Toronto Non-Profit Is Changing the Way We See Fossil Fuels

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BY: SYDNEY MCINNIS

In January, I dropped by Patagonia in Toronto to see a charismatic, fervent little man named Rob Shirkey speak about his organization called Our Horizon.

Our Horizon is a non-profit organization based out of Toronto that aims to make a big impact on climate change with small, totally feasible actions. The campaign began with Shirkey, a former lawyer, whose goal is to get stickers with climate change awareness labels on gas pumps globally. The stickers look a lot like advertisements you would see on a cigarette carton, functioning as a warning label for the user.

Our Horizon is a non-profit organization based out of Toronto that aims to make a big impact on climate change with small, totally feasible actions.

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Shirkey’s talk at Patagonia was for public outreach – trying to get as many people on board and aware of how impactful this small action has the potential to be. Certainly everyone I was sitting among was interested, but young people who are actively attending climate change awareness events at an environmentally conscious, outdoor apparel store aren’t usually the people who need quick convincing on reducing their carbon footprints.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted by humans; the main activity emitting the carbon being the burning of fossil fuels for things like transportation, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The stickers put emphasis on this type of anthropogenic climate change – specifically the detrimental impacts of the regular human ritual of burning fuel in cars. They provide information on climate change that bring us – the humans – right into the issue, giving us a sense of responsibility and therefore a reason to consider changing our actions.

The labels say things such as: “WARNING. Use of this fuel product contributes to ocean acidification which puts much marine life at risk of extinction,” and “Use of this fuel product contributes to climate change which may put up to 30% of species at a likely risk of extinction.” The labels are meant to “locate responsibility right into the palm of your hand”, Shirkey said at Patagonia.

The goal is to get stickers with climate change awareness labels on gas pumps globally.

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On top of the stickers having brilliant effectiveness potential, they are a seriously cheap way for municipalities to achieve Shirkey’s awareness goal. Stickers cost almost nothing to produce, and gas nozzles already exist, so all that’s left to do is stick them on there and then the intervention will exist. “Municipalities can use their licensing powers to require gasoline retailers to place the climate change labels on their gas pumps,” Our Horizon states on their website. “Communities can also support the idea by passing a resolution calling on other orders of government to require the labels on gas pumps across the province and country.”

North Vancouver is the first community to work towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions through this campaign.

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North Vancouver is the first community to work towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions through this campaign. On Nov. 16, 2015, there was a unanimous vote by city counsellors, and soon enough, warning labels on all gas pumps in that area will be a by-law requirement. “About 50 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions are created by vehicles,” stated Darrell Mussatto, North Vancouver mayor, to The Globe and Mail. “By reminding people of the connection between the use of fossil fuels and climate change, while providing fuel efficiency and active transportation tips, these labels will highlight the many ways we can reduce our impact on the environment.”

Of course, gas companies and stations have concerns about the impact that plastering anti-fuel advertisements on their pumps might have on sales. “British Columbia is the only province in Canada that has mandatory pre-pay,” said Andrew Klukas from Western Convenience Stores Association to Global News. “So to have a negative image on that very valuable piece of real estate right around the pump, we would rather put something positive there.”

Unfortunately for gas companies, and fortunately for our planet, the urgency of going carbon-free takes the cake. Across Canada, various cities and communities are endorsing the idea and passing resolutions, and the word is spreading throughout the United States as well.

People must understand the implications of their actions on our warming planet, and hopefully these labels will continue to catch wind globally and will have people re-evaluating choices based on their possible effects on climate change, and taking action.

All photos courtesy of Our Horizon.