Vivre d’une manière écologiquement saine et pourquoi ne sommes-nous pas tous à ce point?


Mary Garden se demande, "pourquoi est-ce que l’on ne se dépêche pas tous à changer nos comportements et "verdir" nos modes de vie afin de laisser une "empreinte" plus légère sur notre Mère, la Terre?" 

En introduisant de nouveaux comportements et de nouvelles alternatives, nous pouvons choisir d’avoir un impact moindre sur notre environnement.






















Even when people are aware of potential benefits of changing a behaviour, it's still not easy or simple to get society to accept change













































































Lack of awareness of a potential problem can be a major barrier to change


Living the Green Life -
So Why Aren't We All Doing It?

Mary Garden
Ecotique Canada
July 1999


a.gif (364 bytes)s we approach the beginning of the 21st century, no reasonable person can deny the need to lessen our impact on the environment.

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(photo:Ecotique Canada)

During the past 30 years, the scientific community has become increasingly vocal on the subject of our destructive behaviour towards the environment - as early as 1962, Rachael Carson's Silent Spring began sounding the alarm. In 1992, 1,600 world scientists (including over half of all Nobel Prize winners) issued a stern warning to humanity that our behaviour toward our planet must change or we could not expect to continue living as we know it. An excerpt from this warning sums up the seriousness of our times - "A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated."

So what's going on? Why haven't we all already rushed out to green our lifestyles and change our behaviour to tread more lightly on Mother Earth? If you're reading this article, chances are you've already made the change to some degree, but what about everyone else? The destructive and perplexing behaviour exhibited by many people, governments and businesses is a constant source of frustration and disbelief to me. Thoughtless acts, such as drivers throwing cans and cigarettes out of car windows, are still commonplace in our so-called advanced western society.

Anthropologists who study change in cultures around the world have found some curious similarities. They have determined that even though a change will be beneficial for people to adopt, a society may still reject it. Change will not succeed unless two key goals are met: changes in people's behaviour, and changes in the physical environment (for example, making available acceptable alternative products and services and providing necessary education or training.) The catch is that to achieve each goal, certain obstacles must first be overcome.

No one needs to be reminded how difficult behaviour changes can be. From helping a child to toilet train to introducing composting into your family, change does not happen easily. But before you can begin to change a behaviour, you need to be aware of the need to do so. Lack of awareness of a potential problem can be a major barrier to change. Unless the benefits are known, there is little chance of change. Where I live in suburban Ontario, early summer is the time when fleets of pesticide and herbicide spraying trucks roll out across the land. After years of hiding indoors for days and glowering at the offenders for spraying their yards, my husband happened to have a conversation with our next door neighbour who as it turns out was totally unaware of any dangers from pesticide spraying and very appreciative of the information we gave him. He knew that the lawn company had to place a warning sign on the grass, but never gave it much thought!

Even when people are aware of potential benefits of changing a behaviour, it's still not easy or simple to get society to accept change. Another obstacle to overcome is that change is disruptive and inconvenient - in other words, it's easier to keep living the way you always have. While I respect people's right to choose their preferred lifestyle, acting responsibly for the health of our families and our planet is no longer "just a nice thing to do" but must become a reality. From the quality of the food that we produce and consume, to the chemicals that we use on our fields, lawns and gardens, the air pollutants that we generate and the garbage that we unnecessarily create, our "main stream" lifestyles don't make sense anymore but are threatening our very means of existence.

The good news is that it's becoming increasingly easier to make the "green" lifestyle change with the growing number of green products and services available in the marketplace. The growth in green business over the past decade has been enormous, greatly due, I believe, to an exponential growth in information and awareness of environmental issues, and also to businesses and environmental organizations recognizing that a small change is easier to make than a large one. In other words, getting consumers to buy a different brand of ketchup that is organic and better for our environment (and us too!) may be easier than asking them to ban all Heinz products from home (and go without ketchup!). Green products and services on the market today offer acceptable substitutes that are nonthreatening, readily accessible, and easy to incorporate into existing lifestyles.

