What does it mean to be Green? To me, it’s about a blend of freedom and responsibility. People should be free to choose, but must also take responsibility for their choices. This is particularly true about environmental issues; driving a gas-guzzler or chilling a large house on a hot summer day are choices you can make, but you should pay the real full price for it, not be subsidized by others or harm nature for free.
I don’t believe that’s a “preachy” approach. To preach is to tell other individuals what they must or must not do, and that’s not something I’m interested in. Instead, I’m happy to provide information about things they might like to try, if they want to reduce their ecological footprint and live lightly on the Earth. Usually, tips come from my own experience, as I stridently avoid “do as I say, not as I do”. In my political role, I support policies that enable people to make those choices, or remove barriers that prevent them. I do ask that our society as a whole make some different choices, but that’s my right and responsibility as a citizen participant, and I’ll happily participate in those better choices.
I don’t tell people they shouldn’t drive a car; how could I, I drive one myself sometimes! I also walk to many errands, bike to others, and am no stranger to Barrie Transit. (And I appreciate the new routes, which made taking the bus more convenient for my family and me). We manage without a car commute; we all walk to work or school or work from home. But we aren’t car-free, either. Instead, our family of four relies on a 10-year-old fuel-efficient North American-made compact instead of a big SUV, and we combine errands whenever possible.
Food is a major interest for me, but unlike some environmentalists, I don’t demand everyone become vegetarian or vegan, although I applaud them if they do. My own family instead follows a flexitarian “hundred mile” approach, including sustainable meat from local organic farms on top of huge amounts of locally-produced vegetables & fruits in season, plus the produce of our own garden. With the myriad ways to eat more healthy and sustainable, far be it from me to tell anyone else how much of anything they should or shouldn’t eat. Instead, I share discoveries we make and celebrate successes of others on the path to sustainability.
Another personal interest is urban planning. I believe Barrie needs to be more flexible on building height and density, to allow more infill development and a greater mix of housing choices. Does that mean I think everyone should live in apartment buildings? Of course not; I don’t! Our family chose a modest house with plenty of space for that garden I mentioned, in walking and biking distance of many amenities. Yet Barrie’s housing mix needs more affordable higher-density units, and I’m an enthusiastic supporter of that kind of development choice, including in my own neighbourhood.
For me, it ain’t preachy being Green; it’s an ambition for us all to try and live more lightly and responsibly, each in our own way.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Being green means living much more responsibly"