We all make mistakes, from leaving the tap water running while brushing our teeth to tossing dead batteries in the trash, but once we become aware of the harm we are doing, it’s easy to make changes.
1. Littering. Most people do not deliberately trash the environment, but almost everyone carelessly litters now and then. It takes a conscious effort to put refuse in its place, from cigarette butts and plastic water bottles to food packaging seen on the sides of roads and often within several feet of waste bins.
2. Wasting Food. Most leftovers can be frozen and reheated for future meals. Most packaged goods can be used long after their supposed expiration dates. Nevertheless, up to 14% of all food purchased in the United States ends up in the trash.
3. Wasting Paper. Although it can be recycled, most paper isn’t. We still use disposable paper bags, diapers, napkins and towels instead of reusable cloth ones, utility bills sent by mail instead of digitally, books purchased from stores rather than borrowed from libraries… the list is virtually endless.
4. Wasting Water. Apart from letting the water run while brushing our teeth, we don’t use low-flow showerheads to reduce water usage or water filters to purify tap water for drinking. We landscape with thirsty lawns instead of xeriscaping.
5. Wasting Electricity. Power plants are the biggest polluters on the planet. When we leave lights and appliances on unnecessarily, heat or cool unoccupied rooms, or fail to insulate homes and water heaters, we add to the pollution.
6. Toxic Chemicals. Most homes contain detergents, degreasers, stain removers, pesticides and a variety of hazardous chemicals. Even when used properly, they eventually return to the environment, contaminating groundwater, lakes and oceans. The solution is to use natural, eco-friendly products.
7. Improper Disposal. Toxic garbage must be taken to a hazardous waste collection site. That includes batteries, light bulbs, paint, chemicals and even CDs and DVDs. Recyclable materials such as plastic and aluminum need to be separated and sent to the appropriate recycling facilities.
8. Car Travel. – Rather than bicycle, walk, carpool or use public transport, we hop in the car, even for short trips, wasting fossil fuels and adding to pollution. The solution, of course, is to leave the car in the garage as often as possible.
9. Air Travel. Flying produces almost as much CO2 emissions per passenger per mile as driving the same distance alone in a car. Planes also emit nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide directly into the atmosphere at high altitudes, perhaps doubling their overall climate warming effect. Avoid flying whenever possible.
10. Ignorance. It is hard to make changes for the better when one’s own contributions to the problem are unknown. A good place to start learning is by knowing the size of your own Carbon Footprint. The result provides an indicator of where meaningful adjustments can be made.
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