On the same day that I’m writing this, I will attend one of the five yearly meetings of the Edmonton trails, paths and routes advisory committee. (I’m co-chair this year.) As I was preparing for the meeting, I began thinking about forms of transportation that don’t pollute or damage our environment very much.
My mind arrived at Earth’s General Store. Michael Kalmanovitch opened the store in 1991. It has become a major retail supplier of products that are less damaging to our environment than are the products available at most other retailers. The store has also become a hub of information and activity concerning the ways that we can reduce the damage we do our environment.
There are no sales pitches at the store. Staff ask if you need information, then just answer your questions. They don’t mind if you come in and take up their time asking questions then leave without buying something. They want to reduce pollution and high-pressure sales pitches are psychic pollution. Also, low-impact products sell themselves. If you ask them about phthalates or bleached paper, the staff will just tell you about them. You’ll be more likely to buy low-impact products just by being better informed.
Earth’s General Store is also independent. It’s owned and run by people who don’t answer to shareholders. The purpose of the store isn’t to make a profit. It’s to inform and empower shoppers from across the Capital region. Yes, Kalmanovitch must make a living. But there’s a difference between “living” and “profit”.
Why am I telling you about this 19-year-old store? No, Kalmanovitch didn’t ask me to write this. I’m telling you because, as you may know, I’m an avid cyclist. Earth’s General Store is moving to a new location in late January. They’re going to make the move as human-powered as possible. They’ll rely heavily on bicycles with trailers, as well as wagons and backpacks borne by pedestrians. That’s a lot of hauling to do without the help of gasoline. And they’re going to do it in January. That’s a lot of winter cycling!
A lot of people sneer at those of us who want to reduce our environmental impact. Many say that reducing consumption is bad for the economy. They likely wouldn’t care about the economy if they were among the Albertans who have fallen ill because of pollution. Also, I’ve never read a news article headlined “Conscious consumers causing economic downturn”.
In the end, reducing impact ends up being selfish. Buying less and reusing more is cheaper. Active transport keeps us healthier. Organic products are safer for us. And reduced pollution keeps our water and air clean right in our cities.
What do I do to reduce my impact? I cycle and walk as much as possible; I recycle, reuse, and repair; I buy used items when I can; I use organic hygiene products; I hang my clothes to dry (which humidifies my home) and I don’t use facial or bathroom tissue (I cut up old clothes for rags).
Also, consider this: when one doesn’t spend as much as other people, one doesn’t have to work as hard as other people. And that’s something few people would complain about!
Dave Lloyd is a writer and musician who grew up in St. Albert.