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Suddenly, we're not looking so green



December 10, 2008


Statscan study humbles Quebecers. Many of us recycle, but few are composting


Quebecers like to think they're more environmentally conscious than other Canadians, but we have some work to do when it comes to simple changes like switching to low-energy light bulbs, Statistics Canada says.


A new study looked at six environmentally active behaviours: recycling, composting, using a low-flow showerhead, using reduced-volume toilet, using compact fluorescent light bulbs and lowering the temperature on programmable thermostats when members of the household are asleep.


Just over half of Quebecers said they have done two or three of those six, but only 35 per cent of us have done most or all of them.


Quebecers lagged far behind on composting - only 14 per cent of us do it, compared with 31 per cent in British Columbia and 92 per cent in Prince Edward Island, where composting is mandatory.


About one-third of us use reduced-volume toilets, and not even half of Quebecers use the more energy-efficient light bulbs - compared with 65 per cent of people in B.C. and Ontario.


On the plus side, 95 per cent of Quebecers with access to a recycling program actually recycled (still the second-lowest result for all of Canada) and 59 per cent use low-flow showerheads, which puts us in second place in that category.


For a province dubbed the "conscience of Canada" on climate change by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, and praised by David Suzuki for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for three years running, yesterday's results aren't exactly good news.


"At first glance, it is a little bit depressing," said Marie-Ève Roy, a spokesperson for the environmental group Équiterre. "It reminds us that it is a challenge to transform people's interest into concrete action on a daily basis."


The information Statistics Canada used is from 2006, and Roy said she expects the next study like this to have much better results.


Since 2006, Quebec has announced tough targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, instituted a carbon tax, set the goal of five-per-cent ethanol levels in gasoline by 2012, and announced plans to implement tougher standards for vehicle emissions between 2010 and 2016. In 2006, Hydro-Québec also began offering rebates to people switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. This year, Hydro-Québec added a rebate program for programmable thermostats.


But governments and environmental groups still have a lot of work to do, Roy said, including improving access to public transit, establishing the necessary infrastructure for large-scale kitchen-waste composting, and putting a price on water consumption.


"As soon as you put a price on those resources, that helps people understand the impact of each of their behaviours," she said.


When people see that turning down the thermostat at night before going to sleep reduces their electricity bill, that helps them understand the effect they can have on the environment, she added.


For a link to Hydro-Québec's rebate forms, visit our Green Life blog at http://www.montrealgazette.com/greenlife

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