Stopping pollution is important for the survival of our planet, and even more importantly, the health and well-being of the people who depend on it. The air we breathe is laden with hazardous contaminants, and our oceans and waterways have been poisoned with chemicals. Left unabated, pollution could leave us with a planet earth sapped of its beauty, vitality, and diversity. Keep reading to learn about some practical ways that you can help stop pollution.
EditMaking Sustainable Transportation Choices
- Walk or ride your bike whenever possible. One of the best things you can do to help stop pollution is to stop using your car for short trips. If the weather is nice and you don’t have too far to go, consider walking or riding your bike. You will help reduce air pollution and you will get some exercise and fresh air in the process.
- Use public transportation. Riding the bus, train, or subway is another great way to avoid using your personal vehicle and reduce carbon emissions. If you have access to good public transportation where you live, take advantage of it. Since you won’t have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road, you can take advantage of the time to read, catch up on news, or just relax.
- Consolidate your trips. Making lots of little trips over the course of a few days contributes more pollution to the environment every time you hop in your car. Instead of running your errands over the course of a few days, try to consolidate them into one round trip. Consolidating your trips into one long trip will also save you money since starting your car when the engine is cold consumes 20% more fuel than driving your car.
- Carpool to school or work. Long commutes to school or work are just part of life for many people. If walking and public transportation are not good options for you, consider joining a carpool to your school or place of work. By taking turns driving and riding with others, you will reduce carbon emission and you will also save on gas money each week. Carpooling is also a great way to develop friendships with your coworkers and reduce the stress of your commute.
- Get regular maintenance on your vehicle. In addition to finding ways to use your car less, keeping your car in good condition can also help reduce carbon emissions. As an added bonus, keeping your car in good condition will also help avoid more major problems with your vehicle. Get regular maintenance on your car to keep it running well.
- Get an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles.
- Keep tires inflated according to your vehicle’s recommendations.
- Get your air, oil, and fuel filters changed according to your vehicle’s recommendations.
- Drive safely. Unsafe driving habits also contribute to pollution, so by becoming a safer driver you can help reduce air pollution. Safe driving habits can also save you money by reducing the amount of fuel that your car wastes. When you are behind the wheel, remember to be safe by:
- Applying gentle pressure to gas and accelerating slowly
- Driving at or below the speed limit
- Keeping your speed steady (Try using cruise control, if you have it.)
- Giving yourself plenty of time to stop
- Consider purchasing a hybrid or electric car for your next vehicle. Electric cars run on electricity alone, so they are zero emission vehicles. Hybrid cars use a combination of electricity and fuel to run. While electric cars are the least polluting, both options will help stop pollution. Although they still use some gas to run, hybrid cars have much better fuel economy than regular cars and emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional cars.
- Keep in mind that the purchase price of electric and hybrid cars is higher than most conventional cars.
EditMaking Sustainable Food Choices
- Choose local food whenever possible. Transporting food from across the country and around the world requires a considerable amount of fuel. This excessive fuel use contributes to air pollution. Instead of purchasing food that has traveled thousands of miles to get to your table, choose food that comes from nearby farms and that has been grown using sustainable methods. Before you buy, ask the farmer or grower about their techniques to learn about their efforts to stop pollution.
- Visit a local farm stand or farmers’ market to get fruits and vegetables straight from the people who grew them.
- Shop at your neighborhood food cooperative to find locally grown and produced foods.
- Check your neighborhood grocery store for locally grown produce and other local items.
- Reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products from factory farms. Factory farms are large efficiency-focused operations that produce animal products such as meat, milk, cheese, and eggs. Factory farms are huge contributors to pollution and some of them contribute as much air and water pollution as a small city. To help stop pollution, stop buying and eating animal products that come from factory farms.
- If you don’t think that you can completely give up animal products, try to reduce your consumption to once or twice a week.
- If you want to have an even bigger impact, consider going vegetarian or vegan.
- Choose organically grown fruits and vegetables. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown by farmers who use sustainable farming practices. For example, they avoid using chemical pesticides, which contribute to pollution of ground water. By choosing organic fruits and vegetables you will be contributing to farming practices that are better for the environment.
