How We Can Help Our Earth
Ecology Notes from Kids Discover Magazine, and the Thunderbird Bookstore, Carmel, CA
"The world grows smaller and smaller, more and more inter-dependent. Today more than ever before life must be characterised by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life." H.H. the Dalai Lama
Despite all of our wonderful technological advances, our smog-covered cities, melting glaciers, polluted waterways, devastated forests and chemical dumps remind us that our material gains have come at a steep price. Not only is the beauty of our natural environment gradually being destroyed, but its capacity to sustain life is seriously threatened.
We are a throwaway society: Americans alone throw out 150,000 tons of packaging each day, or 120 miles of tractor-trailers end-to-end. This is 195 million tons of garbage every year! And unfortunately, we are all-too-quick to throw out last year's or last-month's style in favor of the latest trendy item.
Fortunately, concern for environmental issues can naturally arise out of Buddhism, since a central Buddhist insight is the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things. Such an awareness promotes humility and thoughtfulness. A great way that we and our children can act thoughtfully is to become aware of the many opportunities we each have everyday to "help our earth."
The 3 R's are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: 1 ton of paper equals 17 trees plus the energy used to process. Making recycled paper takes less energy; making aluminum from used cans takes only 5% of the energy to make new cans. Looking after the environment helps everyone. When we "RRR," we save the earth's precious natural resources. We also cut down on pollution, thus creating a safer and healthier place for people to live. Making new products from recycled materials can lower energy costs. Slowing the growth of the garbage pile can also reduce the headache of finding new places to store our waste!
Here's What We Can Do:
- At The Market:
-Use a permanent bag or take your grocery bags back to the store for reuse.
-Some food is sold wrapped in 3 or 4 layers of packaging...try to buy brands with minimum packaging.
-Try not to use throwaway cameras, flashlights or shaving razors.
-Buy packaged goods in bulk.
-Buy used goods (junk yards, thrift stores, garage/yard sales).
-Buy products in recyclable and/or recycled containers.
-Avoid plastics and disposable plates, cups and utensils; styrofoam should especially be avoided
-Buy/use cloth diapers instead of disposable.
- At Home:
-Try to stop junk mail or get off as many junk mail lists as possible.Recycle used motor oil.
-Compost food wastes and yard debris.
-Mend and repair rather than discard and replace.
-Separate aluminum, glass, newspaper, cardboard, white paper and colored paper before recycling.
-Use rags instead of paper towels.
-Use a coffee mug instead of disposable cups.
-Use both sides of paper sheets (i.e., if possible, use a printer with duplex printing capabilities).
- Home Energy Use
-Insulate, caulk and weatherstrip your home. Insulate floors with carpeting. Install double-paned windows.
-Install a timer on your thermostat.
-Wear a sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.
-Install a solar water heater.
-Insulate your water heater and storage tank.
-It is recommended to keep your water heater at 120 degrees.
-Use energy-efficient appliances.
-Use fluorescent in place of incandescent light.
-Turn off lights and appliances when not in use.
-Plant trees to shade your house in summer.
-Hang your clothes in the sun to dry.
-Keep the lint screen and outside exhaust on dryer clean.
- Getting Around
-Use public transportation, carpool whenever possible, bike or walk.
-Drive a fuel-efficient car; if possible, an electric or plug-in hybrid.
-Keep your car well-tuned and your tires properly inflated.
-Live close to your place of work.
-Call ahead before you shop and consolidate errands.
-Plant trees in your community.
-Plant fruit & nut trees in your backyard.
-Don't buy products made from tropical hardwoods.
- Water Conservation
-Install a water-saving showerhead.
-Take showers rather than baths.
-Install a space-occupier in your toilet.
-Install sink faucet aerators.
-Turn off the water between rinses when shaving and brushing teeth.
-Use a broom rather than hose to clean walkways.
-Don't let the hose run when you wash your car.
-Wash your car with a bucket of soapy water.
-Water plants and lawn in the early morning to minimize evaporation.
-Install a drip-irrigation water system.
-Plant drought-tolerant plants.
- Pesticides/Eating Habits
-Eat lower on the food chain.
-Buy organic foods to discourage pesticide use.
-Grow your own food using alternatives to pesticides.
-Buy foods without additives and preservatives.
-Avoid highly processed foods.
-Support food co-ops and farmer's markets.
-Buy foods grown or produced locally.
-Be creative with leftover food.
- Hazardous Products
-Use biodegradable soaps and detergents.
-Use alternatives to toxic household products.
-Dispose of household hazardous wastes properly.
-Use rechargable batteries.
-Purchase appliances with alternatives to ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons.
-Depending on your climate, consider purchasing a car without air conditioning to avoid using CFC's.
-Purchase a halon-free fire extinguisher.
- Activism: Let your voice join with others!
-Educate yourself and others on environmental issues.
-Purchase from environmentally responsible businesses.
-Know the voting records of your elected officials; write letters to your representatives supporting environmental action.
-Get involved in local politics to influence local environmental policy decisions.
-Take time to learn about and enjoy nature!
- To learn more: There are dozens of great enviromentally-aware websites (see the bottom of our Links Page), but two that the Living Dharma Website highly recommends are:
-Earth Policy Institute: This is enviromental visionary Lester Brown's informative website, which is simultaneously frightening and yet also hopefulif we take action now.
-ClimateCrisis.org: This is Al Gore's website which brought the issue of global warming into the public spotlight, and where the slogan is "We can solve the climate crisis."
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