If you’re not worried, outraged, or terrified about the environment, you aren’t paying attention. Due to habitat loss and climate change, ecosystems all around the world are under stress. 1/3 of all amphibian species are collapsing, and many biologists believe that we are in the early stages of a human-caused mass extinction of animals and plants. It may be too late to halt climate change, but the actions of individuals still make a difference. Here are some relatively easy things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint right now.
Buy locally. Organic grapes flown in from Chile in the winter are not substantially better for the environment than conventionally grown local oranges. Anything grown within fifty miles of you has required less fuel and produced less pollution to get to you. Of course, if you can get local, organic produce, that’s even better: fewer toxic chemicals in the earth and you, plus less pollution. And remember, it’s not an all or nothing situation. You don’t need to buy 100% organic or 100% local to be helping.
Be a more conscious consumer. Being a ‘green consumer’ is an oxymoron: being green is about using fewer resources and generating less waste. But you can certainly start by phasing out less environmentally friendly products and replacing them with better ones – say, a defunct refrigerator with a highly energy efficient one, plastic water bottles with a reusable one, chemical cleaners with baking soda and vinegar. Swap out single-use products with reusable ones, and avoid things with a lot of packaging.
Consume less. Making greener choices at the store is a good beginning, but you’ll also want to cut back on things you simply don’t need, even when they’re marketed as ‘green.’ Remember, the canvas bags you already have at home are a more eco-friendly option than going out and buying designer organic cotton totes. Buying green is about buying less. (Yes, those sustainable bamboo towels are tempting! But your plain cotton towels are still perfectly functional.)
Join your local Freecycle to clean out your garage, get things you need, and most importantly, keep usable items out of landfills. Wherever possible, reusing is better and more energy efficient than recycling.
Add a wind or solar power system to your house. Over its lifetime, a smallish 2.5 kw solar power system means 300 barrels of oil or 1,100 lbs of acid rain not produced. To think of it another way, a solar power system equals 500 trees planted. Although wind or solar power systems are not an option for everyone, they are an excellent way to offset the use of non-renewable, pollutant energy sources. Believe it or not, conventional energy is still largely produced by burning fossil fuels.
Adjust your attitude: see resources as limited. They are. Whether gasoline, food, energy, clean water, or commercial goods, they all come at the cost of natural resources, habitats, and species. Use them wisely.
Jennifer Mo is a longtime tree-hugger, vegetarian, and proponent of all things that are good for your body and for the planet. To learn more about solar power and the environment, please visit http://www.premierpower.com .
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