Most experts agree that global warming is serious problem that will take significant human effort to stop it and reverse its effects. Truthfully, it is an effect of a larger problem: centuries of unsustainable usage of Earth’s natural resources and overuse of harmful chemicals. The issue is so big that it may seem that there’s nothing you can do to help. However, this is not the case: you can make a difference even by making small, everyday changes to your lifestyle.
Global warming is the warming trend caused by mostly human activity since the middle of the 20th century. While the Earth goes through warming and cooling changes over millions of years, since the 1950s, the global temperature has shot up to much higher levels than can be explained by natural climate variations. Experts on the subject believe that the warming trend is caused by many factors, but one of the most harmful is the greenhouse gas effect.
Air pollution such as carbon dioxide can collect in the earth’s atmosphere instead of passing through it. This causes a blanket-like effect over the planet, trapping heat from the sun inside and making the Earth increase in average temperature. Many scientists believe this will cause the ice at the north and south poles to melt, the sea level to rise, and generally make earth a much tougher planet for humans. Some people suggest that we need to change everything we are doing, right this second, in order to stop the cycle of warming. Yet humans existed without causing advanced harm to the atmosphere for thousands of years, and small changes may be enough to fix the problem over time.
It would be wonderful if everyone could use public transportation or buy a hybrid car to save the environment from high levels of polluting emissions, but they are not yet in most people’s budget. Instead, making a few adjustments to your driving needs can help increase your fuel efficiency and thereby decrease the amount of gas you are burning. Combine errands as much as possible, and if you have several stops in a large shopping area, try walking from one to the other rather than driving. Instead of driving to the gym to run on a treadmill, get outside and do your running there.
Try committing yourself to taking public transportation or riding a bike to work once a week. You may be surprised by how relaxing it is to take a public bus, as you can sit and read and not worry about finding a parking space. With gas prices at record highs throughout much of the world, you may find that cutting down on driving will save you increasingly expensive trips to the gas pump, and in turn will help the environment by cutting down carbon emissions.
Many people are faced with an important dilemma at the grocery store: paper or plastic? Choosing paper bags can contribute to deforestation, while plastic bags are bad for environment and can choke animals if accidentally consumed. Savvy grocery stores are now offering the environmentally-conscious a third option with reusable canvas bags. Priced at $1-$5 US dollars, these are available at many grocery chains and go a long way toward reducing the use of either type of disposable bag. As an added benefit to the customer, you will no longer have to try and figure out what to do with all those empty bags!
Reusable products of every kind are generally a good idea. The less resources spent on harmful products, the lower the impact on the environment. By cutting down on disposable-making industries, we can lower the amount of harmful gas put into the environment by factories. Try looking for products made from recycled goods, like paper cups, toilet paper, and even furniture.
Along with automobile emissions and factory output, burning gas and coal for energy is one of the biggest causes of global warming. Lighting our homes and workplaces with fossil fuel energy plants contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Other than supporting plans for sustainable power, like solar or wind plants, there are easy things to do to help cut down human usage of fossil fuel energy.
Simple changes in your home can lead to serious energy savings, as well as monetary savings for you. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones can reduce energy consumption by 60% for your lamps. Check your air conditioning and heater filters each year and replace them if necessary. Not only will this seriously reduce energy usage, it will also keep you and your family from breathing in air sent through a dirty filter. An unusual tip is to wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket, conserving heat energy and stopping 1000 lbs (453 kg) of carbon dioxide emission per year.
Some utility companies now offer a free service to evaluate the energy use of your home. Check with your local provider and see if this test is available. Finding out where you use the most energy can help you determine strategies to lower consumption. Like most of the household ideas that will help fight global warming, this can also save you a lot of money on your gas, electric and water bills.
We have one of the best sources for fighting this phenomenon literally in our backyards. Plants, particularly trees, absorb carbon dioxide and provide us with clean oxygen to breathe. Some experts believe that a contributing factor to global warming is that we have cut down so many of our trees and forests for industry. By supporting foundations and organizations that protect forests and encouraging sustainable logging practices, you can help bring our planet’s temperature down. Don’t forget, however, that you can help all on your own, and even get a new hobby out of the effort.
Gardening is a healthy activity and a fun way to make your home or community beautiful. One tree will absorb over 2000 lbs (906 kg) of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, preventing that gas from getting into the atmosphere. If you have room to plant a tree in your yard, try to do so. Remember, even if all you have space for is a window box, most plants are beneficial to the air and help absorb carbon dioxide and create oxygen. If you can, use organic soil and fertilizer, as harmful chemicals may damage the environment, and actually add to the greenhouse gas problem.
How can changing your diet affect the temperature of the planet? Believe it or not, studies show that it may be the biggest thing you can do. The meat industry is one of the largest polluters on the planet, in nearly every way possible. Methane outputs from livestock animals are a considerable contributor to the greenhouse effect, while the factories and plants themselves are responsible for tremendous air and water pollution and severe deforestation. Going vegetarian, or at least cutting red meat out of your diet, isn’t just about saving Ol’Bessie from the stockyards anymore; it is about stopping a tremendously unsustainable practice that is doing measurable damage to the entire planet.
If you can’t bring yourself to quit meat, try buying your animal products from local, small farms. These usually have less impact on the environment, and also may share your concerns about global warming. Many small farms engage in carbon-offsetting practices, to counteract any damage to the environment they do incur. By supporting local businesses that believe in sustainable practices, you will be making it known that these factors matter and should be encouraged.
One of the greatest gifts afforded to every adult citizen in a democracy is the ability to vote. With your voting power, you can change the course of your town, your country, and your planet. Use your chance to vote in politicians and measures that are passionate and honest about environmental policy. Voting for global-warming concerned issues and candidates costs you nothing, is easy to do, and can help instigate change at a level beyond individual gestures. Be sure to think twice before voting for any new development projects in your home area unless there is clear indication that they will be using sustainable products and processes.
Industry isn’t evil, whatever some extremists may suggest. Yet many companies, big and small, have shown that they will use the cheapest and easiest measures available, even if they add to global warming. Whenever you can, encourage industry that is sustainable and safe. It may seem like a small gesture, but if enough people make it, the market will follow suit, and corporations will know that the best way to get your money is to through green practices.
Whether you are a lumberjack, a politician, a stay-at-home parent, or a police officer, you are a citizen of the planet Earth. We do not always agree with each other about means or measures, but it is up to all of us to protect our planet. If Earth becomes unlivable for humans, which some scientists suggest could happen, it won’t matter what we agree or disagree on because we won’t be here anymore. No one can solve it alone, but nowhere in history has the human race been given so great an opportunity to join together.