A healthy environment is necessary for human and animal life to survive. Drinkable water, breathable air, and edible food are some of the resources that are necessary for life to continue. Yet at the same time, people cannot maintain a desirable standard of living without the consumption of natural resources, which causes damage to the environment. In addition, using natural resources reduces their availability, which can lead to shortages of building and manufacturing materials, food, and water. Human activity that is harmful to the environment can cause public health crises, render areas uninhabitable, and otherwise reduce standards of living on a societal or global scale. When people protect the environment, they are protecting themselves and their future as well.
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When people use things like aluminum cans, glass bottles, or paper, they have two choices: throw them in the trash or recycle them. Throwing them in the trash means they will go into a landfill, which will ultimately mean more landfills. Landfills are toxic and thus dangerous to the environment. In addition, it means more natural resources will be needed to make more cans, paper, and bottles, and that will also contribute to air and water pollution. Recycling these objects means that their materials will be used again, reducing the need for cutting down trees or mining for materials to make cans. In addition, programs exist that pay people to recycle many of the things that they use, including aluminum cans, glass bottles, cell phones, and some types of scrap metal. People can also reuse other things, like using empty boxes to send things in the mail or empty plastic food containers for storing paperwork or tools. All of this reduces the need for making new landfills.
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- Recycling Facts
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- Environmental Benefits of Recycling
- Puzzled About Recycling’s Value? Look Beyond the Bin (PDF)
Composting is the recycling of food waste into fertilizer for plants. It has many benefits for the environment, including reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This is because it enriches the soil with a natural source of major plant nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous and other substances that plants need to grow. Some types of compost can remove contamination from soil, and all forms of compost serve to enrich soil to foster the growth of plants. Composting helps to fight pollution, and because it reduces the need to buy chemical fertilizers, it can also save money. Composting is not only economically beneficial for homeowners but also businesses.
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- Benefits of Composting Compared with Spreading Raw Manure
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Energy production and use is one of the major causes of pollution and natural resource depletion by human beings. Conserving energy not only reduces the consumption of energy, and thus the need for energy production, but it also cuts down on air and water pollution by reducing the burning of fossil fuels. This not only serves to protect the environment, but it also saves energy users money by cutting down on their energy bills. There are many ways in which one can save energy daily and develop habits that conserve energy. For instance, carpooling to work saves gasoline and money by transporting several people in one vehicle and reducing the number of automobiles on the road. Using programmable thermostats at home is a good way to reduce the usage of electricity, as is air-drying dishes and turning off electronic equipment rather than letting it run on standby.
- Energy Conservation in the Home
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- Tips on Saving Money and Energy at Home (PDF)
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While 75 percent of the world’s surface is covered by water, only one percent of that is drinkable. Water pollution and waste reduces the amount of water that humans can use and can cause or exacerbate water shortages. Repairing leaky plumbing such as pipes or dripping faucets is one method of conservation that can save thousands of gallons of water annually. Dishwashers should only be run when they are full, as that will save more water than washing several smaller loads. Short showers, low-flow shower heads, and low-volume toilets will also reduce the usage of water at home.
- Water Conservation: Be Water-Smart, Not Water-Short
- Water Conservation Tips (PDF)
- Home Water Conservation Tips
- Living Green: Water Conservation
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Sustainable living goes beyond individual acts of eco-friendliness such as recycling, energy and water conservation, or controlling pollution. It is all of the above, but more importantly, it’s the general principle that people should reduce or eliminate waste to achieve no net increase in the need for natural resources. Sustainable living is essential for preventing humans from exhausting Earth’s natural resources, including fertile and arable land, breathable air, and drinkable water. It is also important for space travel, where a hypothetical human-designed environment would likely be too small and fragile to tolerate waste or pollution. Sustainability is the merging of all eco-friendly methods into a general lifestyle in which excess or unnecessary waste and increased resource consumption are things of the past.
- University of Puget Sound: Tips for Sustainable Living
- Take Action: Go Zero Waste
- Ten Simple Tips for Sustainable Living
- Tips for Sustainable Living
OTHER WAYS TO GO GREEN
There are a large number of additional ways that one can act to protect the environment. One example involves using cleaning techniques that are friendly to the environment, such as vinegar to clean floors and baking soda and Castile soap to clean toilets. Running laptops on their battery and charging them when their charge is low uses less electricity than keeping the laptop constantly plugged in, and installing solar panels can actually generate electricity for a home without using fossil fuels. Community tree-planting programs can help clean the air as well as provide shade and eliminate heat islands, which are zones within a city where the sun’s light and heat cause the ground to heat up excessively. Trees can also eliminate certain types of environmental contaminants. Electric cars and other vehicles that run on alternative energy can help to eliminate smog and greenhouse gases, and painting roofs a lighter color can save energy and money by keeping a home cool during the summer. Consumers can also choose to purchase goods that are made in a more eco-friendly manner, such as buying products made of recycled materials.
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- Benefits of Solar Power (PDF)
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