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Environmental Solutions As Lifestyle Choices

environmental, environmentally, lifestyle

The environmental crisis has become well-known worldwide, and yet despite the awareness raised concerning the effects of global warming, its solutions are less commonly understood. People often feel overwhelmed by the size of the issue, such that they see their own lifestyle choices as being insignificant in the bigger picture. What can one person really do to reduce the carbon footprint of the entire species?

Healing the planet and our relationship is a collective effort, undoubtedly, and we all are responsible to do our share by adapting to meet ecological needs for our mutual survival. Environmental solutions exist that may be acted upon now to manage more effectively the global situation. You might be only one out of nearly seven billion inhabitants here, but you are one who genuinely is capable of making a difference.

And making a difference may be easier than you think.

The following suggestions for how to respond to the new environmental realities will help you to participate in the global solutions-making rather than contribute further to the problem.

Conscious Consumerism

Green choices today are more affordable and available than ever before, and becoming more so by the rise in popular interest. Develop the habit of reading labels for organic, local or fair-trade, non-toxic and energy-saving distinctions, and select only those products that come in recyclable or biodegradable packaging. The internet makes green shopping readily accessible, and offers exciting variety. If interested, research behind the scenes of familiar brands and products to assess how ethical and environmental are their practices and the industry as a whole. You are more powerful than you may realize by virtue of your consumer strength. By supporting the companies who focus on environmental alternatives, you exercise your right to vote via your spending for green solutions.

You Are What You Eat

There’s a lot to that little morsel on your spoon that isn’t very apparent when you bite in. Consider the ecological costs of your food, such as shipping distances. Imagine the amount of oil consumed to make a fruit salad with ingredients coming overseas from four or more continents. Rather, it impacts far less to opt for local, smaller producers who stock organic, free-range and in-season foods. Besides, the quality and nutritional value of the food items may improve substantially by reducing the time between harvest and consumption.

Generally, we use too much plastic when shopping for groceries which creates for a heavy carbon footprint and long-term waste management issue. Think ahead and equip yourself when grocery shopping with durable cloth bags to carry your goods home instead of relying on ‘cheap’ disposable plastic ones. Also, fruits and vegetables don’t need to be plastic bagged individually, but rather can be bagged together or carried loose. Alternatively, organic home delivery services may be available in your area which tend to reuse cardboard or crate boxes.

Dine more naturally by cutting out the harmful chemicals such as additives and preservatives for they bio-accumulate over time with possible side effects, and often mask vitamin and mineral deficient produce with colorful appearances. Read what ingredients they’re actually putting in the food you eat, and become more selective to support a healthier lifestyle through organic choices. Or, learn to grow vegetables at home ecologically and enjoy how fresh and flavorful they taste received directly from the earth. Also, it’s a good idea to explore what are your dietary needs with a relevant expert to maintain a healthy balance lifestyle, especially as food intolerances seem to be on the rise in western society.

Clean Up Your Cleaners

Internal pollutions levels are oftentimes a greater threat to people’s health than outdoor levels. You can decrease your family’s exposure by exercising caution when selecting cleaning products for your home. On the one hand, you want to keep your living space clear of germs; on the other, you would prefer to avoid too many harmful chemicals, especially with children. New product lines, like those from Ecover®, offer effective but environmental alternatives for the entire range of household uses. However, scrubbing, disinfecting and deodorizing may be achieved more simply using common materials such as vinegar, lemon juice, tea tree oil, and baking soda. Instead of accumulating aerosol sprays, try using essential oils to freshen the air.

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle

Alright, we’ve heard the 3 R’s before. But how thoroughly have we adapted our lifestyles around these three basic environmental principles? Reduce is a key to sustainable living, so it’s no wonder why it’s said first. The throw-away culture that has been prevalent no longer reflects our social need, but the consumer industry has yet to amend its ways. Consider this: according to the non-profit org, Dump & Run, “Americans' total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the Earth six times and reach halfway to the moon.” You can start easily by asking advertisers to stop sending mail and especially catalogues. Conveniently, many companies display their catalogues on-line anyway.

Recycling programs are extensive in some geographic areas, yet still nonexistent in others. If you live in the latter, perhaps a show of public pressure will motivate those in office to start one. The trick to making household waste manageable is in the preparation by setting up a system that’s easy to maintain. Separating kinds into respective bins, and recycle what is possible. Composts for vegetable matter and grass cuttings will cut down on your weekly garbage collection and produce worthwhile fertilizer for your garden. Also, local schools may be interested in your glass, cardboard and other materials for use as art supplies, and you can donate clothing and other unwanted items such as appliances and hardware to charities.