- Look for fruits, vegetables, and other products that are labeled as “organic” or “certified organic.”
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Starting a garden in your own backyard is another great way to help stop pollution. Plants and trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and act as a carbon sink, which means less pollution. In addition, the fruits and vegetables that you grow in your backyard will take the place of store bought items that may have had to travel many miles to end up on your plate.
- If you are new to gardening, start small. Plant a small container garden on your patio or plant a few tomato, lettuce, and cucumber plants in your backyard. You can increase the size of your garden over the years as you become more comfortable with gardening.
EditMaking Sustainable Energy Choices
- Turn off lights and electronics when you are not in the room. You can also unplug them for even more energy savings. Plugging electronics into a power strip is also a good strategy because you can easily turn off the power strip and turn off all of the electronics at the same time.
- Look for small changes that can lead to big energy savings. There are lots of little things that you can do to make sure that you are conserving as much energy as possible. Keep these strategies in mind to start saving energy.
- Keep the temperature on your water heater set to 120℉ (49C). Heating water accounts for between 14-25% of your home’s energy. Keeping the water heater set at 120℉ (49C) will help save some of that energy.
- Air dry clothes. You can reduce your carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds a year by hanging your clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer.
- Air or hand dry dishes. Make a dent in the 2.5% of your household energy that is expended by using a dishwasher. Open the dishwasher door instead of running the dry cycle on your dishwasher.
- Choose energy efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can save up to 75% of the energy that goes toward lighting your home. These bulbs also produce less heat than normal light bulbs.
- Keep your thermostat set to 78℉ (25C) in warmer months and 68 (20C) in the colder months. By reducing the amount of work that your heating and air condition systems have to do year round, you can make a big difference in your energy use.
- Consider turning your heater down to 55℉ (13C) at night during colder months and pile on the blankets to stay warm.
- Consider using fans instead of an air conditioner to help control the temperature in your home. Fans use much less energy than air conditioners.
- Make sure your windows and air ducts are well-sealed. Simple solutions like caulking around the frames of your windows and reglazing the panes, or you may need to have them replaced. You can also use window treatments and coverings in the winter to reduce the amount of heat that escapes your home.
- If you decide to purchase new windows for your home, look for windows that have been designated as ENERGY STAR® windows. These windows have to meet certain requirements for energy savings.
EditRecycling, Reusing, and Reducing
- Buy used items whenever possible. By buying used products, you will help reduce the demand for new materials to be created. You will also save money. Check local thrift shops, used furniture and appliance stores, and local ads to find used items.
- Buy reusable items. Lots of waste is generated by disposable cups, plates, utensils and storage containers for food. Instead of contributing to the waste in landfills by using disposable dinnerware, primarily use reusable items.
- Choose items with minimal packaging. The packaging used to protect food requires new raw materials and energy to create. Buy foods that use minimal packaging, such as bulk items or unpackaged produce. If you must buy something that is packaged, try to choose items with the least amount of packaging possible.
- Avoid buying products packaged with styrofoam. Styrofoam is a common packaging material, but it contributes to much of the waste in landfills because it is difficult to recycle. Styrofoam production also contributes to pollution through the release of hydrocarbons.
- Recycle everything that you can. Almost everything that you buy can be recycled. Try to avoid products that do not have a recycle symbol on the package or that are made of mixed materials that may not be easy to recycle.
- Check to see if your waste management company offers recycling pick up services. If not, you can always take your sorted recyclables to a nearby recycling center.
- Purchase items made from recycled materials. By purchasing items that have been made from recycled materials, you will be helping to reduce the amount of new materials that need to be produced.
- Look for items that include the terms “recycled content-product” or “post consumer content.”
- Items made from recycled materials will also often provide a percentage to indicate how much of the product’s material came from recycled content. Look for items that have higher percentages than others.
EditKeeping Chemicals Out of the Water Supply
- Use fewer and environmentally friendly chemicals. Chemicals we use to wash our homes, cars and even our bodies get washed down the drain and into the sewer system, but they often end up in the groundwater. These chemicals aren’t good for the plants and animals that make up our ecosystems, and they aren’t healthy for human consumption, either. Whenever possible, use natural, healthy alternatives to chemicals.
