Oh, Canada: We Are Green With Envy

morning commuteWhy is it so easy to be green in Canada?

I spent the first night of my summer vacation in a bed-and-breakfast in Toronto with my family.  (Yes, I blogged while on vacation.  That’s what happens when free wireless is available everywhere and you have obsessive-compulsive disorder.)  We drove from Chicago in our Toyota Camry.  It’s not exactly a Prius, but while averaging about 30 MPG, we had a smaller carbon footprint than we would if the three of us traveled by plane.  We brought most of our own meals and snacks in reusable containers, printed out travel and maps on previously used paper, and reused our water bottles.  So we thought we were being green.  But a morning walk around Toronto made us feel only light green, at best.

What did I notice in Toronto?  Though people certainly drive to work in the morning, a huge number of people ride their bikes.  While walking around looking for an open cafe for my morning coffee, I kept seeing one person dressed for work and whizzing past me in the bike lane.  Commuting to work by bike seemed to be the norm for our neighbors to the north, not the exception.

Canadians also have easy-access recycling.  A recycling bin stands next to every conventional garbage can in Toronto.  So if you are walking down the street, you can recycle your newspaper, a water bottle, a flyer as easily as you can throw these common items into the trash.  Even McDonald’s offers a full array of recycling services.  (Full disclosure: we stopped at a McDonald’s on the highway to use the restrooms, but did not purchase anything.)

I spent less than a full day in Ontario this summer, and I made these remarkable observations.  Had I spent a longer time in Canada and visited other parts of this eco-friendly country, I would have other green practices to report.  Readers, feel free to comment about additional activities that make Canada green so we in the U.S. can learn a thing or to about greening North America.

Photo from my own personal collection.

15 thoughts on “Oh, Canada: We Are Green With Envy”

  1. This is a pardoy, right?
    “we had a smaller carbon footprint than we would if the three of us traveled by plane.”
    Of course you would have no footprint at all if you’d stayed home. Are you pretending to be Al Gore who takes a train while his luggage goes by SUV and is a founder of and buys carbon credits from GIM which has exactly no investments in green companies?
    Toronto’s recycling program is a fraud. Search “Green Bins” at http://www.thestar.com.
    The city pays to store recycled materials and 70% of the material collected for recycling is land filled anyway.

  2. Hey, you should come and visit Toronto when there’s a foot of snow on the ground, and the bikers are still on the roads;-) We might be a bit greener, but I seriously think that’s because our political system allows multi-party democracy to work. About 10% of the voters support the Green Party, and the other party’s are scrapping it out at 25%-40%. If they want to get elected, they HAVE to appeal directly to Green Party supporters. In the USA, you only have two choices, so you’re stuck with the green policies that congress, and Pres. can offer on the cheap. Vote green at the municipal level! It’s your planet too ya know

  3. In London Ontario, once a year the city brought in truckloads of compost bins that they sold for $5. When I moved to the U.S. I could not even find one locally, I had to have one shipped from California. (I know, I should build them, but I am possibly the world’s worst carpenter)

  4. You mean to say the public recycling bins aren’t normally found in the States?

    Yikes… it’s pretty normal and commonplace in cities (in Ontario, at least). I can’t remember how long ago those were put into place.

  5. I live north of Toronto and not only do we have recycling pick-up, we also have “Green Bin” compost pick-up for food waste.

  6. Hello, I’m glad to hear that Toronto is doing a good job of being green but being a Canadian myself I thought I’d bring insight from Edmonton, Alberta as we are decidedly less green here than you describe Toronto.

    There are reportedly more cars on the road in our city than ever, a good portion of them being SUVs and 1/2 ton trucks. There certainly aren’t readily available recycling bins most places, only where made available by businesses. As you may suspect from the mention of vehicles above biking is indeed also the exception, closer to the University or College campuses less so however.

  7. Most major cities in Canada have exactly what was posted here. However smaller cities, like Kitchener, it’s about 1 hour west on the highway, won’t have some of these things.

    Public transit and bicycles are common ways for people to get around. Just about any major cafe, or fast food place has recycling cans next to the garbage. However, we don’t have a recycle bin next to garbage cans on street corners here.

    Anywhere in Canada that you have the garbage picked up will have a recycle truck come along shortly after (or before.) In some provinces they have a deposit on pop/water bottles so that you get some money back when you take it to the recycling centre. And yes, in Canada that’s how we spell centre (or center to Americans)

  8. You might find this interesting reading. I am a Canadian living in China and over the past five years Canada has been on a bit of a downward slope. And with the Harper (conservative) Government things seem to be getting worse. There is an election coming up and hopefully the Liberals will win a majority government and start getting things back on track.
    As well this is a link to the Liberal partys Green Shift Plan, which is also interesting. Enjoy.

  9. Recycling has been the norm in Canada for a long time now, it’s a part of the culture. Friends of mine went on vacation in the US, and their kids were appalled to see people throw bottles in the trash – they couldn’t understand why there weren’t recycling bins around.

  10. Glad to get eyewitness account of the scene in Toronto. My wife and I live in St. Louis, MO right now but are looking to move to Toronto. Great to know that one of our big reasons — advanced perspective on green living — is as true we think.

    (We’re visiting Toronto later this year to start doing our own eyewitnessing.)

  11. How about starting small like, riding bicycle to work and putting recycling bins next to trash cans in the major cities!

  12. you’d LOVE Switzerland. I lived in Basel for three months. overall, Switzerland is the cleanest country I have visited thus for through western Europe. i am dreaming of Sweden’s water….hope to visit there next.

  13. It’s always great to see a full-service recycling bin that has round holes for bottles/cans, longer slots for paper, etc. It’s so much easier that way. And when there are lots of bins around a city, it’s that much easier.

  14. I read somewhere that only 30% or so of Americans recycle. Did you know its not even an option with my trash company? I live outside city limits and have to drive my recycling elsewhere.

    We got a looooong way to go.

  15. I have noticed lately that there are more recycling bins on street corners around Chicago too. There are separate ones for paper and glass. Even inside the Illinois Center building there are separate bins.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top