We’re back. The Dear Environmental Defenders (Barbara and Allen) are here to answer your environmental questions. Thank you to everyone who wrote to us.

You can send your questions to: deardefenders@enviornmentaldefence.ca.

In our second column, we answer a question about what to do about plastic packaging at a supermarket, and one that wonders about the limits about what individual action can do to protect the environment.

Hello. I have a real issue with Metro grocery stores. I love the fact they are making daily fresh sandwiches, which are great for customers like my elderly mother – but why do they have to be sold in plastic, and especially with BLACK plastic bases? 

Thank you – Fiona

Hi Fiona,

Allen here. Thank you for your question. I actually encountered the same problem when I wanted to get a fresh sandwich for a day of hiking in Algonquin Park. As you note, the plastic container with a black plastic base is a big problem as coloured plastic is not even recyclable in Ontario.

I spoke with Vito Buonsante, Environmental Defence’s Plastics Program Manager, about his tips for getting grocery stores to stop using plastic, especially coloured plastic for their prepared foods. Here’s his recommendation:

“Given that the shelf life of sandwiches doesn’t exceed the day in which they are made, using plastic is unnecessary. Write to the corporate office (for biggest impact) and to the store manager (who can sometimes change things in its store). If your local Metro makes sandwiches at the deli counter, the best option you have is to have them make you a fresh sandwich and skip the plastic.”

Unfortunately black plastics are only recycled in communities that sort their recycling manually (like in B.C.).”


Assuming all that’s needed to improve our environment is reforestation, waste management and human cooperation. How is it feasible to rely on each person to make an impact and still make an impact when realistically only a small percentage will ever be invested in our environment instead of profiting from it

–  Corey

Hi Corey,

Barbara here. Thanks for your question. As you point out, we already have most of the tools we need to solve the environmental problems we face – from reforestation and renewable energy to help fight climate change, to making producers responsible for cleaning up the waste they create. Yet these and other solutions are not being implemented, or are taking a long time to implement.

While individual choices around transportation and consumption have an impact, the most important way to improve our environment is for governments to take bold action. There’s nothing a single person can do directly, for example, to stop industrial sites from leaking hazardous methane gas – that has to come from government actions. But what we can do – individually and together – do is hold politicians accountable to make sure we get strong, fair, and timely action.

The new federal government has the opportunity for parties to cooperate to protect the environment,. As Canadians we should let our MP know the importance of taking action on the environment and that you future vote will depend on how effective they are.

We don’t have all the answers, but we’re here to help you find out. Email us at deardefenders@enviornmentaldefence.ca