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High consumption and throwaway habits make Canada an environmental laggard: report


Canada throws away more garbage per capita than any other country in the developed world. That, combined with heavy usage of energy and water, gives Canada a ‘C’ grade and a ranking of 15th out of 17 countries in The Conference Board of Canada’s How Canada Performs-Environment ranking.

Canada, Australia and the United States, the three lowest ranking countries, share similar characteristics of large land area and resource-intensive economies. Several of Canada’s dismal results are due to overconsumption. Canadians use more than nine times the water per capita that Denmark does.

“Our large land mass, cold climate and resource-intensive economy make us less likely to rank highly on some indicators of environmental sustainability, but many of our poor results are based on our inefficient use of our resources,” said Len Coad, director, energy, environment and technology policy. “Canada must promote economic growth without further degrading the environment. Encouraging more sustainable consumption is crucial to achieve that objective.”

A 15th place ranking, the same as in 2009, place Canada ahead of only Australia and the United States. These three countries are similar: they are three largest countries in terms of land area, and they are the most resource-intensive economies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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Canada does show some excellent environmental results. Forests are generally well-protected and well-managed. Air quality has improved modestly, energy use per person is down and water quality is still high.

But several of Canada’s dismal results are due to overconsumption. In addition to generating the most waste, Canadians’ water withdrawals are nearly double the average of the other countries and are lower only than the United States. And despite some improvement, Canadians are still the largest users of energy in the developed world.

How Canada Performs is a multi-year research program at The Conference Board of Canada to help leaders identify relative strengths and weaknesses in Canada’s socio-economic performance. The How Canada Performs website presents data and analysis on Canada’s performance compared to 16 peer countries in six performance categories: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health, and Society.