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” The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan
In my last post I shared our experience getting involved with the beach cleanup here in Kauai and it inspired me to talk more in depth about ways we can all help protect this planet. In my eyes, the biggest issue right now that we should all be worrying about is the destruction of this planet. I know I am not a perfect person, there are still so many things I could do differently in my life that could better our environment, but it’s a learning process and I can only get better! What most people don’t realize is that the smallest change in your everyday life can make a huge impact on this planet. It’s all about learning how those little changes can make a big difference and constantly keeping yourself educated on the issues with our environment so we can help improve it together.
I haven’t always felt this passionately about the environment, when I was younger I was naive and selfish and never took the time to learn about our planet or the destruction we are causing. Over time I have become more aware and educated on these issues and now I want nothing more than to help make a difference. Why do I care so much? Why is this such an important issue to me? Well, because this is the only planet we have to live on and if we keeping ignoring the destruction we are causing and not making any progress to correct it, then we are not going to have a planet left to live on. It may not happen in our life times, but it could happen during our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetimes and we are already starting to see signs of this negative change happening right now! That’s the problem with our world right now, people don’t want to care or do anything about it, because they don’t feel that it is going to directly affect them, but how selfish is that to not care how we are leaving this planet after we are gone? Why do we as a human race not care for the people and animals that will have to live on this planet with the destruction we have left behind? Most people aren’t even aware of the everyday parts of their lives that are harming the environment. So, let me help you learn a little more and share 6 easy ways you can help save the planet starting right now!
Every day in the U.S alone, we produce enough trash to equal the weight of the empire state building. That’s a lot of trash and we are running out of room for it. So what can we do to fix that? Recycle! It’s so easy to have a separate bin for all of your recycled items and most trash services will come and pick up your recycled bin along with the trash. There are even places where you can turn in your recycled items for money!
One of the biggest steps we could take that would be even better than recycling would be to cut back on our consumption of plastics. Surprisingly, only 14 percent of plastics are even recyclable. The average American throws away 185 pounds of plastic per year and plastic is essentially non-biodegradable. These plastics are harming our environment and killing animals. Two years ago the state of Hawaii banned plastic bags, which has been a huge step for our environment. These little changes can make a big impact on the well being of our planet. You can start with little steps, like cutting out plastic straws, bringing your own reusable bags to the store instead of using plastic bags, or cutting out plastic bottles and using a water filter in your house instead.
2. WATER USAGE
While fresh water is a renewable resource, the world’s supply of clean, usable water is decreasing faster than it can be replenished. 783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide. The water drought in America is rapidly increasing daily which effects our drinking and running water, crops, animals, and is leading to more and more wildfires.
We can all start with simple things throughout our day to help preserve our fresh water, like taking shorter showers, not leaving the water running while brushing your teeth, fixing any leaks in your house, using full loads when doing your laundry, or filling the sink to do your dishes instead of letting the water run.
3. SAVING ELECTRICITY & ENERGY
Residential energy consumption is the third largest use of energy in the U.S. and of that residential consumption, 65 percent is used and 35 percent is wasted, but why is wasted energy or energy consumption in general so bad for the environment? Almost all forms of electricity generate waste. For example, natural gas releases carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Earth’s atmosphere traps these gases, leading to air pollution and smog. While small quantities of carbon dioxide exist naturally in the atmosphere, the generation of electricity has greatly increased the presence of greenhouse gases in the planet’s atmosphere. An overwhelming majority of scientists believe that this contributes to an unnatural degree of global warming that has the potential to affect the global climate, destroy animal populations and change local ecosystems.
Solar energy is one of the biggest steps we’re taking to finding other alternatives for renewable energy that can have a better impact on this planet. While we still have a long way to go when it comes to the progression of solar energy use, there are some things you can start doing right now to help minimize energy consumption and bonus, save money! You can start with switching out your light bulbs for LED bulbs, increasing your thermostat by 2 degrees in the summer and decreasing 2 degrees in the winter, unplug any unused electronics when you are not home, using cold water when doing laundry, and only turning on the lights in the room you are in.
