As I clean up and sort out the mess in my office post-campaign I am appalled by all the waste. Hundreds of unused flyers, dozens of unused window signs, leftover buttons, stacks of paper from canvassing. So much paper and ink for such short use to be disposed of.
It was tough running an environmental campaign while still being a serious contender. I may have had the most eco-friendly 100% reclaimed wood lawn signs, but I still felt guilty with every can of spray paint I had to use (thankfully I only went through about 4 or 5 total). I said it many times throughout the campaign, I could not live with myself printing hundreds of plastic signs just to dispose of them three weeks later. Reusing them another election does not negate the new plastic created, nor the energy and emissions expended to produce and distribute the signs, nor that it will still end up disposed of eventually.
Toronto as a whole has created millions of pounds of waste from this election, I feel a bit ill when I think of it. Other candidates had ongoing releases of newer bigger versions of their flyers as the campaign went on, none of which were on recycled paper. For my part I printed exactly 30,500 flyers on 4×6 100% recycled paper, and was loathe to print that last 500 but was worried about running out (in the end I should have stuck with 30K).
And the lawn signs, so much new plastic, and candidates order more than they need and litter the excess along right-of-ways, in some kind of ironically colourful plastic waste parade. Worst part is, empirically speaking, there is ZERO evidence having more lawn signs means you will fare better at the polls. It’s just the way things are done.
Well it’s time we start questioning the way things are done, and asking ourselves if we are serious about the environment or not? It is unacceptable to me that every election that comes along we are creating massive amounts of waste from short-use election items that will be tossed soon after issuance.
For one, we should ban plastic lawn signs, if not all lawn signs. The city does not allow advertising in many public spaces, why should we be subjected to it just because it’s an election? Especially considering every candidate could have the same number of signs visible and yet will not garner the same number of votes and so clearly signs are not the deciding factor in people’s minds. If people are eager to show their support visually they can put up a window sign or some other overt symbol of their candidate other than a plastic lawn sign. They can wear a headband or plastic-free button and show their support everywhere they go.
Any candidate in this city who followed the classic campaign playbook and does not feel incredibly guilty about the amount of waste created either doesn’t really understand the environmental impacts, or is simply a political psychopath more interested in power than the health of the planet.
We must do better, and we must start throwing out obsolete anachronistic unquestioned evidence-less methods built entirely on unproven assumptions that are destroying the planet. This goes for many things beyond just elections, but elections are an easy one to regulate and change.
Come next year’s federal election, I urge everyone to demand your chosen candidate forgo plastic lawn signs and show their true mettle as an unironic champion of the environment.