Green Living Tips for Individuals

Go Green Today!

Just click on the titles below and you'll be on your way to living a greener, healthier life.


Every time you recycle an item, you are not only diverting that waste from the landfill, but you are also reducing the amount of new materials that would need to be extracted from the earth to make the next product, along with the electrical and fuel energy, and pollution involved in doing that.

We have a finite amount of resources on Earth. We are currently depleting them at an unsustainable rate. Please do your part to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. Learn about recycling in Halton here.

Put Waste In Its Place 

Halton's "Put Waste In Its Place" search tool is a great way to help you learn where your waste should go. You simply type a waste item into the search box to learn if it should go to your blue bin, compost bin, garbage or other. We'll bet that some things will surprise you.

Strive to use your blue bins and compost bins as correctly and as frequently as possible. Become your household expert!

You can use the "Put Waste In Its Place" search tool here.

Return Your Bottles & Cans

Did you know that when you return empty alcohol containers to The Beer Store, they can be reused and recycled up to 17x more than if they were put into curbside recycling?  Yes, that includes your wine bottles, too – plastic or glass. Wine bottles get a $0.20 refund.  For more information, view The Beer Store's "Better Returns Page".

Say NO to Plastic Bags 

Where possible, bring your own reusable bags when you do your shopping. Plastic bags are often unnecessary and often end up in the landfill after a short use, or end up as litter in our community, where they can remain for many years. Some grocery stores have cardboard boxes for your groceries if you forget to bring your reusable bags with you.

If you need small bags for other things at home, consider reusing outer milk bags, bread bags, or zipper bags, etc.  Plastic bags are not accepted in Halton Region blue bins, but if you do have some to dispose of you can find a list of stores that will take them back for recycling. Look for collection bins near the entrance of your favourite grocery store, or enquire with management. Some stores also take back clean bread bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, zipper bags, and case wrap (eg. from beverage packages, paper towels, toilet paper, etc).

You can avoid using those many plastic produce bags too. Use a reusable bag and check out BG's organic cotton produce bags available at the next BG event you attend.

Help Create Litter Free Communities

Keep your property free of litter and, on windy nights, wait until morning to put your blue bins out for pick-up. While litter and stray garbage in the city is a perennial problem, if each household or business simply kept their own property clear of litter each day before it gets blown around, it would make a big difference to benefit the environment.

If we all pitch in to help put litter in its place, we will all benefit from a cleaner, greener, more beautiful city. Be sure to sign up to participate in our popular annual Community Clean Up Green Up event or you can Plan Your Own Cleanup event, too.

Stop Receiving Unwanted Mail

If you are receiving flyers and other unaddressed admail that is not useful to you, then please place a notice on your mailbox requesting, "No flyers please." It is a waste of many resources to have these produced and delivered, only to be thrown out without being read. You can find flyers from most of your favourite stores online now anyway on their website. As more people reject them, less will be printed.

For addressed mail that you receive such as statements and magazines, you can often switch to emailed versions or access them through an online account. Look for information within the item or on their website to find out how to make the switch.

Finally, for other addressed mail that you don't want at all, email or write the company to have your name removed from their mailing list. Include all the details on the mailing label so they can locate you on their mailing list for removal.

Avoid Idling Your Vehicle

Did you know a City of Burlington bylaw prohibits unnecessary idling, such as while waiting for someone in a parking lot? You could be given a $100 fine!

This also applies during winter months. It's not necessary to warm up vehicles for 15 minutes in cold weather. Besides, vehicle compartments heat up faster once you're driving on the road. Idling creates a lot of air pollution right where you live and breathe and contributes to global warming.

For more information, and to help promote awareness, visit Dads Against Dirty Air and the City of Burlington website here.

Reduce Your Car Travel

Do you have to drive across town to run an errand? Do you also have to go near the same destination tomorrow? Why not wait until tomorrow and do both in one trip? You'll save money(gas), time, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Better yet, consider if the trip by car is necessary at all. Do you need to drive to that store to see if they have what you're looking for? Or, could a simple phone call answer your question and save you a trip? Do you need to stop at 3 different stores to compare items, or can you view products and prices online and then go to the one store that is offering the best deal?

Avoiding or delaying trips is even more important on hot, humid summer days when air quality/smog alerts are in effect.

Carpool, use public transit or ride a bike or walk to your destinations are all much greener options than travelling by car. Learn more about BurlingtonGreen's 'Think Outside the Car' advocacy campaign here.

Say NO to Bottled Water

Bottled water creates much plastic waste and litter and consumes a great deal of oil and energy in making the bottles and shipping the product to your point of purchase. If you fill an empty water bottle 1/4 full of oil, that's about how much oil it took to get that one bottle of water produced and delivered to the store where you purchased it. In addition, it is estimated that twice as much water was used in its production. Thus, every litre sold represents three liters of water.

