Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children, Me to We and We Day. Find out more at we.org. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
We have a bad case of eco-home envy. An Edmonton couple is building a carbon-neutral house that will be powered by solar panels and include a thermal storage unit and a plug-in for their electric car. We love that their ethics are driven not by city bylaws but their own desire to help Mother Earth.
Most of us rely on basic local programs such as composting, recycling and off-peak energy periods to green our living. That's why it's great to hear about more and more cities around the globe implementing simple but inspiring measures that ensure we all leave a lighter footprint.
In the small mountain town of Kamikatsu, Japan, citizens sort their trash into a mind-boggling 34 different categories of recycling, allowing the city to boast that it produces almost zero waste. Residents must consume, give away or compost all leftover food, and most people pitch in at the recycling centre. We've never visited Kamikatsu but admire how the spirit of community is behind sustainability.
In Copenhagen, city officials want to see half of all citizens cycling to work and school by the end of the year, so they're investing in more bike lanes and storage. Berlin has greened its chic urban landscape with more parks than any other city in Europe. And in Iceland, zero-emission hydrogen-powered buses take people and tourists about in the capital, Reykjavik.
Meanwhile, Montreal city councillors say they'll stop the distribution of plastic bags and will tax paper ones in two years. It sounds like an old-school effort, but the motion flopped in Toronto a few years ago. Montreal's mayor is also openly musing about banning one-time-use plastic water bottles.
Imagine if all our city leaders aimed this high.
If you ran your city, what environmental policy or measure would you implement?
Sophie Paradis, Quebec director, WWF-Canada
"I would uncover some of the rivers and streams that have been buried for decades under Montreal's buildings, roads and parking lots. Turning these waters that now flow through concrete tunnels back into natural flowing creeks and streams would reduce the risk of flooding, diminish the urban heat island effect [which makes cities hotter than surrounding areas], allow a wider range of plant, animal and insect life to flourish in the city, combat pollution and provide recreational space for residents."
Mike Morrice, executive director of the non-profit Sustainability CoLab
"Set a climate change target equivalent to the aspirational goal global leaders agreed on at the UN climate conference in Paris, reducing carbon levels to keep the Earth's temperature rise below 1.5 C. This would build on ambitious commitments of cities like Vancouver and Toronto. I would then engage all sectors in my community to create a plan to achieve the goal. Doing this would position my city to lead in a 21st-century economy, put us on the map globally and inspire other levels of government to join in."
Don Grant, executive director, Ottawa Centre Ecodistrict, a grassroots network of local organizations and businesses
"Move quickly to get people cycling more – not just to work but everywhere. That means better, safer bike paths and secure parking. I would also work to increase the number of people using clean, green electricity and install charging stations for electric vehicles."
Have your say in the comment section.