Have you ever thought of the impact of your daily activities on the planet? Calculating your ecological footprint (read more about ecological footprint here) gives an idea of how much land and resources are needed to sustain you. When we think of how much food goes to waste each day, how much carbon dioxide is released, how many resources are needed for us to happily live by, we realize that indeed there are certain adjustments that we can make to decrease the environmental stress on Earth.
Single-use plastics include all those plastic items that we use only once and then throw away such as plastic bags, straws, bottles and vessels. Besides causing choking hazards, they also release toxic particles during their long decomposition phase. The materials can make their way into our food chain and lead to cancer, infertility and birth defects to name a few.
Whenever it is possible, try to avoid the use of single-use plastics. Opt for alternatives like canvas bags for shopping, refuse plastic bags and straws when unnecessary, buy fresh products wrapped in paper instead of packaged ones and use glass or metals containers and cutlery.
Globally, livestock farming has a huge environmental footprint, which goes even beyond that of all vehicle emission combined. Cattle and poultry farms not only release methane, a greenhouse gas but also require vast areas of land, water and food.
Eating less meat ensures that there is less release of methane. Also, it decreases the level at which we unknowingly consume genetically modified organisms.
The biggest source of carbon dioxide emission comes from the burning of fossil fuels. It may take the form of driving vehicles, producing electricity or running industries. Carbon dioxide is the number one gas behind global warming and climate change.
When you use less energy, there is pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, less mining and habitat destruction for fossil fuel research, more conservation of non-renewable resources and it helps cut down on your bills.
In many countries around the world, conventional incandescent bulbs have been banned because of their efficiencies. These bulbs actually use and waste a lot of energy just to light up, are quite fragile and have to be replaced frequently and work poorly when there are vibrations.
Many nations around the world have been able to save millions per year by switching to light efficient bulbs. Light efficient bulbs include LEDs (Light Emitting Diode) and CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamp); they are better for the environment in terms of efficiency, energy saving and are long lasting thus saving money.
Most of the energy (95%) required for transport comes from the fossil fuel industry. Vehicles make it easier for people to move around even over very short distances. The aviation industry alone accounts for 4.5% of human-caused global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases.
To help reduce our ecological footprint, it is best that we drive less, bike over short distances, use public transport when possible, encourage carpooling and even not travel at all if it is unnecessary.
One of the most important commodities in the world is water. Until now, water is a scarce resource in many countries like Africa. Global climate change may intensify drought periods and lower water levels in many places. Lake Mead on the Colorado River is such an example; the water level has decreased to what it previously was by more than half.
We can save water in all our daily activities from bathing to household chores; we can store rainwater for watering and car washing, repair broken taps and pipes and stop the unnecessary use and wastage of water.
As consumers, we also produce a lot of waste, and these materials have to be handled and disposed of appropriately. Treating and disposing of different waste type have environmental effects like pollution, leaching, attracting rodents and insects and eventually causing diseases.
The best way to tackle this issue is to buy and consume less packaged products, keep and reuse leftover food, compost organic materials, recycle materials whenever possible and avoid wastage of any kind.
One important aspect of waste management is the proper handling of trash. The waste stream itself is diverse ranging from foodstuff to glass. Most of the time, the waste is dumped into landfills; there, they will eventually decompose while more waste is added daily. Other methods include burning and recycling.
Landfills require space, open burning causes pollution while incineration facilities cannot burn all waste types and recycling is only for certain materials. When we reduce the amount of waste that we produce, we decrease the environmental stress on the planet for getting rid of it.
Even though the concept of recycling is well known, actually a small amount of our waste is recycled. For instance, more than 91% of plastic waste is not recycled. In this way, a large amount of our trash stays in the environment causing environmental and health hazards.
Recycling diminishes the load of waste going into landfills, decreases resource use and energy to produce new materials and to discard the waste as well as protect habitats and wildlife.
There was a time when people would keep and use things until they become unusable in any form. Nowadays, people throw away their stuff just because of a tear or some dye. This action has serious consequences for the environment.
Whenever it is possible, repair and fix broken materials as it not only reduces the need to dispose of them but also decreases the global impact of production and transportation. Also, it helps to save money.
In the same manner, instead of throwing away old things, find out what you can make out of them. With a little bit of imagination, you can create wonders and decrease your overall ecological footprint!
For instance, convert big plastic bottles into flower pots, upcycle old clothes into new ones, recover old pillow and couches with new fabric.
When you buy products, always be on the safe side and check if they are safe or not. Commonly used melamine tableware, for example, may cause leaching of chemicals into food when heated; this can then lead to kidney problems in humans.
Go for eco-friendly (not harmful to the environment) materials even though they may seem expensive at first; they will prove to be economic in the long run. Choose organic farming, eco-friendly furniture, energy saving appliances and cleaning products with the green seal.
With technological innovation, the world is now a global mall. People shop from everywhere around the world. However, transportation and packaging require a lot of energy and also release a lot of carbon dioxide along the way.
By supporting local manufacturers and suppliers, you lower the level of pollution associated with these activities and allow you to choose from local products and inquire about their safety and production means.
Every year, we lose millions of acres of forests because of illegal logging and agriculture. Yet, we know that trees absorb the global warming gas, carbon dioxide, release oxygen, provide cool areas and shade.
Now, in the face of climate change, it is vital that we plant trees in our gardens and surroundings whenever it is possible. In the long run, they will prove beneficial as in preventing floods, stabilizing the soil and providing fresher air.