Why go Green?
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Going Green-it's the latest trend. It's become so fashionable to think ethically as we are constantly bombarded with messages of switching to organic foods, turning down the heating, eating less meat etc. While it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things we 'should' be doing, it's also simple to begin making a positive impact. As wonderful as it is that we are being summoned towards (or forced into) more compassionate behaviour, it's also important to know why we are doing it, ie. the bigger picture of our daily actions.
As globalization makes the world become smaller, it becomes increasingly easy to see how the lives of people (and plants and animals and ecosystems) everywhere are closely synced up with one another. So toys made in China can affect the quality of life in Europe, pesticides used in Argentina can affect the health of people in the U.S., and greenhouse gas emissions from Australia can affect a diminishing rainforest in Brazil.
The truth is that everything single thing we do every day has an impact on the planet - good or bad. The good news is that as an individual you have the power to control most of your choices and, therefore, the impact you create: from where you live to what you buy, eat, and use to light your home to where and how you vacation, to how you shop or vote, you can have global impact. For example, did you know that 25 percent of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from flora that come from the Amazon rainforest? And that less that one percent of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists? These numbers suggest that we all have a large (and growing) personal stake in the health and vitality of places far and near. In addition to protecting biodiversity (and inspiring medicine), rainforests are also excellent carbon sinks. Bottom line: It benefits everyone on the planet to help keep our wild spaces alive and growing.
But embracing a greener lifestyle isn't just about helping to preserve equatorial rain forests, it can also mean improving your health, padding your bank account, and, ultimately, improving your overall quality of life. All that and you can save furry animals, too? Why wouldn't anyone want to green? On that note, here are 10 reasons behind why going green is the only way forward.
Plant carried on Earth Day march in New York City by Margaret Badore/ CC BY 2.0
Why Go Green? Top Ten Tips
By following the green eaters' mantra -- eat seasonal, local, organic foods -- you can enjoy fresher, tastier foods and improve your personal health. According to one study, organic milk has 68 percent more beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Making green food choices also has global consequences. Buying local means supporting the local economy and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions required to get food from its origin to your plate. Buying fresh food means reducing packaging and energy used for processing. Choosing organic foods means helping promote organic agriculture and responsible land use. To learn more check out How to Go Green: Eating.
Your skin -- the body's largest organ -- absorbs up to 60 percent of the products you put on it every day, from soaps to shampoos to sunscreens. Considering that most of us use about 10 different products daily, that can really add up. Choosing green personal care products often means using plant-based ingredients in place of petrochemicals, preventing these chemicals from being absorbed into your skin. Learn how to keep your grooming regimen on the level with our How to Go Green: Women's Personal Careguide and 20 toxic ingredients to avoid when buying body care products and cosmetics.
Every object you own -- your furniture, your clothing, your beer cans, your stuff -- comes from somewhere; every object has an environmental impact. Nothing simply comes from "the store." To help mitigate the footprint of your material life, choose goods made from green (or greener) materials, such as sustainably harvested wood, organic cotton, or repurposed and recycled materials. Your choices will help protect forests, habitat, clean water and biodiversity; ensure sustainable land-use practices; and reduce the amount of waste clogging up our landfills. Buying less stuff and second-hand stuff helps achieve this goal, too. See our How to Go Green: Furniture, and BuyGreen Guides for more info on sourcing these products.
We use electricity to power our lights, computers, and televisions, but what happens before you flip the switch? Your electricity has to come from somewhere; more than half America's comes from coal-burning power plants, which also happen to be the country's largest source of air pollution. By generating your own power, or purchasingrenewable energy credits (also known as "green tags"), you contribute to our collective capacity for generating more clean power from wind, solar, and other sources and you help reduce demand for energy from more polluting sources. Learn more about how to make your electrical footprint lighter in our How to Go Green: Electricity guide.
Anytime you choose to walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation, you reduce (or totally eliminate) the carbon dioxide and particulate emissions created by driving a gas- or diesel-powered car. You'll help slow global warming and help stave off our date with peak oil. Choosing greener options such as a train over air travel for long-distance trips can immensely reduce your carbon footprint. Get to the nitty-gritty in our How to Go Green: Cars and How To Go Green: Public Transportation guides.
Making proper use of the blue recycling bin has become an iconic action. Reducing the amount of stuff we consume is the first step (and the first word in the mantra reduce-reuse-recycle), finding constructive uses for "waste" materials is the second. Why? Nothing is ever really thrown "away" -- it all has to go somewhere. By recycling and reusing, we reduce the amount of waste that sits in landfills (where even biodegradable products often can't break due to lack or oxygen and sunlight). Recycling materials also saves energy compared to using virgin materials to create new products. Some materials, like aluminum and glass, can even be recycled without being "downcycled," or turned into a product of lesser quality. See our How to Go Green: Recycling guide for more details.
Making clothing involves a large amount of materials, energy, and labor including the pesticides used to grow crops for textiles, the dyes and water used to color them, and conditions under which laborers work. By choosing eco-friendly clothing - say, purchasing organic over conventional cotton, one of the world's most chemically dependent crops, you also choose a better product that is easier on the soil and groundwater. How you care for your clothes - using cold water in the washing machine, eco-friendly detergents, and line-drying (at least part of the time) - can all reduce the impact of your wardrobe. Wearing second-hand styles helps diverts traffic to landfills, and in some cases - perhaps undurprisingly -- can be 95 percent more efficient that buying new. Learn more about greener choices in our How to Go Green: Wardrobe andLaundry guides.
Clean water is perhaps the planet's most precious resource, and, with the increasing effects of global climate change, for many regions across the globe, our ability to have enough high-quality H20 on hand could likely to change in the near future. Being water conscious helps reduce strain on municipal treatment systems and ensures there's enough to go around. By shifting away from bottled water, we can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (from shipping), the energy required to produce (petroleum-derived) plastic, and the volume of waste trucked to our landfills (from empty bottles). Have a peek at our How to Go Green: Water Guide for more details.
Just as its required materials and energy, all "stuff" requires another common resource: the human kind. If you opt for green and ethical goods, you are often supporting local and global craftsmen and communities. Supporting "Fair Trade" products and fair labor practices ensures that goods-- from coffee to clothing were not born in a sweatshop. Buying goods made in the U.S.A. (and preferably purchased nearby where they were made, which cuts down on transportation costs) means production practices are governed by strict labor laws. Read the How to Go Green: Wardrobe and Coffee & Teaguides for more.
When Dr. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, the awarding committee recognized her accomplishments by saying, "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment." Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement, helped the world connect the dots between women's rights, sustainable development, democracy, and world peace -- get the details in the TreeHugger Radio interview with Maathai. The connection between peace and the environment has been cemented by Nobel Prize Laureate Al Gore and the IPCC, who have driven home the points that global climate change is an issue of science, technology, human behavior, ethics and peace, and that one person's actions can truly make a difference. Equating the two -- peace and the environment -- allows us to understand the big picture and the manner in which we're all connected.
Source: Tree Hugger