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10 tips to preserve the environment

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Becoming more mindful of the environment is not as hard as one might think. There are plenty of little things we can do on a daily basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit our impact on the environment (ecological footprint). Every single thing is important and will make a difference : this is our responsibility, but it's also an honour, being a green ecocitizen is very gratifying and rewarding.

This article proposes 10 important things everyone of us can and very easily at that! We're not talking about wind turbines versus Actions by nuclear plants but of our daily life.

Contents

Buy less

Consumption implies pollution. Before buying anything, think twice and make sure you need this item. There are other solutions : do it yourself, repair the older one, borrow the tools you won't often need and save money.

Use cars and planes as little as possible

The earth is bleeding

It can be easy to refrain from using your car or any other polluting vehicle, use alternative means of transport. As a rule, we'll do 5 trips a week back and forth to go to work. This can be a good start to do without cars. In many cases we can walk or ride to work and it often proves to be more pleasant and convenient, even compared to public transport : no need to bother about parking your car or traffic jams. Another solution is car sharing which is good for your purse as well as for the environment.

Trains and boats or ferries are also greener solutions than personal vehicles, your holiday trips will be much more pleasant than in the tiny space of a seat in a plane.

Let's eat less meat, for animal proteins, opt for meat with low ecological footprint

Contrary to what many people think, a diet excluding meat, is as good for our health[1] as for the environment[2]. Without necessarily opting for vegetarianism, a moderate consumption of meat (say once or twice a week) will significantly lower one's ecological footprint. As a matter of fact, breeding implies a huge waste of cereals, of water, of The end of oil|fossil energy and of arable land. In the US, more than half the cereals are cropped to feed cattle. For the same area of arable land, we get 16 kilos of soy or other cereal and 1 kilo of beef. More and more forests are destroyed to make room for fields whose only use is growing crops for cattle. A recent study from the scientific journal "Nature"[3] explains that 40 % of the Amazon forest will be destroyed by 2050 if the trend continues. Not to mention a UN report[4], breeding is the first cause of greenhouse gas emissions, more than global transport.

Among the various options[5], selecting the right kind of meat for animal proteins is important too, as shown on this graph [6]. Thus beef, veal and cheese are worse than chicken, eggs or milk. Pork is so and so and mutton between pork and beef.

As for fish, abstain from consuming predators such as (salmon, tuna, trout), since eating one kilo os such fish implies eating many kilos of other fish. Prefer sardines and herrings.

You can also select food with low environmental impact among vegetables. For cereals, prefer corn, quinoa, rye or barley rather than rice : rice is more polluting as paddies produce methane. Even better than cereals, potatoes are less polluting and good starchy food.

Act local

Whether it be food, clothing, furniture, we must always mind the negative aspect of transport for all these goods. Opting for local products can also mean producing locally. A few hens in the back garden will eat your dinner wastes on your compost heap. You can also easily learn to deal with hives. Easier still , replace flowers by aromatic herbs along your alleys (thyme, rosemary, mint...). In the same line of idea, you can help support local agriculture by buying your weekly basket in a nearby farm.

Recycling

We can help reduce pollution very easily by sorting out our plastic bottles for instance. Always opt for the product with less packaging. Consider a building with 7000 employees who regularly recycle their paper wastes : this is equivalent to saving the pollution of 400 cars.[7]

Composting

Composting means transforming wastes into resources !

Composting is an efficient way of reducing household wastes (from 20 to 30%) that would otherwise be incinerated or dumped into landfills, instead they'll fertilize your garden for free... It's easy, you can make your bin yourself or you may even get incentives to buy one as in Quebec.

Save electricity and water

Turn the lights off when leaving a room, turn off your computer (and the screen) when you don't use it, same with the TV and other electric appliances, prefer Compact fluorescent lamps or even better LEDs. When a device is on stand-by, its transformator uses electricity, using a multi plug with a switch will save this useless waste. There are easy but very efficient things you can do. We can do without a tumble drier.

Little things are all important. Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth. Fix leaks that represent big volumes of water at the end of the day. Install dry toilets to save even more water (more than 10m3/per head every year) and to get compost.

Prefer tap water, quite drinkable in western countries to save the plastic and wrapping of bottle water. Use biodegradable soap for your washing and select a low temperature program.

Buy second-hand items

Is it always necessary to buy new items? Second-hand goods are often quite a good idea and are cheaper. As for quality, there can be different cases but older products will often last longer. Using second-hand things is consuming less and so polluting less. Instead of considering an item as waste, you can give it a second life! However, the energy consumption of older appliances must be taken into account.

Use biodegradable products

Try and use as little plastic as possible : is it always necessary to wrap an item you can hold in your hand? A good alternative is using cloth bags or willow baskets. Be careful with the so-called biodegradable plastic bags, some will only be fragmented, which makes a difference. Plenty of polluting and toxic products can easily be replaced by biodegradable ones for housecleaning : white vinegar, hydrogen carbonate will do wonders.

The higher the quality of a product, the longer it will last. So prefer wood to plastic for your furniture, wood is sturdier and can be repaired.

Same for building, use timber which is more environment friendly[8] as it traps and stores carbon, also, it is a renewable resource.

Let's take action

We have the duty to pass on a healthy planet to the next generations so we must do our best to become worthy eco-citizens, we can join green groups locally and raise awareness, share our pleasure in simple living and, last but not least, we can contribute to ... Ekopedia!

See also

References

  1. The American Dietetic Association position paper at Eatright, pdf.
  2. Magazine State of the world.
  3. Mc Donald's, Greenpeace and the Amazon forest.
  4. pdf report : Livestock's long shadow, Environmental issues and options.
  5. Manicore.
  6. graph
  7. EPA study, pdf
  8. http://www.wrcea.org/environment-sustainability/why-use-wood/environment-benefits.htm

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