We drive our cars profusely, think nothing of notching up the heat in the winter, and grab disposable coffee cups without a qualm. There still are people at my workplace who print reams and reams of reports on single-sided paper, and then forget it at the printer. A day later it gets tossed into the trash (or the recycling bin, hopefully) and they print it all over again.
The other day I watched the movie, Arctic Tale, that tells the stories of a polar bear cub and a walrus calf, both born around the same time in one of the earth's most beautiful and remote regions. From the moment of their birth, the two babies are in a battle for survival against predators who would love to have them for lunch. But a new danger soon starts to emerge, and it is a far more devastating one than any single enemy: global warming, which is melting the ice to a degree where it starts becoming impossible for the starving animals to find food.
The movie, which I found even more engaging than Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," (let's face it- it's far easier to watch cute polar bears and walruses romping around than Al posturing in front of fancy graphics), ends with a bunch of kids talking about the little changes we can make in our day-to-day lives to help save the planet and all its creatures.
Here are just a few simple changes all of us can make right now, if we haven't already:
1. Save energy-- replace your regular light bulbs with CFLs. They are widely available now, work great, and are getting cheaper by the day. Turn off the lights in a room you're not using. Dress warm inside the house in winter-- I always am blanketed in layers of sweaters and socks-- and turn on the heat only if you have to.
2. Reduce your trash-- learn to prepare foods from scratch, so you reduce the number of packaged items you buy. Also, try to buy goods with as little packaging as possible. Importantly, learn the value of reusing and recycling stuff so that you do not rob the earth of its natural resources. Discover yard sales and thrift stores and Web sites like freecycle.com-- I promise, you'll be addicted.
3. Bike or walk or take the bus-- this is something I am still working on, but hope to accomplish this year. Despite all we hear about the problems surrounding our dependence on oil, and the pollution that vehicles cause, most of us find it extremely difficult to take the step toward reducing our car use. Biking and walking are great alternatives, and they come with the added benefit of exercise!
4. Go vegan! Everyone knows by now (even if most choose to ignore it) that a meat-free lifestyle is far easier on the environment because animals raised for food are among the heaviest contributors to pollution. I personally can vouch that going vegan also improves your quality of life-- since I went animal-free, I've found it easy to maintain my weight, feel far healthier and am much more active than I ever was. I also eat far better and with far less guilt because I know that most of my food choices are inherently nutritious.