4. MINIMIZING CAR USAGE
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than half of the air pollution in the nation is caused by mobile sources, primarily automobiles. Vehicle emissions can affect the environment in several ways. Just like electricity, cars emit greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. Some air pollutants and particulate matter from cars can be deposited on soil and surface waters where they enter the food chain; these substances can affect the reproductive, respiratory, immune and neurological systems of animals and even humans.
Electric or hybrid cars are the best way to cut back on the pollution caused by vehicles. I know not everyone has the ability to get an electric car, but you can still make a difference, by riding your bicycle when you can instead of driving, carpooling, and not letting your car idle, which would mean not letting your car run while not moving.
5. EATING LESS MEAT
This is always a tough topic for people because the consumption of meat has become such a norm in the U.S. This is a topic that I feel very passionate about, not only because of the affects that animal agriculture has on the planet, but because of my love for animals. I have been beef and pork free for almost three years now and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I know not everyone may feel as strongly as I do about meat consumption, so without getting into the moral and health reasons for not eating meat, I can give you facts about why it’s harmful to our environment so you can become more aware.
Meat production has been proven to effect the environment from pollution through fossil fuel usage, animal methane emissions, effluent waste, and extreme water and land consumption. Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day and methane is 50-100 times more destructive than carbon dioxide on a 20 year frame. Animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90 percent of the U.S. water consumption and it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Livestock covers 45 percent of the earths total land and continues to rapidly grow. 130 times more animal waste is produced than human waste and 7 million lbs of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the U.S. alone. Animal agriculture is also responsible for up to 91 percent of the amazon destruction which has lead to 136 million acres of rainforests cleared for livestock and feed crops.
I’m not saying you have to completely cut meat out of your life, but if everyone cut out meat for just one day a week, the U.S. alone would save 100 billion gallons of water, 70 million gallons of gas, 3 million acres of land, and 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise used to feed livestock. It would also prevent 1.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, 3 million tons of soil erosion, and 4 million tons of animal excrement. Just ONE DAY a week, is all it could take to start making a difference, in that one day of no meat the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. It is easier to make an impact than you think!
6. CLEANING UP LITTER
1.9 billion tons of litter ends up in our oceans every year, while around 52 billion pieces of litter clutter up the rest of our lands, and 11.5 billion dollars are spent every year to help clean up that litter. Think about how much of that 11.5 billion dollars we could save if we not only stopped littering and started disposing our trash properly but if we got out there and helped pick up that trash ourselves! This litter is contaminating our water and soil, killing animals, and costing money. Get involved in your local communities and start helping! We have the Surfrider Foundation here in Kauai, which we just volunteered with for the first time this past weekend to help clean up the beaches and it felt great. If every person picked up just one piece of litter today, there would be over 300 million fewer pieces of litter!
My husband and I love watching documentaries and learning as much as we can about issues we are passionate about, like the environment and ways to protect the planet. Not only have the documentaries we watched help educate us but they’ve inspired us to learn more and to start making a difference in this world. These documentaries have also helped open our eyes to the changes in the environment directly around us. It’s scary when you start to see these changes happening where you live, it becomes more real and makes you realize we have to do something about it now!
I want to share with you my 5 favorite environmental documentaries, in case you want to learn a little more about the issues I spoke about above. I highly recommend taking some time and watching them, I listed the documentaries below with the videos for you to watch. If I couldn’t inspire you to start making a difference, these documentaries definitely can!
1. RACING EXTINCTION
Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) assembles a team of artists and activists intent on showing the world never-before-seen images that expose issues of endangered species and mass extinction.
2. BEFORE THE FLOOD
Academy Award winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens and Academy Award winning actor, environmental activist, and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio take a look at how climate change affects our environment and what society can do to prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the planet.
This groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary follows intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today, animal agriculture – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.
4. CHASING ICE
Chasing Ice is the story of acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers and the affects on our environment.
5. PLASTIC PARADISE: THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH
Angela Sun’s journey of discovery to one of the most remote places on Earth, Midway Atoll, to uncover the truth behind the mystery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the way she encounters scientists, industry, legislators and activists who shed light on what our society’s vast consumption of disposable plastic is doing to our oceans, and what it may be doing to our health.