Society has a lot of strange habits. One of them is feeling the world is too big. While this may be true in some aspects, it is not true in all. I once had a professor I respected a great deal tell me that no one person will ever save the world by having ‘green’, environmentally friendly habits. And while this professor still has my admiration and respect, I beg to differ. It is true that no one person will ever save the world by themselves. It is also true that if everyone does their part, no matter how large or small, the world will be a better place. The article below will focus on a few ways the public can help the planet around them. Hopefully, it presents newer methods on how to take part in this movement and not just the tired, repeated ideas everyone is told. The first objective that will be presented is recycling old electronics.
Recycling old electronics can be beneficial to the earth as well as the economy. The United Nations Environmental Program reports that 49 million metric tons of electronic waste (E-waste) is generated each year.1 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the United States produces 2.37 million short tons E-waste annually.2 These are staggering numbers. Unlike plastics and papers these electronics are not recycled by local towns and municipalities, but discarded into local landfills. Performing standard disposal methods on electronics has environmental impacts. Lead, mercury, nickel and other harmful/precious metals are used in the making of electronic devices. 3 As these items degrade they sink into the ground to pollution soil and ground water. Also, electronic devices are forged by gasses and other bonding agents that will be admitted into the air if the right conditions are actualized4 Along with helping the earth, recycling electronics can also help the economy. Many of the metals used in the making of electronics are precious metals like gold and copper. By recycling the items it would allow for reuse, thus allowing for less money to be spent on mining for these supplies and lowering the cost of production. According to the EPA, recycling circuit boards greatly reduces the amount of gold and copper ore needed: One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the concentrations of gold ore mined in the U.S. Also, recycling one million laptops would save enough energy to power 3,657 homes for a year.5 Many will point out that they do not have the opportunity to recycle electronics often, however in the case of E-waste, every little bit can help. For those without many old electronic items there are still other ways to help save the planet, which can be as easy as changing the way household chores are done.
Doing laundry and washing dishes is a basic task performed by everyone as an almost afterthought. But are you doing it wrong? The word wrong does not imply using a cold/cold cycle on towels or air drying your dishes, but environmentally conscious. The average American family does around 540 loads of laundry a year, which consumes up to 22,000 gallons of water6, and more than 150 loads of dishes, which uses about 1,500 gallons.7 By combining half loads of laundry and dishes into full loads, as well as, choosing short cycles can greatly reduce the use of water. By doing two less loads of laundry and one fewer load of dishes a week the average American family (depending on other water usage) could save between 3,600 to 9,600 gallons of water a year. Washing machines and dishwashers together use about 23 percent of the yearly indoor household water for an average household. 8 Being conservative will not only save a vital environmental resource, but also have a positive effect on both water and electric bills. However, changing laundry/dish habits is not the only way to save water and money. Installing a drip system in your garden can be very beneficial towards the environment.
Drip system irrigation can save water, money, and time. A drip system, in its most basic form, is a tube(s) which runs on the surface of a flower bed or just slight under the soil with holes punctured in specific areas. When activated the system ‘drips’ water into the garden around the base of the plant life. It can be controlled manually or by an electronic system. Drip irrigation exceeds 90 percent efficiency where as standard sprinkler systems can only match between 50 and 75 percent. This difference of efficiency comes from the fact that the drip system places water by the plant root on the ground level or slightly under. This does not allow for much evaporation or water runoff that can be caused by a sprinkler system. The high efficiency of a drip system allows water to be easily saved and controlled. Because of the control aspect of the system normal household issues can be avoided. Mold spots on house siding, as well as, staining and deterioration of wood fences can be easily avoided since the drip system does not have a wide spray like a sprinkler system. Also, pavement deterioration associated with sprinkler runoff is eliminated. All of these aspects make a drip system an option to
There are many ways to help the environment not often thought of during daily life. Some may be taboo, but others lie right in front of our faces. They are often very easy to do and take almost no additional energy. It could be as easy of doing one less load of laundry or recycling an old cell phone. Saving the world does not mean someone has to find a solution for the over mining of resources, or the overuse of water. It only means making one change to their life. My former professor was right. One person cannot change the world. But they can definitely make a difference in their own way.
-By Shaun Hughes
-By Shaun Hughes
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7 Kelly Tagore, “10 Easy Ways to Go Green,” Better Homes and Garden, April 10, 2012, http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/remodeling/
eco-friendly/easy-ways-to-go-green/#page=9 (accessed January 3, 2012).
8Pamela Turner, “Every Drop Counts: Conserve Water At Home,” University of Georgia, January 2008, http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/hace/
HACE-E-69.pdf (accessed January 3, 2012).
9 Wilson, C, and M. Bauer, “Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens,” Colorado State University, August 3, 2012, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/
Garden/04702.html (accessed January 3, 2012).