by Jessica Reynolds, Community Manager at Solar Action Alliance
The bottom line is that the worst thing an individual can do is to increase – or not reduce – his or her carbon footprint. In other words, each of us needs to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants our activities produce as much as possible.
There are a number of things an individual can do that are truly bad for the planet, but perhaps the five that are the most common are:
Wasting energy, especially fossil fuel-based energy
There is a lot we do that wastes energy. Given that most energy is still generated by fossil fuels such as coal and oil, energy production still results in massive amounts of greenhouse gasses. The worst thing an individual can do, therefore, is to waste energy.
For example: leaving unnecessary lights on; allowing unused appliances, including computer monitors, to continue to run; using incandescent light bulbs; washing your laundry in hot water, not monitoring your energy usage, not installing thermostats and timers, and not replacing old appliances with ‘green’ versions. The US Department of Energy provides a great deal of information about what items and activities waste energy.
Water is an increasingly valuable resource, especially in some parts of the world. Wasting or overusing water is a serious way to negatively impact our planet.
As stated on the Oxford Brookes University website, “Water scarcity has knock on effects not just for drinking water supplies. Food production can be affected, while landscapes can be altered and degrade without sufficient water [and] both the pumping and cleaning of water requires energy. As the majority of energy used in water sanitation comes from fossil fuels, these resources are also depleted, while additional greenhouse gases are emitted”.
Not recycling negatively impacts the planet in several ways. Firstly, by sending all our household waste to landfills we introduce items that release toxins into the soil, groundwater, and air. A huge amount of our junk, especially plastic of various kinds, finds its way into the oceans and seas where it kills marine creatures. Secondly, if you don’t “recycle” wasted food by composting it, it ends up in a landfill and rots and produces methane gas, which is a big greenhouse gas culprit.
Engaging in greenhouse gas and other pollutant generating activities
There are a lot of things we do each day that are bad for our planet because they generate pollutants of various kinds. One of the many things that has a negative impact is using your private motor vehicle on daily commutes. You could also buy a vehicle that guzzle fossil fuels and produces high levels of emissions. Instead use public transport, cycle, carpool, or even walk.
Additionally, you could eat a great deal of meat because as author and journalist Adria Vasil points out, “51 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs, and poultry”.
Buying products that are resource greedy or toxic
Many products we use often are bad for our planet. For instance, indulging our passion for denim and taste for bottled water is not good for the planet. Both products involve production processes that use vast amounts of both fossil fuel energy and water. This means both manufacturing processes use a scarce resource and belch CO2 into the air.
A lot of products we purchase and use daily like soap, detergent, cleaning agents, and other personal care products contain chemicals, toxins and, in some cases, hormones. These find their way into the air, soil, and water through landfill seepage etc. Buying products in non-biodegradable packaging such as plastic and styrofoam also harms the planet.
… If you want to work to heal the planet there are numerous websites, such as One Green Planet, and organizations that provide really helpful practical tools and tips.
Given many of these five are linked either directly or indirectly to the use of fossil fuels and their negative impact, isn’t it time to consider moving to clean, sustainable energy? Solar energy ticks all the right environmental boxes, and so many others too. For information on solar and related topics, visit the Solar Action Alliance.
If you want to help underprivileged communities in Central America and on Tribal Lands in the United States have access to renewable energy, please consider making a donation.
Jessica Reynolds is a Community Manager at Solar Action Alliance. She loves her Brittany spaniel named Frankie, traveling, Michigan summers, and helping promote sustainable energy.
Solar Action Alliance is a group of environmentalists who want to spread the word about the cleanest, most reliable and abundant source of renewable energy: the sun.