Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Thoughts on Conservation  2

Posted on January 5th, 2009. About Conservation.

Moving to the West Coast three and a half years ago (has it really been that long?!) altered my perspective on many issues, perhaps the most significant being that of the environment and conservation. I always cared about the earth, of course, and considered myself a good environmental steward, until I realized how much I was not doing to conserve resources, and recognized what I should be doing to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste accumulating on this planet. Some of it seems so obvious now, but three and a half years ago it was not intuitive to me.

In the spirit of the New Year, I have compiled a brief list of things individuals can do that, when done collectively, have the potential for a large, positive environmental impact. I will start with a few topics here, and expand to others over the coming weeks, but these are easy-to-implement practices that I am convinced can make a huge difference.

  1. Stop drinking bottled water: I have not looked favorably on bottled water for several years now, mostly because I thought it was a rip-off to pay dollars for a liter of water likely the same in quality (maybe worse as the standards are not as strict as the standards cities must meet for their water). Then, I heard an interview with the mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico on NPR approximately six months ago, which sent me reading more about this. He discussed his intention of saving the taxpayers of his city thousands of dollars by banning the purchase of bottled water for city-sponsored events and at City Hall. In my own research, I discovered a study from Geneva citing that 1.5 million TONS of plastic are used each year to bottle water. No difference in the quality or the composition of bottled water and tap water exists. This article nicely summarizes the negative environmental impact of bottled water – that to meet the demand for bottled water in the United States alone, 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce the plastic bottles holding the water. This does not include the oil required to ship these bottles across the globe to their final destinations. Then, one should take into account the amount of energy involved in recycling these bottles; and if they are not recycled, they sit in landfills with nowhere to go. My suggestion: keep a cup or bottle at your desk at work, and refill it during the day from the tap. If you feel so inclined, write to your representatives and senators in D.C. suggesting that bottled water not be supplied with our tax dollars. We’re in an economic downturn at the moment! It makes both environmental and fiscal sense to use common sense here.
  2. Get off of junk mail lists: Some may be thinking, Yeah, that would be nice. It’s realistic! Not only would receiving less junk mail annoy you less and waste less of your time, but it will help to conserve our forests. This is an interesting website with stats related to the negative environmental impact of junk mail. Briefly, the site cites that nearly 100 million trees are used each year to produce junk mail, that each American adult receives approximately 41 pounds of junk mail annually, with 44% going to the landfill unopened. The company charges a small fee for getting your junk mail reduced for a five year period. However, with effort and patience, you can also do this yourself. This website explains how. Perhaps the easiest way to start is by opting out of credit card applications. Calling 1-800-5-OPT-OUT is the way to accomplish this.
  3. Try walking: If your desired destination is a mile from your home, why not walk there? Not only will this conserve gasoline, but in the age of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, etc, it’s exercise built into your day! Walking the 1.5 miles to work may take me 25 minutes, but it would take 10 minutes in the car anyway, plus time spent looking for parking. Then, tack on the daily parking fee that even employees must pay, and the question becomes – why not walk to work? It’s refreshing, it’s exercise, it’s time spent listening to the Zune, and it leaves the car at home.

Until next week!

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