our series, Who Do We Think We Are, The National looks into the question of how green Canadians really are.

Tell us what you think by posting a comment to this page.

And take one of the online green tests to find out how green you are.

Ian Hanomansing finds out how hard being green can be. He rides along with a Vancouver family to see the challenges they face in their everyday lives trying to be green, and tracks their effort, their guilt, and their results.

Kim Brunhuber delves into the world of green skeptics. Does being green make a difference? Is the global warming theory true? Some Canadians are not so sure. And what better place to tell that story than in Alberta, home to the oilsands

Wendy Mesley looks at how Alberta's oil sands try to shine up their environmental reputation.

Eco-tips from Lindsay Coulter of the David Suzuki Foundation

Lindsay CoulterLindsay Coulter Lindsay Coulter is the Queen of Green at The David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver. It's her job to help people make more sustainable choices in every aspect of their lives.

She even has a weekly blog filled with green living tips-

She walks to work, composts at home, and even makes her own cleaning and cosmetic products from scratch.

We set her up with the Shackles family from Richmond, B.C. The family of four- mom Susan, dad Nigel, and sons Kevin and Trevor- are your typical hockey family.

They drive to the rink, drive to work, and while they want to make green choices, like many busy Canadians, it's not always a priority to find the time, or to pay more, to make those choices.

We asked Lindsay to come up with practical solutions for the Shackles family and ways they could make a greener impact without overhauling their lives overnight. Here are her tips.


It's not sustainable to overhaul everything overnight. Instead, you should look at where you can make the most impact in your life, and the things you are most interested in.

Also, don't be discouraged if the changes don't take right away. It takes a while to form a new habit, so don't give everything up just because you slip once.


Meet together as a family to talk about your goals: each person can take on a green task, and you can work together on goals as a group. If you are all on the same page, it will make it easier to set goals and meet them.


The easiest way to reward yourself for being green is to spend more time in the environment you are working on saving.

Take a day to go for a hike, check out a local park or get involved in an activity where you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.


It can be hard to know the difference between fair trade, organic, bird friendly, natural and environmentally friendly labels. You can read up on the Seven Deadly Sins of Greenwashing, so you know what to look for.

And luckily there are enough organizations out there to do the work for you. Sign up for an e-newsletter from organizations like The David Suzuki Foundation and let them do the work for you.


Lindsay CoulterLindsay Coulter There are lots of reasons to buy organic fruits and vegetables - better farming practices, reducing your exposure to pesticides, and in the case of local organic, you are supporting your home community.

Organic food isn't the cheapest, so when you have to target your organic dollar, check out the list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 put together by the Environmental Working Group. In the case of the Dirty Dozen, always try to buy these organic.


Find a buddy in someone who already rides to your workplace and meet up with them so they can show you the quickest and safest route to go by bike.

Taking a safe commuting class will build confidence on the road. You'll be more likely to ride more often.


Every time you reach for a water bottle, remember - if you were to fill it 1/4 full of oil, that's how much energy it takes to make that water bottle.

Get a reusable water bottle and get into the habit of carrying it. Unlined stainless steel is best. In the case of a sports team or classroom, get the kids to decorate the bottles so everyone in class is equal and one kid isn't singled out while the others still drink from their new plastic bottles.

Don't re-use plastic water bottles - especially plastic #1. This is the plastic most likely to leach toxins into the water in the bottle.

Drink lots of tap water. The less people use municipal water sources, the less municipalities will feel they have to make sure the water is clean and drinkable.


The average family of four throws out one in four produce items they buy, which wastes about $600 per year, plus the energy it took to get that food out of the ground and into your home.

One of the easiest ways to reduce this food waste is to stop your produce from spoiling in the first place.

Don't wash fruits and vegetables until you are ready to use them, and keep ethyne gas producers (ethyne is the gas which leads fruits and vegetables to spoil) out of the fridge. Tomatoes, bananas, apricots, avocados and apples shouldn't be refrigerated for this reason.

Menu planning can take a bite out of the waste because you'll only buy what you need. If you have produce you don't know what to do with, you can search for recipes for the ingredient online at sites like


Think about recycling before you do it. When you are shopping, try to buy products in bulk or with the least packaging.

Remember this rule: "two-four-five, keep yourself alive". Plastics with the numbers two, four, or five are the easiest to reuse and the least toxic so try to choose these the most often.


Try to reduce your meat consumption, even once a week. According to the "Meatless Monday" movement, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide - far more than transportation.

Reducing meat intake will slow the trend of climate change and minimize water usage, because "an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound."

Websites like Vegetarian Times can start you on the right foot with recipes and tips to have a meatless Monday.