If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in the power of collective action. Every change we make in our own homes, every conversation we have with others about our choices, has a ripple effect.
But many of you want to know what you can do beyond voting with your dollar. So, I asked the experts at Environmental Defence, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to education and advocacy for a healthier planet, to share their advice in this week’s blog! I hope you enjoy.
If you’re conscious about the ingredients in the products you use, you probably know that it takes more time, effort and (sometimes) money to purchase safer day-to-day items for you and your family.
As a concerned consumer, you bear a disproportionate amount of responsibility to avoid the dozens of harmful chemicals that have become pervasive in our products and environment. That’s because Canadian regulations of harmful chemicals have largely failed to reduce our exposure to toxics in our food, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, furniture, and countless other goods.
The onus shouldn’t be on you
Doing research, reading labels and sourcing products you trust is certainly one way to take control over your health and that of your family. But too often, product labels are either unclear or inadequate. And even when all the info is there, toxic-free products are often inaccessible or unaffordable to many.
That’s why government laws should ensure that chemicals that can disrupt our hormones or increase our risk of cancer aren’t in cosmetics and other consumer products.
How to become an advocate for stronger toxics laws
Advocacy organizations like Environmental Defence have, for many years, worked hard to reform Canada’s toxics law, known as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (or CEPA). This law is now 20 years out of date and needs to be updated to keep up with the evolving science on toxics and the regulatory actions taken in other parts of the world.
But policy change can be slow and often faces significant opposition from industry. In order to counter such resistance to improve regulations, government officials, especially elected ones, need to know that there is strong public demand and support.
For example, the ban on microbeads in cosmetics was one of the fastest cases of regulatory action taken by the federal government on a toxic substance. It took approximately three years to ban these polluting plastic bits from wash-off skin care products from the moment the government considered taking action. Why? Tens of thousands of Canadians supported the campaigns by Environmental Defence and other advocacy organizations by writing to their members of parliament (MP) to demand a ban.
Without this kind of citizen advocacy and public support, efforts by environmental and health groups are unlikely to be effective. In other words, you are an essential part of the positive change that we at Environmental Defence would like to achieve.
If you want to go the extra mile to keep harmful chemicals out of your products, your home, and the environment as a whole, here are some helpful tips to get you started:
Going the extra step
Sign our petition
Join the thousands of Canadians that have signed this petition asking Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and your local MP to reform CEPA immediately.
Contact your local MP
Whether you write a letter, call or set up a meeting with your local MP, you have the power to tell them your story. Why do you care about this issue? Does it personally affect you or a loved one? MPs are there to hear from their constituents and act on their behalf. Here are some tips to make sure your letter, phone call or meeting gets the attention it deserves:
- Introduce yourself (I am a mother, constituent, caregiver, student, community member, concerned customer, etc.)
- Sum up how the issue impacts you, your family, or the community
- Explain what you want them to do to help (Feel free to read the petition letter to get some talking points!)
- Thank them for their time and leave your contact information so they can follow up with you
Tip: You can find the contact information for your MP here.
Vote for a government that has your best interests in mind
Only 68 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the last federal election. Voting is the most important tool that we have to create a future that we are proud of and that we want our children to grow up in. Research election platforms as they are released, and keep an eye out for the types of party commitments that best fit your values.
As Canadians, we have the privilege of being able to speak up on the issues we feel strongly about. Going the extra step to have your voice heard may take some effort, but it will bring us to a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable place for all.
Muhannad Malas is the Toxics Program Manager at Environmental Defence. You can learn more about their current campaigns on Facebook (EnvironmentalDefenceCanada), Instagram (@envirodefence), and Twitter (@envirodefence).