Simple Ways You Can Help Save the Earth
A drop from a leaky faucet can waste almost 200 litres a day.
1. Share Experience and Ideas Share what you are currently doing to promote a healthy environment. Create a list of new ideas from the article that you could easily incorporate into your own life.
2. Reflect on a Quotation Reread the famous quotation at the beginning of this selection (a statement made by British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke): “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do so little.” Discuss how this quotation could apply to another social issue, such as homelessness, hunger, or child labour.
Simple Ways You Can Help Save the Earth
MAGAZINE FEATURE by The Earthworks Group
Before you read, think about what we as individuals can do to protect the environment.
As you read, identify the things you already do in your home and neighbourhood to promote a clean and healthy environment.
Adapted from 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save The Earth
A wise man once said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do so little.” It’s easy to let news reports about enormous environmental problems overwhelm and paralyze you. In fact, each of us can do something, every day, to make the planet more livable for ourselves and for future generations.
The 1990s ushered in a new understanding that government and business can’t repair the waste and pollution damage that comes from the actions of millions of people. But remember: As much as we are the source of the problem, we are also the beginning of its solution.
The good news is that conservation can be accomplished by simple, cost-effective measures that require little change in how you live. Here are some ways you can help save the earth:
Give your home a checkup. If your heating system is inefficient, up to 50 percent of the energy it uses is wasted. A simple tune-up can increase the efficiency of an oil furnace by 5 percent.
The second-largest energy user is your water heater. Many people keep their water heaters at 60º—hotter than necessary. Turn yours down to 55º—still hot enough to kill bacteria—and you reduce energy use by 6 percent.
Nearly half of the energy used in homes leaks out windows, attics, or cracks. If you have insulation, check if you have enough. Attic insulation alone can save more than 5 percent on heating costs and 15 percent on air-conditioning bills.
Monitor your appliances. The pilot light on a gas stove should be burning with a blue, cone-shaped flame. If it’s yellow, you’re wasting energy; burners and ports are clogged or need adjustment. If you are buying a new gas stove, those with electronic ignition systems use about 40 percent less gas than a pilot light. (Always go for the most energy-efficient models when you purchase appliances.)
If your refrigerator and freezer are 5º colder than necessary, your energy consumption will increase up to 25 percent. The refrigerator temperature should be between 3º and 6º; the freezer between -18º and -15º.
Up to 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating the water. A warm wash and cold rinse will work just as well as hot water. Washers use up to 225 litres a load; to save water, wait until you have a full load of washing.
Light it right. Conserve energy by turning lights off when they are not being used and choose your light bulbs with conservation in mind.
For example, a 100-watt bulb puts out almost as much light as two 60-watt bulbs and takes less energy. (Remember, a “long-life” incandescent bulb is less energy efficient than a standard bulb.) Look for compact fluorescent bulbs. They give off light like a traditional bulb, yet are big energy savers. They cost more, but save money in the long run because they use less electricity. Substituting a compact fluorescent for an incandescent will keep a half-tonne of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb.
Don’t waste water. Do you leave the water running while brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing dishes? That’s not a drop in the bucket. It’s more than 50 litres every time you brush, 75 litres each time you shave, and 110 litres for every load of dishes. A household can save more than 75,000 litres of water each year just by getting a grip on its faucets.
You can also conserve an amazing amount of water by installing a few inexpensive devices in your home—low-flow shower heads and shut-off valves. The shower heads alone can cut hot-water use by as much as 2500 litres a month for a family of four.
If you put a small, water-filled plastic bottle in your toilet tank, each flush will save 4 to 8 litres of water out of the normal 20 to 25 litres used.
Fix those leaks. A drip from a leaky faucet can waste almost 200 litres a day; a leaky toilet wastes 170,000 litres in six months.
Don’t forget the outdoors. Washing the car with a running hose uses up to 550 litres of water; a sponge and bucket takes 55 litres, a self-service car wash less than 40 litres.
Beware of toxic wastes. Many of us are unaware that common household and garage items are hazardous wastes: paints and thinners; oven, drain, and toilet-bowl cleaners; car batteries; brake and transmission fluid; antifreeze; pesticides. We may innocently dump these toxic substances down the drain or into the sewer system. Result: serious water contamination.
Car batteries, paint thinners, and some solvents can be refined for reuse. If there’s no recycling in your area, call your local government authority for information on disposal.
Recycle it away. Recycling saves landfill space, and making new products from old uses much less energy than making them from scratch. It won’t take much time if you set up separate bins in your home for different products.
Be a gas miser. Cars give off nearly 2.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide—the key ingredient in the greenhouse effect—for every litre of gas consumed. So a car that gets 11 kilometres per litre will emit a tonne of carbon dioxide every 4400 kilometres. Cars also cause acid rain by emitting nitrogen oxides and also produce tree-killing, lung-damaging ozone smog by emitting hydrocarbons. Again, this is directly related to the amount of fuel consumed.
The easiest way to make your car more fuel efficient is to keep it tuned. A well-tuned car uses up to 9 percent less gasoline than one that’s poorly tuned. That means 9 percent fewer toxic emissions. Hydrocarbons help create ozone smog when they evaporate. So when you fill your tank, try to keep the vapours from escaping into the atmosphere. Keeping tires properly inflated preserves their life (preventing premature wear from overflexing and overheating) and saves gas since underinflation can waste up to 5 percent of a car’s fuel by increasing rolling resistance.
Carpooling is especially practical if you commute to an urban area. Carpooling just 13 kilometres twice a day will save thousands of auto kilometres per person every year.
If you change your oil yourself, recycle it. When used motor oil is poured into the ground, it can seep into the groundwater and contaminate drinking water. A single litre of motor oil can pollute 945,000 litres of drinking water. Pouring oil into the sewer is like pouring it directly into a stream or river. Tossing it into the trash is essentially the same as pouring it out. The oil will be dumped in a landfill, where it will eventually seep into the ground.
Most communities have gas stations or oil-changing outlets that recycle their oil and will accept yours for a small fee. Most recycled oil is reprocessed and sold as fuel for ships and industrial boilers. The rest is processed into lubricating and industrial oils.
Be kind to a beach. Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals, and countless fish each year. If you live near a beach, next time you visit, be sure to take along a trash bag and spend a few minutes picking up litter.
Snip each circle of your plastic six-pack rings with scissors before you toss them into the garbage. They are a hazard to birds and marine life, whether left on the beach or dumped into the ocean with other refuse. They are virtually invisible underwater, and marine animals can’t avoid them.
Finally, spread the word. One person can help protect the environment; two can do even more. As you inspire friends and family, they’ll inspire others. So share what you have learned—and watch the impact grow. It all begins with you.