Environment: Becoming An Environmental Citizen

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We are all entitled to a healthy life in a safe environment, but at the same time we are all responsible for helping create and maintain a green community. There is plenty we can do as individuals to contribute to the conservation of our planet, and if we find a way to get in touch with like-minded people, and generate a collective spirit around environmental goals, a community based action can become the motor of a more powerful conservation movement.

There are many programs and services across Ontario that offer ways for individuals to get involved and become active supporters of their communities’ green goals. You can start by educating yourself and simply making a few changes in your life style, go on to support environmental causes and attend massive events, or even go one step further and volunteer for a hands-on activity in the conservation field.

There are over 700 groups in Ontario, ranging from national to neighborhood based, that focus on different environmental issues. We present you with a selection of organizations and programs whose mission is to coordinate individuals and their communities to achieve their conservation and environmental objectives.

Conservation Council of Ontario (CCO) is an association of organizations, businesses, and municipalities, whose mission is to “make Ontario a conserver society” by promoting solutions, raising public awareness and building a conservation movement called We Conserve. They propose individuals lead their lives according to ten rules: helping nature, saving water, saving energy, using green power, driving less, living locally, eating smart, buying green, wasting less, and preventing pollution. On their website you can take a test to get your ECOscore, find ideas and tips to become a greener individual, and consult the Great Green Directory, which offers listings of events and links to different organizations. For more information, visit www.weconserve.ca.

EcoSource Mississauga strives to increase sustainability through proactive programs dealing with consumption, waste reduction and other key environmental issues. Their hands-on programs focus on how each individual can change their daily habits to become better environmental citizens. Each year they start the gardening season with opening picnics and community volunteer day, involving activities like turning the compost, planting seedlings, and mulching garden pathways. Activities are family friendly, and you can easily find out about them by visiting their website, www.ecosource.ca.

The Environmental Volunteer Network (EVN) offers hands-on work experience in the field of conservation for diverse groups, individuals, working professionals, and students. Volunteer and intern positions are available throughout the GTA year-round, and range from one-time events to ongoing jobs. They also range from tasks that require little knowledge of the field to positions that demand greater experience and education; they can be part time or full time, indoors or outdoors. For more information, visit www.trca.on.ca/get-involved/volunteer/.

The Green Communities Association (www.greencommunitiescanada.org) is the national umbrella for local non-profit organizations that bring environmental solutions to Canadian households and communities. It has developed several programs, which are replicated in most of the Green Communities across Ontario. One of their long running programs is Active & Safe Routes to School, an initiative that promotes the use of active and efficient transportation for the daily trip to school, addressing health and traffic safety issues while taking action on air pollution and climate change. The website www.saferoutestoschool.ca, provides resources, tools, information and links for schools and communities to create their own program.

Ontario Environment Network (OEN) coordinates the efforts of over 500 Ontario groups and provides a central referral service for anyone seeking environmental information, organizes workshops and conferences, publishes resource materials, and maintains a database of Ontario environmental groups as well as a delegate database for public consultations. On their website they have a job board with volunteer opportunities across Ontario, which is updated every day. To learn more about what OEN does and find volunteer opportunities, visit www.oen.ca.

Every year since 2001, the Recycling Council of Ontario (www.rco.on.ca) has held the Waste Reduction Week in Canada, which takes place during the third week of October. Their targeted audiences are schools, local governments and small to medium sized businesses. On-line resources assist members in deciding how to participate, designing their activities and reducing their waste year-round. Resources include sample waste audits, composting information, activities and games that involve school and community recycling, and information on setting up a recycling program.

The Toronto Environmental Volunteers (TEV), run by the City of Toronto, gathers individuals who create environmentally sustainable projects in their own neighborhoods and communities at the grassroots level. TEV focuses on environmental issues such as solid waste management (garbage, recycling and composting), water efficiency, household hazardous waste, storm water management, energy efficiency and air quality. The program consists of two main components: training and community outreach. It is active throughout the year. For more information, visit www.toronto.ca/environment/volunteer.htm

Volunteer for Nature gives you the opportunity to work outdoors, with a team; learn new skills; and participate in hands-on conservation projects in natural places. You get to work alongside researchers, scientists, local experts and conservation-minded people, and participate in wildlife surveys, native species restoration, habitat rehabilitation, and trail construction, among other activities. They don’t require special skills and are willing to instruct you along the way. All you need to take with you is your appreciation of the natural world. For more information on Volunteer for Nature and Ontario Nature’s events, visit www.ontarionature.org.

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