During Canadian Environment Week from May 31 to June 6, Canadians participate in nature hikes, plant trees, or clean up parks.
Whatever your personal eco-passion—recycling, reducing water waste, eliminating household toxins, fighting greenhouse gases, or conserving wildlife—Canadian Environment Week has something for everyone. Running from May 31 to June 6, it’s a reminder that we can all do something to help preserve, protect, and restore our environment—not just for a week but year-round.
Our home and native land
Canada is renowned for its abundant water supply, glorious scenery, and natural resources. About 12 percent of the land is covered by lakes and rivers that support agriculture, power generation, industry, recreation, and drinking water. And more than ever, we know that our health and that of future generations is linked to how we care for Mother Earth.
How it began
In 1970, former prime minister John Diefenbaker suggested dedicating a week each year to environmental awareness and action. After it received royal assent in 1971, Canadians have celebrated Canadian Environment Week ever since.
Not sure where to start? Your community newspaper is a good resource for events being held in your neighbourhood from June 1 to 7. Take a nature hike, plant a tree, host a trash-free barbecue, or rally your neighbours to clean up your neighbourhood or local park.
Clean Air Day: June 3
Clean Air Day is intended to raise awareness about the importance of clean air and climate change, two issues that affect the quality of life and health of all.
Lest we forget how essential the atmosphere is, take a deep breath. What you’re inhaling is a special combination of gases that provide oxygen, protect us from ultraviolet rays, affect weather patterns, regulate temperature, and nurture life on earth.
In Canada, vehicles are one of the main contributors of greenhouse gases and pollutants that harm air quality. They produce climate-changing emissions, aggravate respiratory ailments, and create smoggy days.
There’s no better time to walk, ride, carpool, or bus to work than during the Commuter Challenge from June 1 to 7. Join this annual friendly competition at commuterchallenge.ca and/or convince your co-workers to join you.
Outdoor exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being, energy, and positive engagement, along with decreased tension, confusion, anger, and depression.
World Environment Day: June 5
The United Nations’ World Environment Day is an initiative that is celebrated in more than 100 countries. This year’s theme is Small Island Developing States. As the United Nations points out, no matter where we live, we all face challenges related to the environment and sustainability.
Some of their suggestions for helping the environment and raising awareness include
- clean-up campaigns
- food waste reduction initiatives
- walk to work days
- plastic bans
- tree planting
- recycling drives
- art exhibits, concerts, and dance recitals
Become part of the solution by visiting the World Environment Day website (unep.org/wed) for ideas.
World Oceans Day: June 8
When wave after wave of Japanese items began washing up on the BC coast after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, there it was—a stunningly visual, irrefutable reminder of our oceanic interconnectedness.
World Oceans Day was first proposed by the Canadian government at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Since then it’s grown into an annual event to celebrate those great big bodies of water that generate oxygen, provide food, and regulate our climate.
At worldoceansday.org, the Wear Blue Tell Two project encourages participants to wear blue clothing on June 8 while sharing fun, factual oceanic knowledge.
Whatever day or days you choose from the variety of initiatives this month, make 2014 your first of many years of participation and join the growing movement of eco-conscious Canadians.
Biking is better
In case you need extra incentive to give that old 10-speed a try, the David Suzuki Foundation notes these facts:
- It costs $500 annually to maintain a bike and accessories compared to $7,500 for the average car.
- For trips 10 km or less within the city, cycling is usually the quickest form of travel.
- Thirty minutes of biking several times a week reduces the risk of developing serious diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, by up to 50 percent.
Kids Benefit from Nature
Canadian Environment Week and all the other celebratory eco-events are great ways to get children outdoors. Spending time in nature can improve their creativity, school marks, environmental awareness, and physical fitness.
Get to Know
In 2007, renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman launched the Get to Know Program to encourage children to learn about nature and spend more time outdoors. Since its inception, this worthy program has helped promote outdoor activity and a connection to the environment. An annual contest that runs from May 1 to November 1 encourages children to create original works of art, writing, photography, videography, and music that’s inspired by nature (get-to-know.org).
A 2012 study found that youth who spent three weeks at a wilderness camp experienced social-relatedness, positive feelings, and a stronger sense of connection with others.
Another study indicated that at-risk sixth graders who took a week-long outdoor education program raised their science test scores by 27 percent, and exhibited higher self-esteem and a motivation to learn. They were also more likely to express environmental concern and exhibit positive behaviours at home such as recycling and conserving electricity.
This June, teachers can engage their students by combining technology with ecology. Take an outdoor field trip, then create a YouTube video. Inspire others by uploading and sharing what the students have done to restore or clean up the environment.
These kid-friendly activities can also be incorporated by teachers:
- Have a nature-themed painting or crafts class, with eco-inspired prizes going to the best artistic contributions.
- Invite a local nature group to do a presentation in class.
- Turn sports day into an environmental support day by including nature-inspired themes such as animal or plant team names.