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(photo: Ecotique Canada)

For many people, the move to purchasing more environmentally responsible and healthy products starts in the kitchen - perhaps a sick child or chronic illness begins the search for answers and often leads to introducing organic foods into the household. From there, green products slowly begin to infiltrate other areas of the home - the bathroom, household cleaning products and the backyard. The degree and speed of infiltration differs as much as we do from each other. Those who resist change say that it's too expensive to buy organic food and green products and services. But consider that endorsing a greener lifestyle also means following the three R's Rule, that is Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Cooking from scratch using organic ingredients , as opposed to buying convenience food, takes a little reorganizing but, in the end, costs far less and may even add a new family activity. An attitude against buying disposable products not only means less garbage but also no repeat buying, generating more savings.

Two final obstacles to changing behaviour concern people misinterpreting or misunderstanding the real purpose of change, and being afraid of, or threatened by, the change. These negative perception obstacles may be the hardest to overcome.

Many people believe a move toward a greener life means giving up the things that they have worked very hard to acquire. It's no surprise that feelings of uncertainty, threat and suspicion toward environmental issues may be the result. Punishing people for being "bad consumers" won't work if this is what we expect society to do to endorse green. Society must not perceive a move to greening lifestyles as a step backward, but must see the move towards greener living as a positive step forward, not only in terms of the broader environmental benefits but also for the perceived personal benefits in doing so.

The label of "Tree-hugger" given to environmental issue supporters is a clear response to a perceived threat. Big business, government and many consumers share these negative responses to green change - their leadership, freedom and the right to choose as well as the acceptability of their choices is now being questioned constantly. Many established 20th century symbols of status and "having made it" are now denounced by environmentalists and social activists. The fur coat, the perfect "golf course" lawn, the luxury automobile. Nothing better sums up our distorted western belief system than a popular bumper sticker from the 1980's - He who has the most toys when he dies, wins!

While the degree to which we choose to green our lives is varied, the good news is that you don't have to don a hair shirt and forego all earthly pleasures to begin to change. Starting small is always best. Let's say that you begin with introducing some organic foods and start composting. The impact from all Canadians doing only these two things could be staggering. From a dramatic decrease in health care costs to an enormous reduction in landfill waste and resulting methane gas emissions. So don't feel overwhelmed by the need to rush out today and totally change your life - break the changes down into manageable, realistic components and slowly work towards your targeted goals.

The final change goal to be achieved concerns our physical environment and concerns making available alternatives to choose from. Often people and societies can't make a change in their physical environment because the alternative product, service or infrastructure is not accessible or available to them. In our western society, we're fortunate to have an ever increasing number of alternative green products and services in the marketplace, as well as environmental organizations to help us make the change.

In simplest terms, it's really all about making choices. Everyday we're faced with hundreds of them - decisions about what products to buy, what to eat, how to get somewhere. Now that you've decided to green your household - where do you start? My advice? Read everything! There's a great deal of excellent environmental and natural health information available from companies, the government, environmental groups and on the Internet but the first thing you need to begin reading are labels - find out what you really have lurking in your cupboards and cautiously read all product labels in the grocery store before you buy them.

A recent publication from a Canadian nonprofit group provides information about over 600 Canadian businesses and organizations who offer products or services that are more environmentally and socially responsible. The Alternative Resource Guide, published annually by Ecotique Canada, covers a wide range of topics from pet food to books, alternative energy, toys, eco-adventure, organic food, education resources, cleaning products, organic gardening, baby products and much, much more. Armed with the information and the access to alternative options, I believe that Canadians can, and will, make better choices for their families, for our communities and for the future of our planet. To order a copy of The Alternative Resource Guide, contact your local book or health food store, or you can order directly from Ecotique Canada - call 1-800-408-1522,

So will humanity survive and can we make the change to greener lifestyles? It's a complex issue dealing with as many different variables as there are people on this planet - over six billion of us now, they say. But before we give it up as an impossible task, remember that it has to start somewhere, with someone and with something - so hum a little tune as you walk your organic dinner scraps to the composter across your pesticide free grass - yes, you are making a difference.

copyright 1999