Several Canadian celebrities, ranging from Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean to children's book author Robert Munsch, are joining with scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki to challenge Canadians to conserve nature. Suzuki has come up with a list of the 10 most effective ways individuals can conserve nature, and is calling on people to take his Nature Challenge by doing at least three of the 10 suggestions during the coming year. Individuals can sign up for the challenge at www.davidsuzuki.org.

David Suzuki is best-known as host of The Nature of Things, a science program that has aired on the Canadian Broadcasting System for several years.

The list was created because Suzuki's research shows that Canadians want to conserve the environment but are not sure what they can do about it. The suggestions are practical and several of them hit home -- literally.

First on the list: Find ways to reduce your home heating and electricity bills by 10 per cent this year. Suzuki says that on a per capita basis, Canada is the largest consumer of energy in the world, and the second largest producer of greenhouse gases. He says Canada uses as much energy as the entire continent of Africa.

Space heating accounts for 59 per cent of residential energy use, while water heating takes 22 per cent and appliances 14 per cent.

Suzuki's Nature Challenge says that applying weatherstripping and caulking in your home can reduce space heating costs by up to 25 per cent. Other ways that can dramatically lower heating bills are improving roof insulation, insulating floors and basements and installing energy-efficient storm doors and windows.

If you are buying a new home, it suggests you purchase a home built to Canada's R-2000 energy efficiency standard. The R-2000 program was developed by the federal government more than 20 years ago. R-2000 homes must be built by certified R-2000 builders, and they are tested to ensure they meet energy efficiency criteria set out by the program. A home built to R-2000 standards uses two-thirds the energy of a conventional home.

The Nature Challenge says that if you are buying new appliances, look for the Energy Star mark, an internationally recognized symbol for energy efficiency. A new refrigerator uses 40 per cent less energy than a model produced before 1993. But although appliances are much more efficient, the Office of Energy Efficiency says that energy use in Canadian homes is increasing, largely because there is more electrical equipment plugged in, many in standby mode. The Nature Challenge asks individuals to look around the house and ask whether they really need all the appliances and other electrical equipment - especially things like a second fridge or other duplicate appliances.

Another home-related way to help conserve nature that appears on Suzuki's list is replacing chemical pesticides with non-toxic alternatives. It says an Alberta study found that in terms of kilograms per hectare, residential pesticide use in Calgary and Edmonton was three times higher than that in agriculture, and six times higher than in city parks.

Some Canadian municipalities have banned the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, and non-chemical treatments for lawns and gardens are becoming more popular.

Here are some of Suzuki's other challenges to conserve nature:

  • Choose at least one day a week to eat meat free meals in your household.
  • Prepare your meals with food from local farmers and producers for one month this year.
  • Make sure the next car you buy is fuel-efficient and low polluting.
  • Walk, bike, carpool or use transit to get to one of your regular destinations each week.
  • If you are moving, choose a home within a 30-minute walk, bike ride, or transit ride from your daily destination.
  • Get involved in nature conservation, and stay informed.

The complete Nature Challenge is available on Suzuki's website in PDF format, along with the research background papers.

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