All this is unnecessary as Halton has a high-quality, 5-step drinking water treatment system and our water quality is tested every day. Halton Region's tap water has performed better than the required Ontario Drinking Water Standards.

Many plastic water bottles don't make it to the recycle bin and end up in the landfill or on the side of the road. When they are recycled, they often get put to one more use, and that's it. Few bottle manufacturers use a closed loop bottle-to-bottle recycling system, where an old bottle gets turned into a new bottle.

Please stop purchasing bottled water. You will save yourself some money and reduce your waste and carbon footprint. Get a refillable bottle to fill with tap water and take with you when you need water while out of the house. Encourage friends, family, and co-workers to do the same. If you are still concerned about lead and chlorine in your water, a simple jug filter system in your fridge will address this. You can learn more about why you should Say NO to bottled water here.


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Conserve Water

Avoid running your taps longer than necessary. Repair leaks. Purchase a rain barrel to capture rainfall off your roof and use to water your lawn or garden. Take advantage of Halton's toilet replacement rebate program, if applicable. Please visit Halton Region's Water Conservation page and the City of Burlington's page (at bottom) for some helpful tips.

See also the 25 Best Ways to Conserve Water page for more great information!

Eat Local

On average, food travels about 2,500 kilometres before it reaches our plates. Alternatively it is quite possible to eat food grown, raised and processed that travels only 50-250 km. That food is a lot less dependent on the fossil fuels that negatively impact our environment.

With the upswing in the local food movement trend, it is also becoming more convenient to access local food suppliers. Our area is lucky to have all the ingredients needed to sustain a local food network - protected farmland; a diversity of farm products grown and raised in the area; a large population; and a concentration of food service industries and institutions.

Buying local has a lasting impact on sustaining family farms, supporting our local rural and urban economies, encouraging agricultural diversity, and promoting sustainable environmental practices. It also secures a predictable and more stable food source for the future and provides a cushion against a vulnerable global food system. Check out this great video to the right to learn more and learn more about our impactful Grow to Give program here.

Meat Free Mondays

Reducing your meat consumption is one of the most significant changes you can make to lower your carbon footprint. Livestock production uses a large amount of resources and produces a great deal of greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. The typical North American diet consists of more meat than is necessary or healthy.

Why not try doing Meatless Mondays? Or, cut back on meat portions a few times a week. Add legumes to your meals to for protein and iron (eg. red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils). A simple 3-bean salad works well here. Or, make a tofu stir-fry, similar to how you would make with chicken, but substitute extra-firm tofu, sliced into small, thin pieces (soy/tofu is a complete protein).

Please consult with your doctor first before changing your diet, or if reducing meat consumption in substantial amounts, as there are potential health risks if not done properly.

Reuse & Repair

First, consider if you truly need an item before purchasing it. Is there an alternative, or can you rent or borrow it? If not, stop by the ReStore, garage sale, or second-hand store before buying new to see what they have. You may just find a bargain! Thrift stores such as Salvation Army, Goodwill and Value Village have gently used household items for sale, and you'll be helping a good cause at the same time.

We all need to rethink our purchases. We are influenced by advertising to consume, consume, consume, without a moment's thought that there may be significant consequences. We are encouraged to go out and get the latest item, even though the old one still has lots of good life left in it. This has only increased with the advent of cheaper goods from overseas and easier access to credit.

We are currently depleting the Earth's resources at an unsustainable rate. Please get in the habit of questioning your purchases before you make them, to reduce your overall consumption and ecological footprint.

When you do buy new, look for these common environmental labels, as explained by Industry Canada, to minimize your impact.

Protect and Plant Trees

Trees help clean our air of pollution and give us oxygen to breathe. They provide cool shade on hot days and help prevent climate change. They add beauty to our communities and provide habitat for wildlife.

Please don't cut down trees on your property other than for safety, disease, or infestation reasons. Learn more about why Burlington needs a bylaw to protect the trees we are fortunate to have in our communities and share your valuable input here.

Plant native species trees when you can. Refer to Ontario's Tree Atlas for native trees that grow well in your location. Visit Tree Canada for more information on urban and rural trees. Help celebrate National Tree Day in late September each year.

Conserve electricity

Much of the electricity we use still comes from non-renewable sources, such as gas plants that release greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. We have the potential to move toward all renewable power, but conservation is key to allowing this to happen.

