Columnist’s Anniversary: 50 Shades Of Green

April 13, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Martina Rowley

When I relocated from Toronto to Orangeville at the end of 2017, I knew I wanted and needed to get engaged with volunteer work again to help me get right into my new community swiftly. The Town of Orangeville’s environmental council committee, then called Orangeville Sustainable Action Team (OSAT)—now Sustainable Orangeville—had a vacant volunteer position that I applied to and was accepted for.

There were two initiatives I was interested in implementing and leading immediately. Firstly, I wanted to (and did) introduce an Urban Harvest Program to rescue unharvested local fruits and donate them to the local Food Bank. In my first few months here, which happened to be autumn, I had noticed numerous apple and pear trees in private gardens and along public paths that were clearly not being picked. 

Secondly, I hoped to interest one of the local community newspapers in a regular article on environmental issues as a means of citizen education and engagement. This paper’s editor at the time agreed it was a good idea and offered a monthly spot on their columns page. While that was not quite my ideal, as it meant not being able to include a supporting photo with each column, it was better than nothing.

Thus began my monthly green-column writing in 2018, and this article is my anniversary 50th column for this paper!

I always love hearing friends, neighbours, colleagues and others in the community who find out my name—for example, staff at various health or medical clinics I need to go to—tell me they enjoy reading my monthly piece. Naturally, every writer of any kind wants to know that others do, in fact, notice, read and hopefully enjoy one’s printed thoughts. As an environmental educator and mild activist, the best compliment is when a reader thanks me for what I informed them on and shares that they did something I suggested! 

Over the past five years, I have addressed a wide range of themes and for this month’s 50 Shades Of Green column, I decided on a review. Some topics were one-offs, while others—such as food growing, food waste, single-use plastic items and waste in general, and transportation—are those dearest to me. Following are the themes and many but not all the topics I have covered so far:

  • Christmas: impact of Christmas, the old plastic versus fresh tree debate
  • Climate Change: natural disasters and increases in severe weather
  • Community: citizen action, Communities In Bloom competition 
  • Consumer products: batteries, chemicals in beauty care products, greenwashing 
  • Food: growing your own, food fads and excess (avocados), food miles
  • Human impact: impact of online shopping surge, quarries, Highway 413
  • Nature: forest bathing, no mowing in May for bees
  • Plastics: grocery bags, water bottles, recycling
  • Transportation: bus station debate, cycling, GO Transit over driving, railways 
  • Waste: electronics, food, textiles  
  • Wildlife: backyard hens, chimney swifts, insect hotels, and wildlife taking over during COVID-19 lockdowns 
  • Winter problems: road salt, tourism and cruise ships, tourism and ski hills 

How do I decide on my topics? A couple of friends have asked me that. My answer is it varies. As an environmentalist—just like self-employed business owners do (which I am as well)—I never stop noticing or hearing about environmental issues or solutions. When I hear something being discussed on the radio or television, in a group of friends, or anything that crosses my mind or my path while I go about my day-to-day business, I ‘park it’ in my list of potential topics. Often, I choose something seasonally relevant, while other times I must think hard about which topic I have not covered yet or how I could spin one of my favourite themes. This month, it was easy to decide, as I have been tracking the number and titles of my green columns and knew my anniversary column was coming up. 

Why do I make the effort? I know I could easily fill these monthly two to three hours of research, writing and editing with something else, especially since my submission dates always seem to come around in the blink of an eye. But I do it because I love to write and am passionate—make that PASSIONATE—about environmental issues and educating and encouraging others to make helpful changes to their habits as well. 

As difficult as it is to get others to change their ingrained habits and beliefs, it will not stop me from trying. I cannot subscribe to the kind of thinking a recent acquaintance (no longer part of my life) told me, after I explained some of my lifestyle habits to reduce my environmental impact. For example, avoid packing fresh produce or even pre-packaged groceries in single-use plastic bags simply for the purpose of convenient carrying. Or why I can never go on a cruise, because I am aware of and have written about the massive pollution cruise ships cause. He, on the other hand, felt on both accounts that, “If I don’t do it, someone else will.” Such self-absorbed thinking is not for me. 

I do get it that not everyone is or needs to be as all-in with their green habits as I am, but I cannot stop encouraging others to make at least a few adjustments to their habits. It must not be forgotten or ignored that all of us share just one, non-renewable, and much abused and degrading Planet Earth, and when you share that same ‘thing’ with millions (even billions) of others, you must play nice – or at least nice enough. You need not go all-in, a little is better than nothing, and there are 50 shades of green habits and more that you can choose from to make a difference. 

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