Relieve the pressure on power suppliers by replacing light bulbs with more cost-effective flourescent or energy-saving bulbs, and get in the habit of turning off appliances and lights when you’re not using them. Prefer rechargable to alkaline batteries for less hazardous waste. You can save by watering your lawn at night when evaporation is least, and by collecting rainwater in barrels for outdoor use. Correct any leaks in your plumbing, replace washers where necessary, and install low-flow systems such as flush toilet fixtures. Also, generally limit your daily shower to eight minutes or less. When it comes to handling household sewage, technologies exist by which human waste and waste water may be converted biologically through composting toilets and greywater systems.

Redefine ‘Freedom of Movement’

Fossil fuel burners like cars and planes may become obsolete in the wake of our peak oil craze, but presently it’s the norm for how humans get around. The recent business boom in cheap air travel has had a significant effect on how small our planet seems, while at the same time accumulating untold amounts of carbon in our atmosphere. Cheap and easy generally doesn’t equate to environmentally affordable. If you do travel, take into consideration the other hidden costs that may be less glamorous than jet-setting global access. Perhaps you can resolve to plant or sponsor a tree for every flight you take as a way of offering to balance the environmental impact.

Where people can save tremendously is in how they plan their weekly routines of local travel, whether that be commuting to and from work, getting the kids to school, or running errands. Your schedule can be coordinated for maximum fuel economy. The basic alternatives to driving a car on your own include walking or rollerblading, riding a bike, car pooling, and public transport. Arrange with friends to make trips to town together and enjoy the social aspect as well. Also, think ahead to what you will need to avoid unnecessary runs to the store.

Improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicly by keeping your tires inflated at the level advised by the manufacturer. Before buying a next car, compare the options available for the most fuel efficient make and model. Prioritize fuel economy and assess objectively what size vehicle your lifestyle truly requires. Check out the environmental alternatives to petrol or diesel, such as hybrid, and propane or natural gas cars for which you may equip your home with its own fueling station for added convenience. Alternatively, fuel up your diesel engine with biodiesel, which is made of vegetable oils and/or animal fat and burns much cleaner than fossil-based fuel.

Power Up, & Power Down

Energy is used in your home to create heat and electricity, but it doesn’t have to come exclusively from the main grid. New technologies are fast becoming affordable as environmental alternatives to relying solely on your local power supplier, subject to their rising prices. Renewable energy may be harnessed to supplement the demand by covering your heating and/or electrical needs. Solar water heating systems and ground exchange units will help considerably, and are relatively inexpensive over time as a one-time installation cost free of annual bills. Wind turbines and solar panels provide other renewable means worth investigating. There are many options to choose from to suit your particular lifestyle needs.

Rather than heat your home using traditional radiators which are often placed under windows, allowing heat to escape, floor heating systems require a much lower operating temperature. As heat naturally rises, so does your home from below your warm feet. Additionally, set timers on your heating units to make them more cost effective by restricting their use only to when it suits your schedule best. Sufficient insulation can reduce heat loss from your home tremendously, as does enough glazing to your windows. Also, green rooftops will not only insulate your home naturally but beautify its exterior by converting it into a garden.

Build Community Support

Remember that you are part of a collective endeavor made up of many minds and hearts working together towards a common goal; you don’t have to reinvent any wheels here. It’s inspiring the amount of valuable resources are available freely on-line. Are you interested in biodiesel? Then have a look at some biodiesel home recipes for converting your used cooking oil into usable fuel. Want some first hand accounts of other people’s trials and errors at making their lifestyle more environmentally-friendly? There are sites and blogs out there ready to help.

Local community support also is developing as people are waking up to new lifestyle choices and building ecologically principled alternatives in a variety of fields. Nature models for us how a web of interconnectedness acts as the basis for healthy ecosystems. This serves well to show how our communities may organize for the shared purpose of healthy, happy living.

There’s a growing movement called Freeconomy that strives to build strong communities that are environmentally focused. Through its website, www.justfortheloveofit.org, members post what skills, tools and even land that they are willing to share with other members in their local area. No money ever is given in the exchange, but rather an underlying fabric of cooperative support is strengthened through the giving and receiving that lends itself to more positive experiences. Already, the network has spread to include nearly 3000 members from 53 different nations in only half a year.

Environmental Solutions In Action

We tend to feel uncomfortable, even resistant, when it comes to change, especially when change is presented by outside factors beyond our control. However, in this case change is inevitable. Our only choice then regards how we respond to it, whether we go down with the ship so to speak by refusing to let our decadent lifestyles be affected by the environmental crisis, or whether we steer a brand new course. That means changing ourselves proactively before change is thrust upon us.

You are empowered with the free will to govern your own lifestyle choices.

You can make a difference today.
Published: 2008-01-27
Author: Taylor Judson

About the author or the publisher
Born in Canada, 1975, completed BA & BEd degrees at Queen's University, specializing in Outdoor & Experiential Education. Traveled extensively as an international school teacher, wilderness guide, and whitewater paddler, while pursuing a higher path of spiritual study. Now based in Switzerland where works as a children's author, freelance journalist, massage therapist and healer.

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