This article is from the Folio Archives. It was originally printed on April 21, 1992.
It can be as simple as turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, or as time consuming as saving and recycling aluminum cans. If everyone does his part, we can assure an Earth Day 2092 for our children.
Twenty-two years after the first Earth Day celebration, environmental consciousness finally seems to be taking root worldwide. Commitment has never been more necessary:
- The greenhouse effect — the heating of the earth’s atmosphere beneath a blanket of industrial gases — could raise temperatures from 4 to 9 degrees over the next seven decades. The average global temperature is not believed to have varied more than 3.6 degrees during the 18,000 years of the emergence of human civilization.
- Despite national attention and federal legislation, air pollution has never ceased to be a major problem over the last two decades. • The chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are common in many household goods continue to destroy the ozone layer above the earth, seriously damaging our vital shield from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- Acid rain continues to damage plant and animal life.
- Wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate around the world.
- Medical waste washes ashore on our beaches as our landfills burst at the seams.
For the notion of saving the planet to become more than just a passing fad, we must make some basic changes in our lifestyles. Combating potentially catastrophic environmental disasters may seem monumental, but the best way to avoid the feelings of futility or hopelessness that can hamper action is to do what you can to make things better — even if it’s nothing more than taking your own mug to work instead of drinking from a Styrofoam coffee cup.
Here are 50 suggestions:
Don’t throw away this magazine or any other paper printed on newsprint. One ton of recycled newsprint saves 17 trees and can be recycled five to eight times.
There was never an easier way to recycle. Put those glass and plastic containers curbside. Americans throw away enough glass every two weeks to fill both of the World Trade Center’s 1,377-foot-tall towers.
Besides aluminum cans, recycling centers accept everything from aluminum foil and stainless steel to car radiators and magnesium.
Create a compost pile in your backyard. It provides an alternative to the trash can for lawn clippings, leaves and natural food wastes.
- REUSE WHAT YOU CAN’T RECYCLE
Paper bags can be used as trash can liners. Small bags, jars and plastic containers can hold leftovers. Junk mail makes great scratch paper for shopping lists and more.
If you only need something for one use or occasional use, rent or borrow instead of buying.
Don’t buy motorized or electric tools when hand-powered ones will serve just as well.
Where possible, avoid buying anything with useless cardboard, plastic or foam packaging.
Buy goods that are recycled, recyclable, reliable, repairable, refillable and reusable.
- BYOB (BRING YOUR OWN BAG)
For small purchases, you don’t need a bag. Avoid plastic bags, even the biodegradable ones don’t break down completely, and the rest don’t break down at all.
They can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Huge amounts of wood — more than a billion trees annually — and plastic are used to manufacture disposable diapers.
- ENERGIZE YOURSELF WITH RECHARGEABLES
Rechargeable batteries are powerful alternatives to their short-lived counterparts.
Elephants, on the road to extinction, are killed to obtain ivory.
Second-hand tobacco smoke represents a major source of indoor air pollution.
- ONLY DULL PEOPLE USE DISPOSABLE RAZORS AND PENS
When you throw something away, it doesn’t go “away.” It adds to the massive piles of trash that are causing landfills nationwide to overflow.
- BUY LOCALLY GROWN PRODUCE
You might avoid a lot of preservatives, additives and pesticides, and you definitely cut down on the pollution resulting from long- distance transportation of food.
Plant a garden.
- EAT LESS MEAT, OR NONE AT ALL
It takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans, 2,500 gallons of water and the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of beef. Millions of acres of land are deforested for beef production. If Americans cut back on their meat consumption only 10 percent, it would save enough grain a year to feed all the people on earth who starve to death.
Use latex instead of oil-based paint.
Do your own small part to combat both deforestation and the greenhouse effect.
Plants clean the air naturally by absorbing certain chemicals in your home, office or classroom.
- AIR SMELLS BETTER NATURALLY
Don’t spray air fresheners: They release ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other chemicals.
Buying them in furniture, lumber and plywood helps destroy South American rainforests.
Or grass. Or wind or rain or snow. Spend time with nature. Learn how to view changes inthe weather and seasons as natural cycles of life, not annoyances or inconveniences.
Insulate, caulk and weatherstrip. Add storm windows. Use insulating shades and curtains during extreme temperatures.
- INSULATE YOUR WATER HEATER
An insulation blanket keeps it warmer and requires less energy.
When you must use heating and air-conditioning, do so sparingly. Every degree you reduce your thermostat in cold weather can reduce your heating bill 2 percent.
Change your heating and air- conditioning filters a least once a month. Dust decreases efficiency.
Don’t keep refrigerators and freezers too cold. Clean the condenser coils behind or beneath your refrigerator annually, at least.
Use low-watt light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs provide more light at lower wattages.
Don’t take baths, take short showers. Don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth or shave.
Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when full.
Dry clothes on a clothesline when you can.
Use your clothes dryer, keep the lint screen clean.
Install a low-flow shower head that provides the same pressure with less water. Put aerators on your sink faucets. Use a trigger head on your garden hose when you wash the car.
Use water left over from your washing to water your plants, lawn and garden.
Set house plants outside during rainstorms.
- FORGET THE QUICKER PICKER-UPPER
Keep rags and sponges handy to clean up spills. Cut back on paper towel use.
In the ocean and on land they can entangle, trap and strangle all sorts of bird and animal life.
- TRAP THE ROACHES, STICK IT TO THE FLIES
Use Roach Motels instead of toxic sprays; create homemade flypaper by coating a strip of yellow paper with honey.
Use a conventional mousetrap, not rat-poison.
Balloon releases can kill aquatic life. Sea turtles may mistake them for jellyfish, swallow them and die.
Use both sides of the paper when you’re writing. Make double-sided photocopies.
Take a train instead of flying whenever you can.
When possible, live near your workplace; walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation; consolidate errand runs and avoid unnecessary auto trips.
Let your elected officials know what you think about environmental matters.
Seek out recycled paper products at printing and stationery shops.
Pressure restaurants and businesses to end wasteful packaging methods.
- BEAT THEM AT THEIR OWN GAME
Write to companies that send you junk mail and tell them to stop. They’re wasting paper and the energy required to transport their trivia, and your time.
Overpopulation strains the environment. Zero population growth is maintained when families average two children.