PETERBOROUGH, ON, April 19 /CNW/ - Many people use Earth Day to ponder
how daily choices like travel routines, food selection, recycling
practices and energy consumption impact the Earth. What they may not
know is that a right choice for the Earth is often a choice that also
leads to greater personal happiness.
Children who walk to school seem to get it. Sandra Brooks, a mom from
Brampton, Ontario, says of her daughter, "She always wanted to walk.
For some reason it made her feel better, I guess, and she was always
asking, 'Mommy, Mommy, can I please walk?'"
Children experience feelings of independence, wonder, curiosity and real
joy when they are given the opportunity to walk or bike to school.
Walking allows for reflection and recharging of psychological
resources, which is especially useful before and after school. And when
friends or family join in, it can be an important opportunity for
building relationships, too.
Yet, many children don't get that opportunity anymore. Statistics show
that 46% of children walked to school in 1969, but by 2001 it had
dropped to less than half that.
Streets are perceived to be dangerous, schedules are packed and it's too
easy for mom or dad to drive to school instead. Twice-daily school
traffic jams, caustic fumes near school playgrounds and angry parents
shouting and arguing with other parent drivers are testament to the
fact that choosing to drive does not usually lead to personal
Studies have shown that ratings of personal happiness are positively
linked to environmentally responsible behaviours like reusing bags and
turning off lights in unoccupied rooms. Those studies indicate that
when an individual makes a choice that he or she knows is beneficial to
more than just him/herself, that choice contributes to the individual's
sense of well-being. Dr. Catherine O'Brien of Cape Breton University
says these choices lead to "sustainable happiness."
Sustainable happiness is "happiness that contributes to individual,
community and/or global well-being and does not exploit other people,
the environment, or future generations." In essence, learning how to
take care of the earth is intertwined with taking care of ourselves.
What if we could work together in our communities to create
neighbourhoods where walking and cycling to school becomes the norm?
School Travel Planning is a process led by Green Communities Canada
that aims to do just that. School Travel Planning has had great success
in test communities across Canada by bringing together school
administrators, police, public health officials, municipal leaders,
municipal and school planners, parents and children to discuss barriers
to active school travel and to create and implement action plans to
overcome those barriers.
The school communities that have taken part in School Travel Planning
have created better opportunities for children to walk and bike to
school with actions like installing/repairing sidewalks or adding curb
extensions that make road crossings shorter and safer. Measures like
these also make it more appealing for people of all ages to enjoy the
outdoors and connect with nature.
Now imagine the Canada we would have if every school community took part
in School Travel Planning; every citizen at all stages of life could
experience a taste of sustainable happiness in their own neighbourhood
every day. Earth Day is a perfect time to learn the lessons of
sustainability that our children can teach us.
Children's Mobility Health and Happiness is a national School Travel Planning project led by Green Communities
Canada that promotes active transportation, a tangible example of a
sustainable happiness choice that is easy to integrate into daily life.
The project encourages students to walk and cycle on the school journey
with the ultimate aim of instigating policy change re: school siting,
local built environments surrounding schools, and school curriculum.
About Green Communities Canada
Green Communities Canada is a national association of non-profit
organizations that deliver innovative, practical environmental
solutions to Canadian households and communities. For more information,
For more on Sustainable Happiness
SOURCE Green Communities Canada
For further information:
Jacky Kennedy, Canada Walks, Green Communities Canada, Toronto, ON,
Ph: (416) 992-5496