Preventing damage to the environment has become a way of life for many people, with zero waste, sustainable living and carbon footprint reduction becoming common goals in households and businesses across the nation. Selecting even a few actions from the vast array of options for greening the planet to incorporate into daily activities can protect water resources, improve air quality, reduce waste and raise awareness of environmental issues.
With 36 states in the U.S. potentially facing water shortages in 2013, water conservation is a critical environmental concern (See References 1). Conserving water not only extends our water resources for use by future generations, it protects the animals and plants that live in areas with limited water availability. Easy ways to conserve water include installing low-flow fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens, planting a native garden instead of a lawn in your yard, taking short showers and fixing leaks immediately (See References 2).
Clear the Air
Despite significant improvements in air quality since 1990, approximately 124 million people in the U.S. lived in counties that exceeded one or more national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) in 2010 (See References 4). Taking action to improve air quality runs the gamut from planting trees to filter the air to purchasing green energy for residential use and using ride-sharing, public, pedal or pedestrian transport to reduce trips and vehicle emissions (See References 4).
In 2010 Americans generated garbage at a rate of 4.43 pounds per person per day and recycled garbage at a rate of only 34 percent, leaving 165 million tons of trash destined for landfills (See References 5), according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics. Reducing waste in combination with recycling can reduce methane emissions, save energy and increase forest carbon sequestration (See References 6). Waste reduction actions include reusing and buying used or recycled items, choosing items in less packaging and purchasing fewer items that could end up in a landfill (See References 7, Waste).
Bonus Action: Become an Advocate for the Planet
Becoming an advocate for the environment can extend individual actions to a much larger group, creating a positive impact on protecting the planet. Talking to others about the state of the environment locally and globally raises awareness and increases the likelihood of action (See References 7). Steps to consider include participating in a local environmental event, starting a recycling competition at work or sharing a commitment for the environment on social networking sites (See References 7).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Water Conservation
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: How to Conserve Water and Use It Effectively
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Our Nation's Air: Highlights
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Ways to Reduce Air Pollution
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Climate Change: Waste
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Pick 5 for the Environment
Rory Bratcher is a writer specializing in travel with children and aquatic biology. She chronicles her adventures in family travel online. Bratcher has more than 11 years of writing experience with work featured on websites including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Watershare site. She holds a Master of Science in biology from Texas Christian University.
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