(MS) - When it comes to the environment, it’s easy and understandable to get a feeling of helplessness. Issues such as global warming seem so overwhelming it’s hard to imagine an individual having an impact that can lessen the blow of pollution and other damage and directly benefit the environment.
As daunting as some of these issues can seem, there are things individuals can do on a daily basis that, if practiced on a broad scale, can prove very beneficial to the environment and paint a very different picture of the world we’ll leave for our children and our children’s children.
• Recycle. While it seems hard to believe some communities still don’t have a system of recycling in place, it’s true. Paper, plastics, glass, and other waste can be recycled even in communities where no system is in place. If you must, recycle such items on your own and make a monthly trip to a nearby recycling center to drop them off. In the case of some items, such as glass bottles, you might even be financially rewarded for your good deeds. If your community does have a recycling system, make sure you and all members of your household follow its guidelines.
• Unplug appliances. An average household boasts 25 consumer electronics products. That’s a lot of energy being used on a daily basis. What’s more, many of those products are even using energy when they’re supposedly "off." That’s because the average consumer electronics product has a standby mode, in which the products aren’t in use but also aren’t turned off.
The United States Department of Energy says standby products typically add $28 to the average annual household power bill. While that’s hardly cause for alarm to most families, when considering the millions of households across the country, these numbers add up significantly, with the environment paying the steepest price of all. To combat standby products wasting so much energy, unplug these products when they’re not in use.
• Get creative. When it comes to helping to the environment, there really is no limit to the ways in which an individual can contribute. Nearly everything we do impacts the environment, be it positively or negatively. Something as simple as mailing a greeting card, for example, can negatively impact the environment. While it seems a simple, friendly gesture, a greeting card is made out of paper, as is the envelope used to mail it. There’s no guarantee such items will be recycled, and even if they are, there are other options for those who don’t want to mail a paper card and envelope. Web sites offering free e-greetings exist. If you do choose paper cards, look for ones with recycled paper content. This will help save the environment by using less paper.
Other creative ways to positively impact the environment include collecting rain water to water flowers; using bird feeders to attract birds that will feed on insects and pests, hence lessening the need for pesticides; and using a walter filter on tap water instead of buying bottled water in plastic bottles.
• Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Paper and plastic bags at the grocery store are very wasteful. Many grocery chains now sell reusable cloth bags to carry groceries. Such bags are inexpensive, and simply require you take them along each time you go to the grocery store.
• Don’t use throw-away items. Paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, and plastic cups might be convenient, but that doesn’t make them beneficial to the environment. Rather than using paper towels in the kitchen, purchase an extra cloth hand towel or two that can be washed and used time and again instead of discarded after one use like a paper towel. In addition, purchase an inexpensive set of reusable utensils for parties or barbecues rather than using plastic knives, forks and spoons that are good for just one use.
• Turn the faucet off. Gallons upon gallons of water are wasted by the average person on any given day. Toilets are used as garbage cans to flush tissues and towels, wasting an average of 6 gallons of water per flush. In addition, most people leave the faucet running while brushing their teeth or shaving. Keep faucets off while brushing your teeth, and when shaving, heat up water and place the hot water in a bowl to use as you shave instead of keeping the faucet running and wasting more water.
Something as simple as using reusable utensils instead of throw-away plastic dinnerware for parties and barbecues is one easy and effective way to positively impact the environment.