If we are to believe what historians tell us, George Washington never told a lie, Davy Crockett shot a bear when he was a toddler, and Lincoln was always completely ‘honest’. Okay, we all know alliteration when we see it, but if this author is imbibing the Kool Aid correctly, life in simpler times meant that our drinking water was pure, our skies unpolluted by smoke from industrial plants, and our farm-raised food absolutely wholesome. Let’s remember that scientific, medical, industrial, and technological advances made during the nineteenth century have greatly benefited our lives. Now the pendulum appears to be swinging in the other way as our longevity seems to be negatively impacted by changes these breakthroughs have had on our environment and our health. In this article we’ll explore the growing awareness that to live better we must preserve our environment and, whenever possible, to ‘think green’.
Back in the 1950s, Rachel Carson, a scientist, warned us about pollution risks to our health and to the environment in her landmark book: ‘Silent Spring’. Her work set off worldwide awareness of industrial plant waste violations, and the trickle down effect that toxic chemicals have to living organisms throughout the food chain and even our life cycles. As a result, many environmental agencies, both government-controlled and in the private sector emerged. These groups serve as both watchdogs and legislators to ensure that industries are run as green (non-polluting) as possible, and that any transgressions are swiftly identified and remediated.
Most of us have little time in our lives to become activists, however, at the same time there are many ways we can live greener lives and help ourselves and our environment. Here’s a brief list:
- Buy second-hand clothing. You might think that paper or plastics comprise the bulk of our landfills. Nope. It is fabric. One way to reduce fiber waste is by purchasing our clothing, or partially wardrobing from brick and mortar or online thrift shops. Not only will you save money, but many of these items are unworn and with their original tags. This is also an ideal way to own a coveted luxury item such as a designer handbag without buyer’s remorse when you receive your credit card statement.
- Speaking of paper, try to eliminate catalogs and 2nd class adverts in your mailbox by unsubscribing online. At work, troll your office printers where forgotten or outdated printouts are abandoned. Tear these into scraps and use as note paper. Save on toner by squeezing every print possible from each cartridge. When printouts are faded, remove and shake the toner cartridge then replace it in its holster. You’ll reap an additional 15% more prints using this method.
- Many states are mandating that grocers charge for plastic bags. Accordingly, multi-use bags made from recycled materials have become a popular choice as we now bring our own bags from home. If you must purchase plastic bags, reuse them the next time you shop or repurpose them for leftovers or as a lunch bag.
- Kill a Watt Not: Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Do not leave your TV/AC/Heat on if no one is in the room. Wear a sweater. Hang your clothes out to dry. LED bulbs. Buy them. Use them. That’s all we have to say on the matter.
- Save water. Fewer baths, shorter showers, turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, wash clothes in cold water, use (recycled) paper dishes and plastic cutlery, etc.
- Carpool: there are online sites across the country to help commuters get to and from work via jitney services. If you work for a large company, get to know others who live near you and save gas, wear and tear on your car, and make time spent in traffic more enjoyable. Reduced emissions are the gains here.
- Eat less meat and dairy. Some farmers are not going to like this, but there is a movement to reduce or eliminate red meat and dairy from our diets. Arguments include the greenhouse emissions associated with raising livestock over plant crops, and the effect the animal byproducts have on our health. Don’t. Kill. The. Messenger.
- One of the ways we can preserve our waterways and the aquifer is by responsible recreational boating practices. In fact, many lakeside communities mandate the sole use of electric boat motors for all water-going craft. Not only does this practice reduce noise pollution, but it also maintains an excellent habitat for most marine life including plant life that oxygenates our waterways. Another plus: fishermen know that a quiet-running trolling motor is ideal for sneaking up on a schools of trout, bass, and other tasty aquatic life!
- Go to the car wash. You may think by washing your car at home that you are saving money. Not only are you being wasteful with water usage, but also car wash facilities have responsible recycling procedures in place. Also homeowners may be poisoning their own landscaping with run off from cleaning products and polishes formulated to clean and maintain your car’s finish, not your lawn.
- Download software. Buying software online reduces packaging waste and has one very positive benefit: those seamless automatic updates!
We should have all learned from impactful events such as Chernobyl (a once, pastoral location in Russia now forever associated with a nuclear plant accident and subsequent resident health ailments) that preserving our environment is of paramount importance to ours and future generations. As stated previously, we do not have to join marches or petition our legislators to be involved in environmental preservation. Just integrate some of the practices listed into your daily life and you’ll be making an immediate contribution to keeping our planet green.