Forty years ago, astronauts on Apollo 17 snapped the now famous Blue Marble photo of earth from space, reminding us how small and fragile our planet is and how our destinies are interconnected with the sustainability our eco-systems. The same year, the United Nations declared June 5 as World Environment Day.
Across Canada, we continue to celebrate the first week of June as Environment Week. It is a time to take actions at work, at home, and in your community to reduce your environmental footprint. Awareness and strength of the environmental movement has strengthened over the past four decades, but our impact on the environment continues to grow.
Just a few weeks ago, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, a level not seen in human history. Lake Winnipeg has been declared one of the most threatened lakes in the world. Environment Week is an opportunity to assess our impacts on the environment, and to take steps towards living greener.
One fun and easy way to participate is through the Commuter Challenge. Green Action Centre hosts this annual friendly competition during Environment Week to encourage individuals and workplaces to explore greener transportation options for personal, environmental and community health.
Transportation represents one of the largest contributions of greenhouse gases for North America and produces about one third of Manitoba’s total emissions. The costs of single occupant vehicle ownership to individuals, communities and the environment are also growing. Cities like Winnipeg are having increasing difficulty maintaining their expanding networks of road infrastructure dedicated to private automobiles.
The Commuter Challenge promotes other options for your daily commute. This week, try cycling, walking, carpooling or taking transit. There are prizes for individuals who register and participate. Or get your whole workplace to register – the workplaces with the highest participation rates in their population category are also rewarded. Prizes include: A night at The Fairmont, $500 Via Rail travel Voucher, a 2-night stay at Crooked Mountain Cabins, gift cards, gym memberships, yoga classes, transit passes, and so much more!
Last year Winnipeg, Wabowden and Thompson were all top nationally in their population categories; Winnipeg won Gold for the 9th year out of 10. Over the past four years alone, Manitoba participants in the Commuter Challenge:
- Logged over 2.6 million ‘green’ kilometres
- Avoided almost 850,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases
- Burned almost 21 million calories
- Saved almost $250,000 in fuel costs.
Taking the bus or riding your bike one week out of the year will not by itself reverse the damage we are doing to our planet’s environment. However, it can help you develop the habits you need to live more sustainably. At the same time, you will live save money, build community and live healthier.
The Commuter Challenge is just one program that Green Action Centre offers to help Manitobans live greener, healthier lives. We also help kids stay active by walking or biking to school; we help households reduce their waste through recycling and composting; and we advocate for sustainable policy on transportation, energy, waste and greener living for communities across Manitoba. Presentations are available for your workplace or school, on a variety of topics.
To find out more about Green Action Centre, and to sign up for the Commuter Challenge, go to: www.greenactioncentre.ca.