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BEYOND LOCAL: Professor encourages you to do a little research this Earth Day

An expert says there are many things that trick us into thinking we're helping the environment, but a little research can change that
Earth Day

While Earth Day takes place on a single day, the problems facing the environment are ongoing all year round.

Anne Wilson, Professor of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University says we should be careful not to let one day of observance write off our behaviours for the rest of the year.

"My only caution for people is not to treat Earth Day in that way, but rather to use it as chance to check in,” says Wilson. “Maybe educate themselves a little bit more about the things they can be doing.”

Wilson says Canadians overall are "relatively informed" on issues facing the environment and many are committed to trying to make environmentally conscious choices.

However, she says there is a part of our psychology that tends "to find it harder to stay responsive to things that are long term outcomes."

"We are often really influenced by short term concerns and we sometimes forget long term concerns,” says Wilson. “So some of the real risks that we may face in terms of things like climate change, can sometimes be overshadowed by short-term hassles like having to pay little more for gas.”

Another pitfall people can make is in their shopping behaviours, with many companies "green branding" their products as part of marketing.

"There tends to be a bit of a trendy move towards conscious consumerism where people are going for the greenest or the most organic or the most natural," she says.

Wilson recommends you do a bit of research to see whether or not it really is a genuinely green choice.

"Do your own double checking and just because you see a word, or a new label on a product, doesn't mean that it's necessarily any better,” says Wilson. "In some cases, those kinds of products will just allow the company to mark them up."

Wilson says a better option, when it comes to shopping, is finding ways to consume less, especially products packaged into extra wrappings and containers.

She says it is difficult for people to always make the best choice whether it’s due to finances, or simply due to not being informed on the issues, but there are many small choices we could be doing to help the environment.

Whether it’s choosing to use public transit, or investing in cars and homes that are eco-friendly, as well as putting more pressure on companies and on all levels of government to make environmentally conscious choices.

- Media