More and more people are becoming part of the environmental movement. The negative effects humans have on the earth are becoming more obvious as weather patterns change due to global warming, species’ populations decrease from pollution and ecosystems become disrupted due to habitat degradation, fragmentation, etc. The good news is that we still have time to help our earth and make a difference. If everyone did his or her part, the planet would be a more beautiful, healthy place to live. Instead we are still polluting it and paying for the bad decisions past generations made when they thought it was okay to dump sewage into our water sources, admit CO2 into our atmosphere, overfish, drive species to extinction, disrupt the food chains, change ecosystems and the list goes on. So what can we do to help? Start by making small changes. You do not have to give up eating meat, sell your car or make drastic changes that affect your entire lifestyle. Instead, any little thing you can do makes a difference, whether big or small. Look at the biggest issues affecting our earth, including loss of biodiversity, pollution and lack of human awareness, and start there.
You can help increase biodiversity within your own backyard. Just be aware of what plants and trees are invasive and replace them with native species. Even if you have species of plants that do not rapidly spread and are not considered a huge threat, they still provide no habitat for the native species within you region. Certain animals and insects have adapted with the native plants and use them for food or shelter. Invasives serve no purpose in your local ecosystems.
Pollution is a huge threat and no matter what, we are contributors. Even the most sustainable ways of living have some type of impact. Many cities are creating zero-waste programs to help encourage residents to live as eco-friendly as possible, but until we all get there and every city develops its own program, we must act as individuals. Pollution is developed by multiple sources: our car, electricity and water usage, packaging, breathing, etc. It is almost inevitable, but there are some things we can do to help limit our impact, such as buying a more sustainable car or limiting our driving. Sometimes there are no eco-friendly alternatives to driving your car and there is no public transportation available, but you can plant trees, take part in restoration projects around your area and educate others. Limit your carbon footprint by turning the AC/heat down, turn lights off in rooms that are not being used, unplug appliances (they still use energy when off) and purchase Energy Star-certified products. Also, decrease your water usage by only using the dishwasher and washing machine when you have full loads to wash. You can also be mindful of how your yard handles heavy rain. Lots of sediment and pollution makes its way into local water sources directly from your yard. Therefore, be mindful of your use of fertilizer and compost instead. This will not only decrease your waste production, but it can save you money on soil and fertilizer for your garden. You can also hook up rain barrels to your gutters and downspouts that can slow down rainwater and provide water for your garden, which can also save you money.
Take the initiative to educate family and friends. Many people are not aware of the true state of the earth and all the things that are affecting it. Everyone wants a clean planet to live on, so do not feel like an outcast trying to explain to others what they can do to help improve the earth. You might find they are just as interested and want to know more. We must all work together to create a healthy planet.
You do not have to feel overwhelmed while trying to be part of the environmental movement. Any small task you do today is a step towards a better planet tomorrow. Start small by planting native trees and plants, recycle when possible, use less energy, educate others and maybe try eating less meat by making one day a week meatless. Just be aware and conscious of your actions and you will find there are many easy steps you can take to help create a healthier world.
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Stephanie Siemek is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.