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It’s easy to forget sometimes that as we try to solve the world’s environmental problems, the best place to start is in our own backyard.
As Islanders, we’re off to a good start with our standing as the first province to put in place a single-use plastic bag ban. Other provinces and the federal government are kicking the tires on their own versions of a ban. But let’s not forget that adapting to the ban didn’t come easy for many of us. There were early concerns about forgetting your reusable bags and having to carry groceries out to your car in your arms or in your pockets; or having to buy more and more reusable bags because you keep forgetting them at home. Some even wondered what they would use as small garbage bags.
Here we are four months later, and those concerns are a distant memory. People adapted, but let’s not forget as we look down from our moral high ground at other provinces lagging behind that we didn’t have a choice. Some Islanders had already been using reusable bags. But for many of us, we had to be forced to do the right thing through legislation. And, over time, if not already, we’re going to see the benefits of this ban with fewer and fewer plastic bags finding their way into our environment. It is a prime example of individuals coming together and collectively making a difference.
But we still have a long way to go. A reminder is the Saturday ritual of vehicles idling and spewing exhaust while stuck in a traffic jam trying to find a parking spot at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. The same can be said for our annual Farm Day in the City event. Yes, it was a challenge to navigate through the large crowd of people going from booth to booth. But an even greater challenge was trying to find a parking space on a Sunday afternoon.
You know things are bad when living downtown in a city like Charlottetown or Summerside requires a vehicle. Especially in Charlottetown, the downtown lacks a grocery store, a hardware store, and an electronics store, to name a few. They were here at one time, but no longer. There are options to buy some of these items elsewhere, but you’re paying more. Better, and more environmentally-friendly transit and more accessible amenities are needed in large and small communities across the Island. We are creatures of habit, but that habit doesn’t have to be driving and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
For all the talk about what to do about our climate crisis, we need to redefine how our cities and communities are planned, and give people options for leaving their cars home. Redefining our cities and communities will give us better opportunities to do our own part for the environment.