Does it really matter if you try to live your life more sustainably? Will it actually help to stop the destruction of the planet? Can the little things individual people and families do make a difference when the BPs of world seem intent on squeezing every single dollar out of the earth at the expense of future generations? Sometimes I wonder. But to use one of my favorite quotes, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Meade). I have to cling to the belief that it does matter–and that the collective will of world citizens is up to the challenge of taking back our planet.
And although I write most of my blogs from the perspective of how thinking “green” will benefit buyers and sellers of real estate, it is my desire to assure my grandchildren and all the children of the world, have a sustainable future that is the strongest motivation for my commitment. I want to get the message out that the simple changes we make in our lives do matter, and can make a substantial difference in the future sustainability of the earth.
There can be no one, I’m sure, who was not horrified by the obscenity in the Gulf Coast. We watched daily, wringing our hands, feeling helpless as BP continued the damage to the environment, the economic stability and the lifestyle and culture of the region.
So does boycotting BP gas stations make a difference? Probably not– not if we insist on continuing to fill gas guzzling cars at competitors’ gas stations. Recently I had to drive a rental car after a red light runner totaled my Prius. The only car the rental company had was a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. OMG! I spent $70 in 10 days. I’m used to spending $35 in two weeks! That’s because I get about 38-40 MPG. When I questioned a few people and asked how can people do this, they responded with what to me were horror stories, of spending $80 a week on their gas guzzling cars. How can this make sense to anybody–both because we are a nation in financial crisis but also because oil is ultimately a non-renewable resource.
Little Things Count
We don’t all have to turn into rabid tree huggers to make a couple of small but significant lifestyle changes. Consider bottled water. It takes 17 MILLION barrels of oil to make the plastic bottles used in the United States each year. This doesn’t even count the energy required to manufacture and transport these bottles to market which severely drains limited fossil fuels. And then there’s the fact that BPA and PETE chemicals in plastic bottles are suspected to have carcinogenic properties as well as the fact that the millions upon millions of plastic bottles that wind up in land fills (despite recycling efforts) generate toxic emissions and pollutants that contribute to global warming. So what if you make a decision to put a water filter on your faucet or get a Brita pitcher (that’s what I use) and a couple of stainless steel water bottles to take with you. Can you do that? Will you do that? It is a small sustainable change that will make a difference and also save you a lot of money.
I’m happy to see more and more people consciously using reusable bags. It takes 60 to 100 MILLION barrels of oil to make the world’s plastic bags. Yes, recycling helps but here’s the rub. More and more foreign entities–read that China–are buying our recycled plastic bags and shipping them (more oil) overseas to make things in factories to sell back to us. They are also exposing workers in these factories to toxins that are making them ill because the worker safety standards are lax and not enforced where they even exist. That’s not an excuse not to recycle everything you can. Reusable bags are a better choice.
Electronic Waste-A Growing Danger
Our growing reliance upon and obsession with technology is wreaking havoc on the nation’s landfills and thus on the water and soil we rely upon for irrigation, drinking and food production. Lead, cadmium, beryllium, and mercury are just some of the contaminants we don’t want fouling our ecosystem. In 2005, according to the EPA, 1.5 to 1.8 MILLION tons of electronic waste was disposed of. But only 345,000 to 379,000 tons was safely recycled. If you live anywhere near a Best Buy, a Staples or an Office Depot you can responsibly recycle all of your obsolete electronic junk–anything from computers, to compact discs, to plugs and cords–anything related to technology. I have an Office Depot Tech Recycling box right now that I keep adding too until its full. Some U.S. counties have E-Waste recycling centers and if not, you can contact Green Disk Services. You can mail up to 20 pounds of small electronics and electronic paraphernalia for $6.95. And don’t forget about donating. Many non-profits can use your old computers and other technology.
Because of the current economic climate many of us buying less, thus reducing our consumption. Our economy should not be so dependent how much Americans buy stuff. Trying to stick to the Three Rs–Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a worthwhile effort to make.
And finally in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller, “We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.”
This is one of my favorite videos. I’ve watched it more than once.