  • Memorize the on-peak, mid-peak, and off-peak hours for electricity use (note that they change in May and November). Post the times on your fridge for the whole family to learn. Help our provincial power system by shifting your usage to mid-peak and preferably off-peak hours, when possible. Pay special attention to any electrical appliance that produces heat – these are among the biggest energy users (stove, oven, dryer). When you use power during peak times it's hard on the environment, because more of the less attractive forms of generation (eg. gas plants) must be run to meet demand. Learn more on Hydro One's FAQ page.
  • Turn up your AC a few degrees, or consider turning it off altogether and cooling yourself with a ceiling fan. If possible, spend more time downstairs or in the basement during heatwaves. Drink cool liquids – cool yourself rather than your whole dwelling. Consider placing a box fan in a window in late evening or early morning (blowing outward) to draw cooler air in through open windows for 30 minutes to an hour. Close your windows during the day to keep hotter air out, and keep blinds closed on windows that have sun on them.
  • Air-dry some or all of your laundry.
  • Be fridge-friendly: don't keep the door open longer than necessary. Use ice trays instead of automatic ice makers, which waste more energy.
  • Turn off lights when leaving a room; teach kids the importance of this, too. Adjust lights on timers as days become longer, and follow daylight savings changes, to minimize 'on' time.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying electronics or appliances, which indicates the most energy efficient products, even in standby mode.
  • Unplug chargers and electronics when not in use to reduce 'phantom power' draw, which can account for up to 15% of your annual electricity consumption.

For lots more helpful tips, check out Burlington Hydro's Energy Conservation Handbook (19-page PDF).

Green Homes: renovations & new construction

Learn about energy savings tips for your home, plus how to make your home green when doing renovations and new construction. This will not only reduce your home's carbon and ecological footprint, but can protect your health and also save you money in the long run.

BurlingtonGreen Director Jim Feilders has built a great example of an overall Green Home and is happy to share information with others to help them go green. Please visit our Green Homes section to learn more.

Choose green vehicles

If you need to buy a vehicle, consider the environment carefully in your purchasing decision, focusing on low-emission and excellent fuel economy vehicles. Consider purchasing an electric vehicle or hybrid vehicle. Government rebates are currently offered on new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles; you can view data on different makes and models of these "Advanced Technology Vehicles" here.  You can also view a list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles of all types here.

When an electric vehicle life cycle cost, including capital and operating expenses, is compared to the equivalent gasoline vehicle, the electric is less expensive from the first day of ownership (based on an average of 20,000 km/year over a 5-year period, using conventional financing).

If you do purchase a traditional gasoline vehicle, pay close attention to fuel economy ratings before you purchase. Data on most makes and models can be found here. Avoid purchasing a larger vehicle than is necessary for your needs. If you only need a large vehicle for an occasional trip, consider renting for that occasion.

Consider using a car-sharing service instead of purchasing a primary vehicle or a secondary vehicle for your household. As of 2016, Community CarShare and Zipcar have cars available in Burlington. When you don't have a car sitting in the driveway, you'll be more inclined to use greener forms of transportation and only use a car when you really need it. You may save yourself a whole lot of money, too! Learn more about car sharing here.  (Note: MEC has announced a car share car coming soon to their parking lot.)

Don't forget to keep tires properly inflated to maximize your vehicle's fuel economy. Click here for more driving tips to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, including a free 25-minute online course.

Use Green Energy

Consider taking advantage of Ontario's MicroFIT program to install solar panels on your roof. Or, if unable to do so, consider having Bullfrog Power 'green your energy use' for you. For less than $1 a day for the average Canadian home, they will put green forms of energy onto the grid on your behalf.

Spend Time in Nature

Take time to get out and spend time in nature. This can be done even in the most urban parts of the city at a nearby park or trail, or you can visit some of our local conservation areas. No doubt you will learn to appreciate our natural world more. Think about how rare and special our Earth is; there's nothing out there like it that we know of. It will inspire you to take action to protect it.
We are at a critical point in our existence as humans. There is a very real possibility that future generations will live considerably less comfortable lives than ours, unless we change our over-consuming and polluting ways now. According to the Earth Overshoot Day website, we require 1.6 Earths to support our current rate of consumption – and that doesn't even include the needs of other species.

Put a different way, everything we consumed from Jan. 1 to Aug. 12, was what was 'budgeted' to us as sustainable use; everything we consume from Aug. 13 to Dec. 31, we are taking from future generations. The Earth's forests continue to be depleted. The world population is currently around 7.3 billion and continues to grow by about 75 million people per year – roughly a little more than the population of Burlington added every day.

So, take a walk and think about this – the good and the bad. If you have kids, think about the kind of world you would like them to live in, along with their kids, and their grand-kids. It will give you a better sense of why the above tips are so important, and why the time to act is now. Will future generations respect us or resent us for the world we've left them?

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