Although any eco-friendly steps you make contribute towards a healthier planet, putting in a little more effort can result in hugely reducing your carbon footprint and can help contribute towards a better future for generations to come. Here are five ways to change your eco baby steps into green leaps.
Point Pleasant Park is on the south west tip of Halifax. You can drive there, but the true beauty of it can only be found on the walking trails. Because it looks over the Atlantic ocean, if you're there in the early morning you can see the fog burn off as the sun rises. If you're lucky, you might see a seal or two taking a morning swim.
This garden takes up six beautiful acres of land on the grounds of Acadia University. It houses flora and fauna from the Acadian Forest Region, which not only makes it a beautiful space to visit, but provides educational opportunities for students to study the ecosystems of the region.
The Historic Gardens is the place to go if you love roses. It has hundreds of roses, and the caretakers even put out a bloom report so you can go when the flowers are at their best. The gardens also have a reconstructed Acadian house, based (as they say) on the pre-deportation 1671 time period.
A 100-year-old conservatory in the heart of the city? Of course! It has a greenhouse filled with tropical plants, it plays host to a number of flower shows, and there are a total of six other green houses that display a permanent collection plants from around the world. The best part? You can get to this garden in the city via public transit.
Speaking of parks in the city, High Park is not to be missed if you're in Toronto. The largest public park in the city, it stretches from Bloor street to the lakeshore, has an off-leash area for dogs (who like to jump in the water), picnic areas, and even a zoo. If you're there in spring, do not miss <a href="http://www.highparktoronto.com/cherry-trees.php" target="_hplink">cherry blossom season</a> thanks to the Japanese sakura trees.
These gardens have 27 kilometres of trails which take you through wetlands where you can observe fish, birds, and other wildlife. They also maintain 50 collections of wild plants as part of their research.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
Tired of the Falls? (Seriously?) Then refresh your eyes with some of the green spaces in the Niagara region. There is the <a href="http://www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/botanical-gardens.html" target="_hplink">Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens</a> which is the home of the Butterfly Conservatory. There are 99 acres of land so you can spend an entire day just admiring the greenery. For you romantics, they also have 2,400 roses.
Canada is really good at building city parks, and Mont Royal Park overlooking Montreal is one of them. It has 200 hectares of land. If you're willing to walk up (it's not a bad walk), you'll be at the highest point in the city (234 metres) and can see most of Montreal. The park has everything you may need: green spaces, art for appreciation, and in the winter it's a great place for tobogganing or downhill skiing.
Speaking of parks in the city, this park defines Vancouver. Rent a bike and ride the almost nine kilometre sea wall around the park. Admire the giant trees and totems by members of the First Nations and when you need a break and just want to lie down and catch some sun, there are three beaches in the park. Just a word of warning: the water is cold, even in August.
If you're in Victoria, rent a car and go to Butchart Gardens. It's worth the drive. The stunning Japanese maples, the roses; it's hard to believe that Butchart Gardens started off as a limestone quarry. Thanks to Jennie Butchart, this garden has been around for 100 years. If you go in summer, you can listen to concerts in simply stunning surroundings.
It's not Japan, but it's very, very close. It's one of the newer gardens, built in 1967 to recognize the contributions made by Canadians of Japanese ancestry. The goal, according to the park’s website, was to create a Japanese-styled garden that reflected the stunning Alberta scenery. Japanese architects, landscapers, and tradesmen created many of the features in Nikka Yuko and shipped them to Canada.
Want some pyramids with your plant life? Muttart Conservatory has greenhouses, public gardens and, yes, five pyramids. Four of them are for plants and the fifth is in the foyer of the entrance. Three of the pyramids represent a climate (temperate, arid, and tropical) with the corresponding plant life. The last pyramid covers a seasonal display depending on the time of the year.
We couldn't forget Banff, Canada's first national park. How big is it? Try 6,641 square kilometres; that's how big. All of that thanks to three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers who accidently discovered a cave containing hot springs in 1883.
Jasper National Park
It's a bit smaller than Banff, and is considered the more laid-back park experience if you're in Alberta, but Jasper -- founded in 1907 -- has approximately 1,000 kilometres of trails and some spectacular wildlife. The park is divided into three "<a href="http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/natcul/ecosystemes.aspx" target="_hplink">life zones</a>": montane, subalpine, and alpine with the corresponding plant and animal life for each region. But if you want to see wolves, bears, and caribou, then this is the place to be.
Work towards becoming a zero-waste home
You've quit your bottled water habit and you recycle your paper and plastics with your city's recycling program, but kick your efforts up a notch by cutting back your waste to as little as possible. Rather than using disposable items, switch to ones you can reuse -- think rags instead of one-time use cloths for cleaning, and buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Bring food containers to restaurants if you tend to have leftovers to take with you. Borrow books from the library instead of buying novels. It's all about taking time to think about ways to cut back on waste before just taking action in the way you've become accustomed to.
Change your diet
Make how you fuel your body more environmentally friendly. Do so by supporting your local producers by going to the farmers market instead of the big-box grocery store. If you have the space (even if it's just some containers on your city balcony), grow what produce you can --whether it's simply some herbs and tomatoes, or a bigger personal crop of veggies and fruit. Raising cattle is not sustainable, and while going vegetarian would be too major a change for many meat eaters, incorporating one or two meatless suppers a week is easy to blend into one’s lifestyle.
Ditch the car
Cut back on gas by choosing to walk or bicycle rather than drive. For destinations that you can't walk or cycle to, then use public transit. If a car is a must, research whether changing your car to an electric vehicle is within your budget. Also, find out if any colleagues live nearby who you can carpool with (or, if your company offers the flexibility of telecommuting, speak to your boss or human resources about arranging working from home a few days a week).
Raise your kids to understand the value of living sustainably
If you bring up your kids to understand the need to live green, it'll be a value they hold onto for life, and thus it'll positively impact generations to come. Living with zero waste, for them, won't call for changes to habits, but will rather be the only lifestyle they know. Your kids may find it fun to create new uses for items -- it can become a game to think about how certain packaging can be creatively repurposed, for example.
Change your travel plans: think local
Temper your jet-setting ways by including more local vacations rather than flying halfway across the world a couple of times a year. Staycations in your hometown could be a refreshing (and budget-friendly) way to get some R&R. Or, rather than two big trips a year, plan for one longer vacation so you're reducing the number of times you take off and land (which uses more fuel). Even becoming someone who packs just a carry-on luggage is a green decision, given that heavier loads on flights burn more fuel.