George Carlin—the Grammy Award winning comedic personality—once made us laugh at the lunacy of our desire for goods trumping a healthy home, ”That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff... Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

Carlin poked fun at us for reflexively buying more and more stuff that would sit in our garage, basement, and closets. He recognized the sophisticated advertising, planned obsolescence, and green-washing that touches every facet of our lives. The soft sell would become even craftier. He knew that even as people became less likely to let go of their hard-earned dollars for a product they may or may not need.

Being a “prosumer”

Being a “prosumer” (a well-informed consumer who bases their purchasing decisions on knowledge of a product’s lifecycle and true value) has become both easier and more difficult. More information than ever is at our finger tips, however, distilling what legitimately has less impact on the environment and is better for the health of our families and communities is harder and harder.

“I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes. I had one thousand and sixty.” —Imelda Marcos

This said, the current economic climate has, for many, necessitated a return to an old sensibility once prevalent in Canadian homes—the art of prioritizing “needs vs. wants.”

Finding the right balance

I suppose it is fairly obvious that most of us haven’t had to wrestle with the anxiety that comes from trying to anticipate a shoe selection that is appropriate for any given occasion. Yet I know from personal experience, as well as from the many Canadians I have met through my work with Earth Day Canada, that planning for future situations is not only appropriate but incredibly important.

The trick is finding the right balance between preparedness, taking advantage of opportunities, and a practical reality that takes into account the environment and health costs associated with the purchase.

To help you find the right balance, and take the first step toward making informed and necessary decisions, this publication will discuss the following:

  • The future of transportation — Improving air quality, energy efficiency, and performance by switching to electric vehicles (EV’s)
  • Sustainable packaging and why to avoid manufacturers who over-package their goods. Disposing of this extra packaging becomes your
  • responsibility.
  • Forest Stewardship. How protecting our earth’s forests ensures the safety of many wildlife habitats, our oxygen and water sources, and aids in the recycling of our carbon output.
  • Sustainable business practices ensure that all parties involved; including suppliers, communities, and the environment; receive fair price and treatment for their product or service.
  • By planning for a sustainable landscape, it is possible to cut down on emissions, use of resources, and expenses.
  • Reduce, reuse….and then recycle.

What many Canadians are starting to realize is that changing the small things they do at home and in their daily routines can add up to extra money in their pocket while helping lessen their impact on the environment. As Carlin reminds us, our home is so much more than a storage unit, it is where we live. So next time you head to the store to buy cleaning solutions, toilet paper, a car etc. take a little extra time and think through what the cost of your purchase really is.