Combat Global Warming in 4 Small Steps

It's 80 degrees in March. I'm more than a little bit concerned. Are you?

Mar 28, 2012 at 6:00pm | Leave a comment

I think we need some new marketing when it comes to all this "global warming/climate change" business. According to an article in "The Economist" only 58 percent of Americans believe global warming is a serious problem. To back that math up, a Gallup Poll  found that 41 percent of Americans think the effects of climate change are exaggerated.

Maybe global warming needs a snappy jingle?

I'm no ad man, so someone else has to come up with a little ditty to explain how without clean drinking water and fresh air human life on earth will cease to exist.  And how being a good little environmentalist can reduce our dependency on foreign oil, thereby reducing the need for war. 

What rhymes with global responsibility?

But until the day environmental warning signs at the gas tank are as ubiquitous as the health labels on a pack of cigarettes, the  every day citizen just has to better. And here's how:

Composting

If you have any outdoor space available to you at all -- even if it's your neighbor's yard -- you should compost (with permission, of course). You don't even need to "actively compost" -- that when you buy a pitchfork, build a fence, test the pH and all that. 

You can just pick a spot in the yard, dump your food scraps and forget about it. Seriously, it's that easy. As long as they don't have colored inks (anything other than black) you can even throw newspapers in your compost pile. I've even heard cotton T-shirts can go in there too. Just avoid throwing meat, dairy and really greasy foods in otherwise you'll attract too many critters, or create unwanted odors.
 
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Composting isn't just a way to create good soil, it's a way to reduce methane gas -- a greenhouse gas that's estimated to be 21 times more potent at warming the earth than carbon dioxide. When organic material decomposes without oxygen it creates methane gas. That's why composting at home instead of dumping your food in the trash (i.e., a landfill) is so important. 

As a person who lives in a 5th floor walk-up apartment in New York City, I know not everyone has the space to compost. But there are some solutions.

For the truly dedicated there's worm composting. You can buy a bin and some special worms that'll eat your food scraps and turn them into compost. All this can happen indoors. Be prepared for the occasional bad smell and a few flies.

If rooming with worms gives you the creepy-crawlies, try finding a community garden in your neighborhood. They may let you drop by every few days to dump your precious scraps. They might even give you some fresh cut flowers, or a few tomatoes in return.

If all else fails, contact your local representative about initiating a composting program in your city. If San Francisco can do it, your city can too. 

Eat Less Meat

Before the carnivores start going crazy, let me emphasize the word "less" as opposed to "none at all"—although, if you can, by all means do that, too.
 
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The digestive process from both ends of animals -- especially cows -- creates methane gas. Not to mention the fact that meat production consumes enormous amounts of natural resources. Grazing occupies about 25 percent of the earth's land, while feed crops take up an estimated one third of all arable land. Plus, more than one billion tons of manure is created in the United States every year resulting in groundwater pollution and air pollution. 

With the economies growing in places like China and India, meat consumption is up which means the problem is only going to get worse.

You don't have to go cold turkey. Just start with one meal a day. Then, maybe try two. It's not only good for the environment, it can be good for your health, too.

Consume Less

I know it sounds un-American -- especially with a bad economy -- but we should all try to live with less stuff. 

Every time you buy something new, think about what went into making that product: the materials harvested from the earth, the energy running the factory that made it, the diesel expended in shipping, the packaging, the landfill it will end up in once the item becomes useless. All of these things factor into the depletion of our planet.

Some of the easiest ways to reduce consumption? Bring your own shopping bags to the store, make your own coffee (or have store-bought coffee poured into your own travel mug) and buy food that isn't pre-packaged. 

You could also make more meals at home instead of getting take-out and dealing with all those plastic containers, forks, napkins, plates, bags and menus. 

Try shopping at a local farmer's markets. You'll be supporting a local business (good for the economy) and you'll be eating food that wasn't trucked half way around the world.

If you must shop (and we all must from time to time) consider buying used. I LOVE thrift stores and antique barns. You never know what you're going to find. Sometimes something just needs a fresh coat of paint like this dresser.
 
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None of the dishes I own match because I bought them all at different places at different times but they all have the same color scheme, so they look like they belong together.
 
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Driving Versus Flying

Unless you want to live like No Impact Man, it's near impossible to be a perfect person all the time. Let's face it, we all do bad things to the planet.

But when we have the choice (and the resources) isn't it better to try to "straighten up and fly right." When it comes to whether or not driving is more planet-friendly than driving turns out that the answer is, it depends. Google it. Some say it's better across the board to drive. Others say it's better to fly a packed commercial airliner.

According an NPR/National Geographic study, flying is marginally better. But taking a train will cut your carbon footprint in half. So maybe we should all pay more attention when the federal government starts trying to dole out money for high speed rail. There are some pretty strong arguments for bringing rail travel back to the forefront. 
 
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To figure out the path of the least carbon footprint, try using a cost calculator. I found one at www.befrugal.com and discovered that if I drove my car from New York City to midcoast Maine I'd leave a bigger carbon footprint than if I just flew. But it'd cost me less money if I drove. Now it's up to me to decide if I want to save the earth or my wallet.

Can One Person Make a Difference?

Duh! In the end, whether you're conservative, liberal or independent everyone should be able to agree that doing what's good for the environment is just plain ole common sense.

Whether you're inspired to build a boat or a compost bin, each one of us can start our own ad campaigns just by living a greener life.