Eco Citizen

October 28 theme

This theme is presented by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal

The Eco Citizen : the most well-known personality?

Out of all the personalities of the Eco sapiens, the Eco Citizen is probably the most heard of. It’s even recognized by the Larousse dictionary as being a “Person who puts ecocitizenship principles into practice.” Basically, your typical dictionary definition. Ultimately, an Eco Citizen means a person who applies environmental protection principles.

But is there more to it? To dissect what makes someone an Eco Citizen, let’s ask the following questions:

  • Before being an Eco Citizen, are we well-rounded citizens?

  • Do individual actions make us Eco Citizens?

  • Are there obstacles to being a good Eco Citizen?

  • How can we start being Eco Citizens?

  • How should we teach Eco citizenship?

Are you a good citizen?

The concept of citizenship is quite clear; we’re citizens as soon as we’re part of a State, and that comes with citizen rights and civic duties.

What it means to be a good citizen, however, is a little less clear. In fact, it means different things to different people. To help us, the Environics Institute has conducted a study on what Canadians think it means to be a citizen. When they were asked what they thought makes someone a good citizen, respondents answered:

Based on the results of this study, it quickly becomes apparent that social engagement is at the heart of being a good citizen. Whether it’s being involved in the community, helping others, showing tolerance and empathy, or volunteering, Canadians and Quebeckers consider that a good citizen is first and foremost a social being.

When asking respondents what actions they take and what makes them feel like good citizens, the two most common answers were volunteering and being kind and generous to others.

It’s undeniable—and we agree—that beyond individual actions (like paying taxes, voting or working), what makes us good citizens is our ability to act for the well-being of our community and fellow citizens. Our active participation in the integrity of the social fabric seems to be key to being a good citizen!

Are individual actions important?

Although individual choices and actions often seem to be relegated to the back burner, some of them are of particular importance. For example, obeying the law is fundamental. But it’s so normal and well-established that it’s perhaps less recognized as a factor of good citizenship. The same goes for taxes.

However, there’s one individual action we believe to be very important for ensuring the development of the community and society: democratic involvement. And it’s not limited to voting!

Our elected representatives need a continuous flow of input from their constituents to guide them. Contacting our regional and municipal elected officials to constructively share our needs, values and issues with them is certainly one of the things that makes us good citizens!

What about you? Are you a model citizen?

Do you volunteer? Do you actively participate in your community’s development and work toward your fellow citizens’ well-being? Do you contribute to democratic life? Oof, that’s quite a lot!

If you don’t feel particularly involved in your community, you’re not alone. Many of us would like to do more. But as the Environics Institute’s study reveals, the main obstacle to feeling like a good citizen is lack of time.

It’s not surprising! What with work, family, outings, exercise, commuting, our rhythm of life is getting faster and faster. Today’s society asks us to be everywhere at once and places professional performance above everything else.

The same goes for the Eco Citizen. With all the obligations of modern life, it’s difficult to find the time to get involved in environmental causes or even to re-examine our consumption reflexes.

How to become a (good) Eco Citizen?

We now better understand what makes us good citizens. But what about what makes a good Eco Citizen? Are they defined by eco-friendly individual actions? Actions such as replacing meat with plant proteins, using public transportation, refusing to fly, refusing single-use packaging, purchasing a bidet, etc.

Yesterday, we recommended taking such actions to become Eco Consumers. But the reality is that by asking citizens to individually fight the culture that pushes us to overconsume, we place the entire burden of the ecological transition on individuals. That’s why, even though we’ve been asking consumers to make the right choices and ignore the thousands of ads they’re bombarded with, this approach hasn’t yet had the desired effect on the environment.

Much like the citizen, the one individual action that the Eco Citizen can take to have a radical and structural impact is democratic involvement. By voting for elected officials who will defend environmental and social interests, the Eco Citizen can contribute to the implementation of laws and regulations that will guide society toward a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. The Eco Citizen won’t stop at voting; they will share their issues, fears and ideas with their representatives to improve our collective relationship with the environment. Elected officials have chosen to be involved in politics to represent us. That’s why they need to know what the people they represent care about. So let’s give them what they need to make decisions that will provide a sustainable framework for our society!

If you’ve already started to make better individual consumption choices, it will be easier for you to adapt to the more radical changes we need to make to our society’s consumption habits. You could even act as a leader to encourage our elected officials to be bold in their policies, laws and regulations!

The coalition of social and environmental issues

Just like a good citizen, a good Eco Citizen isn’t defined by their individual actions and choices. Similarly, the Eco Citizen is part of a community they want to help through positive interactions with their fellow citizens. They give their time, they help their neighbours, they show kindness and tolerance.

By helping your vulnerable neighbours, you could also help the environment. By advocating for or getting involved in community gardens, bicycle paths, greening neighbourhoods or fighting against food waste, you will support projects that will positively impact your fellow citizens’ quality of life as well as the environment.

Become an active member of your community and request more eco-friendly infrastructure and urban planning. Your municipal and provincial representatives will be happy to receive your support to sustainably develop your neighbourhood.

How to learn to be an Eco Citizen?

Despite living in a democratic society, not many of us feel comfortable participating in a municipal council to share our issues and complaints. We’ve fallen into the habit of living passively in our city and province; we suffer through regulations and infrastructure works without really understanding where they come from or what they’re meant to achieve. By getting actively involved at an early stage in the decision-making process, we can learn how to better understand, accept and respect the adopted regulations. We could even contribute to their creation!

To avoid perpetuating the uneasiness many of us feel regarding our lack of active involvement in democracy and politics, we can teach our children from an early age to participate in democratic activities. We’ll all benefit from it!