With Earth Day approaching (April 22nd, don’t forget!), TSL was looking for a way to provide some practical suggestions for our readers to be more sustainable (like we did in our New Years post) and dare we say…save the planet? Fortunately for us, Chris Davis, Director of Investor Program at Ceres (TSL posted on their initiatives a while back) and member of the BBA’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force, sent us a list of “Ten Things You Can Do to Help Save the Planet” that he composed based more than 30 years of experience as an environmental lawyer. TSL is happy to share them with you:
- 1. Stop Eating Beef. Beef is a very energy inefficient and environmentally destructive source of protein. Corn fed, feedlot raised cattle cause a great deal of pollution—from nitrogen fertilizer and massive water use to grow the corn, petroleum to till, harvest and transport it; manure runoff, and methane emissions contributing to global warming, among other negative impacts (e.g., all the antibiotics fed to the cattle). If you can’t give it up, eat local, grass fed beef.
- 2. Drive Less. Carbon dioxide emissions from our cars are a major contributor to climate change, and our gasoline use supports environmentally destructive oil production (e.g., expanded offshore drilling, Canadian tar sands mining). Look for ways to eliminate or combine trips, share rides, walk, bike or take public transportation (take the train to Boston). Keep your car well tuned, your tires fully inflated, and don’t idle. You’ll save money and reduce your contribution to global warming.
- 3. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient. Buildings account for 40% of total energy use and their heating, cooling and lighting causes about 40% of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause global warming. Adding insulation, sealing cracks, and installing a more efficient heating system will save energy and cut your heating and cooling costs. Also, try heating and air conditioning less—wear a sweater, use fans, save money. And of course, use only efficient CFL or LED lighting, and turn off computers and other electronic devices when not in use.
- 4. Buy Organic, Local Food. Minimize the “environmental footprint” of your food—the energy and resources used to grow and transport it. Conventional food is produced using environmentally polluting fertilizers and pesticides, and on average our food travels over 2000 miles, increasing its “carbon footprint” of GHG emissions used to move it. Organic food is much easier on the environment—grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And locally grown organic food has the smallest footprint, is fresher and healthier, and supports local farmers.
- 5. Buy Less Stuff. We Americans comprise only about 4% of the world’s population, but use about 20% of global energy and resources– an unsustainable level of consumption. All of the manufactured goods we buy (think electronics, clothing, toys) use energy, water, oil, and mineral resources, all contributing to pollution in China or wherever our stuff is made. Buy only what you need, buy quality long lasting items, and observe the old Yankee credo: “use it up, wear it out, make do.” Think of all the money (and pollution) you’ll save.
- 6. Use Recycled Products. Recycling all of our paper, glass metal and plastics is a good first step, but to close the circle and make recycling economical (and more widespread) we need to create demand for recycled products by buying them. Use recycled printer and copier paper, toilet paper and paper towels—all now widely available. Look for products made of recycled plastic (like decking) and metal. Ask stores to carry recycled products.
- 7. Buy Green Power. Most of our electricity comes from burning coal (which is environmentally destructive to mine, and the largest source of carbon dioxide (GHG) and mercury emissions) or nuclear power (which generates radioactive wastes that we haven’t figured out how to manage). Renewable energy sources (wind, solar, small scale hydro) generate electricity with no GHG emissions. You can elect to buy 50% or 100% renewable source electricity through National Grid under their “green power” program . It costs more, but supports renewable energy and reduces pollution from your electricity use. Check it out.
- 8. Support Conservation. The Earth’s forests, ecosystems and wildlife habitat are disappearing at an alarming rate, and their destruction exacerbates climate change and loss of biodiversity. Locally, development continues to replace farmland and woodlands with housing developments and strip malls. Support the preservation of our remaining natural areas by joining and contributing to a local land trust, Greenbelt, Mass. Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, or another conservation organization.
- 9. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. We have the choice of contributing either to the problem or the solution both through what we buy and how we invest our money. Stop buying the products of companies with poor environmental records. Patronize “green” companies. And invest in high quality “green” companies and mutual funds, instead of in oil, coal and power companies that perpetuate our unsustainable fossil fuel powered economy.
- 10. Practice Green Politics. Make your vote, your voice, and your political contributions count for the environment, not against it. Support candidates that support environmental protection, and contribute to organizations that lobby for the environment. Let your elected officials know you support strong environmental laws and oppose efforts to weaken them. Contribute to the League of Conservation Voters. Help break the stranglehold of the fossil fuel lobby on our national energy and environmental policies. Collectively, we can make a real difference!
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