Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

April 5, 2011

Making the hard small changes

I’m a people watcher. I admit it – I’m fascinated by people and as I make my way through the busy streets of Vancouver, or wherever I am, I people watch. I could just say I blame it on my father, who is an avid people watcher, but the truth is human behaviour fascinates me, and when you live in a big city, there’s a lot of behaviour to keep you busy!

What catches my eye? It runs the gamut really. Sometimes it’s the difference in people’s face, from the woman whose eyes sparkles as she heads to work, to the man whose face is at rest, but the lines in his face reflect a life lived hard. It’s the clothes people wear and the way people communicate, or don’t as the case may be. I wonder, as I watch the teens walking down the street, each with their eyes on their phones texting away, why the company of the person they are with isn’t as good as the person they are texting. And I watch people making choices.

Stairs or escalator? Jaywalk or wait for the light to change? Burger and fries, or soup and salad?

And as I pass the countless coffee shops in the city, I see people making another choice, one I’m at a loss to understand. As I look at the line ups, and see people picking up their coffee orders, I see that the vast majority of customers are making the choice to use a disposable cup versus a reusable one.

With almost every coffee shop selling travel mugs and with these reusable choices part of promotional giveaways ad nauseum, why is it so many of us still are making a choice that puts more garbage in our landfills and waste in our oceans?

The easy answer is convenience, of course, but it’s an answer that leaves me hollow. With awareness about our environment growing, and the knowledge that we all need to make small and big changes, shouldn’t we be able to make the simple change of keeping a travel mug with us?

There’s no doubt that change is hard. We all have busy lives, and with mornings where we barely get out of the house dressed and fed, remembering to bring a travel mug with us seems like just one more thing to do. But for all the environmental pressures our planet faces, we have to start with the small changes because they do add up and make a difference.

Reducing our footprint isn’t just about recycling, it’s about not producing the waste in the first place. So, keep a travel mug in your briefcase or purse. Carry a small reusable bag so you don’t get caught needing a plastic bag when you make an unplanned purchase. Choose products with little or no packaging. Make a small change, and join others in tackling the big problems, so that one day soon, what was once inconvenient becomes the way things are always done.

Here are some more ideas on how to be a better Steward of the Strait.