Functional Friday: 10 Things You Can Do To Save the Earth

If you are anything like me, you're approaching this 'environmentally friendly' article with a small degree of cynicism. So let me start with my point of view, which may help you ease up a bit. I believe humans have a God-given obligation to practice good stewardship of our planet and resources. We are responsible for taking care of this beautiful planet. I believe many "green" initiatives are trendy but hardly helpful. I believe that we can live in harmony with nature, and that we possess much of the knowledge and technology that we need to do so.  Keeping our world clean and productive is protecting our future and planning for the best.  Here are a few ways that I believe we can preserve the rich and beautiful planet we live on.

#1 Remember the mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? There is a reason that reduce is first. We are a society of mega-consumers. Production and transportation of all the products and packaging we "need" uses massive amounts of energy and creates a lot of waste and pollution. Try to simplify your life, use products as long as possible and bring home less from the store.

#2 Buy local products whenever possible. Reducing the distance a product is shipped will greatly reduce the energy consumed and pollution created for each item. Whether you need dinner or furniture, find local artisans that source local materials.

#3 Get thee to thy local farmers market. Organic or conventional, locally grown produce tastes better and is often more nutritious. And many small growers use heritage varieties and use fewer pesticides and fertilizers. (And you reduce fuels used and pollution created from shipping, storing, processing, and packaging.)

#4 Drink out of glass and ceramic. Using disposable paper and plastic cups increases the amount of trash going to a landfill. Many coffee shops let you bring your own cup, too.

#5 If you use them every time you shop, those reusable shopping bags really do help. Fewer plastic bags are manufactured, shipped and sent to the landfill. Many reusable bags are also made of recycled plastic or natural fibers.

#6 Use fewer harsh chemicals. Cleaners and household chemicals end up going down the drain or in the trash at some point. Use the safest and mildest ones you can to get the job done. You'll be amazed what baking soda or vinegar can do.

#7 Dress for the season and match your activity to the weather.  Dressing warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer lets you use less energy to heat and cool your home.  Saving money on fuel costs is a great perk as well.  And don't forget to change your air filters every month, it keeps the air in your home cleaner and reduces your energy usage even more.  Turning your water heater down can help too.

#8 Eat less fast food.  Saving the environment can help you be more nutritious conscious and cost effective.  The production, packaging, storage, preparation and wrappers of much fast food creates an enormous amount of trash.  A nicer meal in a restaurant that uses fresh ingredients (and maybe even local ones) will produce significantly less trash and pollution.

#9 Dispose of dangerous items safely!  Don't ever throw batteries in the trash.  Consider buying rechargables.  At least, drop off used batteries at your local battery store or check with your local government office for alternatives.  And keep chemicals out of the storm drain.  If you wouldn't dump it in your pool, don't put it down the drain.  Take advantage of hazardous waste collection dates and locations to keep our wildlife and water sources clean and healthy.

#10 Consider the impact your small contribution could make.  Start small, then if you like it, you can build on that.  Routinely purchasing one recycled or refurbished product, planting a tree, using one package of fluorescent light bulbs, taking shorter showers, or growing your own vegetables will make a difference, even if you can't see it.

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