Sustainability Starts with You

Blog Contributor: Kassie Burns

The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to address the major social, economic, and environmental issues around the world. At a global scale, these goals seem intimidating but when brought to the local level are much easier to accomplish. In the Niagara Region, municipalities and cities face several challenges due to climate change. A survey conducted by Blythe et al. (2020) revealed that 87% of respondents believe humans have the capacity to address climate change and 85% supported municipal resources being used for climate change adaptation in the Niagara Region. However, only 53% of respondents addressed climate change as a priority in their households. Thankfully, every individual has the power to make a difference to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and it can start right from their homes.

There are several actions people can take in their lives to create sustainable change, but some may be overlooked more than others.


Gardens of any size can have a strong impact on the challenges climate change creates. Whether it is acommunity garden or a backyard garden, it has potential to contribute directly to several SDGs including: sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, and support life below water as well as life on land.


Benefits to Nature from Native Plants
  • Helps reduce invasive species that quickly override plant populations
  • Increases biodiversity in your neighbourhood as many organisms rely on them for survival
  • Pollinator gardens can help declining populations recover, like bees and butterflies that need frequent pollinator stops during migration


  • People can certify their gardens as a Wildlife-friendly Habitat through the Canadian Wildlife Federation
  • Improve wildlife in your backyard or community even more by adding feeders, bird houses, and fountains in the area
Native Plants and Flooding

A challenge households in the Niagara Region are currently facing is basement flooding due to overwhelmed storm water and sewage systems. In the same study by Blythe et al. (2020), they report that 15% of respondents experienced household flooding and 55% experienced community flooding across the region. Here are some interesting facts about native plants and flooding:

  • Native plants retain water better than non-native species, which reduces soil erosion and can prevent floods
  • They can help reduce burden on the Region’s water systems since there would be less runoff water into the drains
  • Native plants do not need to be watered as often and save the homeowner resources as well as unexpected costs
  • Collecting rainwater through a barrel or bucket will reduce the risk of flooding and can be used for other purposes
Plants Reduce Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions

CO2 is one major component in greenhouse gases that is causing the planet to heat at

an accelerated rate and is a leading factor in global warming. The Niagara Region’s Corporate Climate Chang

e Action Plan recognizes hotter temperatures have caused an increase in vector borne diseases and damages to agriculture crops.

Did you know?

  • Plants can help fight climate change by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
    • Plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen
    • Having a garden can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
    • Never has it been more crucial to lower CO2 levels
  • Devoting a space for plants decreases the area of grass in yards, which is often maintained by gasoline mowers
    • According to the National Wildlife Federation, gasoline powered tools like lawn mowers produce 10 to 12 times more pollution than the average car in one hour of use
    • It would significantly reduce emissions if every property owner were to limit their use or consider changing to non-gasoline products to maintain their yards
  • If the space permits, planting trees can be the best way to achieve fresher air
  • The National Wildlife Federation states a mature tree can absorb 0.23 tons of carbon dioxide per year
  • If every person in the Niagara Region (as of 2016) grew a mature tree, approximately 9000 tons of carbon dioxide would be absorbed every year
  • Programs are available through municipalities to request a tree to be planted on city grounds in front of your property
  • The City of St. Catharines offers New Tree Planting services and hosts events such as tree giveaways and rain barrel sales
Growing Food Products

In addition to growing plants, people can grow their own food products.

Did you know?

  • Individuals can immensely reduce their carbon footprint by growing their own food
  • It saves the environment and individuals’ finances, while providing the freshest ingredients
  • Herbs and some vegetables can be easily grown indoors for those who do not have the space or time for a whole outdoor garden
Growth for Change Challenge

In the light of the pandemic and many individuals stuck at home, what better time to think about ways to improve your gardens this spring or increase the number of plants in your home? Thus, I am challenging people to create and maintain a space for growth to show a literal and symbolic support to fight climate change. Whether it is a large or small garden, community garden, or flowerpots, everyone of all experiences and ages is encouraged to participate in the Growth for Change Challenge.

The Sustainable Developmental Goals are achievable, and actions need to start with you because sustainability is everyone’s responsibility.


Note: Kassie Burns contributed this blog through ENSU 3P91, Environmental Sustainability Internship, which is a part of the Minor in Environmental Sustainability. We thank Kassie for her willingness to have this course project deliverable posted publicly.



Blythe J, Mallette A, Smits A, Daly E, Plummer R, 2020. Climate vulnerability fact sheet Grimsby. Niagara Adapts Program Brief: 2020-01

Canadian Wildlife Federation. (2021). Certify your garden as a “Wildlife-friendly Habitat”.

City of St. Catharines. (2021). Trees. St. Catharines.

Department of Economic and Social Sustainable Development. (2021). The 17 Goals. United Nations.

National Wildlife Federation. (2021). Gardening for Climate Change. National Wildlife Federation.

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. (2014). A Guide to Celebrate Niagara Peninsula’s      Native Plants. content/uploads/2016/03/14047-NPCA-Plant-GuideJan2015.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2_nOeIn5Gwn0AFQiN29OfQTILv2HjHMkcMUFLHMavuHJqd-VB7vTfQ

Niagara Region. (2013). Corporate Climate Change Action Plan: Partners for Climate Protection: Milestones 2 and 3. content/uploads/sites/2/2014/05/Corporate_Climate_Action_Plan_2013.pdf