- For example, instead of using a heavy-duty cleaner to scrub your bathroom or kitchen, use a mixture of vinegar and water or a baking soda and salt paste. These natural household supplies get the job done just as well, and they won’t pollute the water when you wash them down the drain.
- Try making your own laundry detergent and dish soap. If you don’t have the time, buy detergent made with all-natural ingredients.
- When you can’t find a good alternative to a toxic item, use the least amount you can get away with and still get the job done.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides. These powerful chemicals are sprayed directly over the ground, and when it rains they seep deeper and get into the groundwater. You probably just want aphids to stop eating your tomatoes, but spraying the garden with pesticide will do a lot more than that when it gets into the groundwater that humans and other organisms need to survive.
- Don’t flush medication. Large doses of medication are difficult for water sanitation systems to remove from the water supply, and they end up impacting everyone who drinks the water. Each medication on the market has specific instructions for how it should be disposed. If you need to throw medication away, find out the proper way to do it instead of resorting to flushing.
- There are a few highly controlled medications that authorities recommend flushing in order to keep them out of the wrong hands. These are exceptions to the general rule that medications should not be flushed.
- Dispose of toxic waste properly. Some substances should not be thrown out with the trash, because they’ll seep into the ground and poison the groundwater. If you have a toxic chemical and you’re not sure how to throw it away, contact your local sanitation department to find out where there’s toxic waste disposal site. Take it there to make sure it gets handled properly.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency has a list of different types of toxic waste here.
- Keep in mind that items like CFLs, batteries, and other special products require special recycling. Some states even require these items to be recycled in order to prevent mercury from ending up in water and soil. Check with your waste management company to find out what options they offer for recycling these items.
- Conserve water. It’s important to take good care of the water we do have and conserve it as much as possible. Wasting water uses up a valuable resource and has a big effect on the environment. It’s easy to take measures in your daily life that help you use less water and preserve the health of your region’s ecosystems. Here are a few ways to save water:
- Fix water leaks promptly.
- Use water-saving devices on your faucets and toilets, like a low-flow showerhead.
- Don’t wash dishes with the water constantly running.
- Replace old toilets and appliances with newer models that use less water.
- Don’t water your lawn excessively, especially if you live in a dry area.
EditGetting Involved and Educating Others
- Learn about the major polluters in your area. Go to your library, do internet research, and talk to people who can tell you about the major sources of pollution where you live. Learning as much as you can will help you have a better understanding about pollution.
- While individuals can do their part to keep the air and water clean, corporations with environmentally damaging industrial practices are the main culprits. In order to protect the water and air where you live, it’s important to find out what’s putting them in danger.
- Tell people about what you know. Even though a lot of people are concerned about stopping air pollution, many don’t understand the severity of the problem or aren’t sure what to do about it. Since you’ve done some research on pollution, use your knowledge to make a difference by talking about it with other people. The more people know about pollution, the more likely we will collectively find a way to stop it.
- Just talking about pollution with other people can lead to interesting discussions. Be prepared with answers for people who don’t think there’s anything they can do to help stop it.
- Pollution and the damage it causes is a very serious topic that some people may be averse to discussing. As someone who cares about this issue, be sensitive to others’ perspectives and find ways to help them gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening to the earth.
- Write an article for your school or local newspaper. Spreading the word by publishing information about how to stop pollution is a great way to help others become more aware of the problem. Pen an editorial that discusses both the problem and solutions that people can begin to implement in their daily lives starting right away.
- Protest local polluters. Is there a certain factory or industry in your area that’s contributing to the pollution of your local environment? You can make a difference by being vocal about what’s going on and joining up with others who want to keep your environment clean and safe. Do online research and find out more about the state of things in your particular region. Change starts at home, and becoming a local activist is the best way to make a difference.
- Join an environmental group. There might be an existing group working on stopping pollution in your area. If you can’t find one, you and your friends might start a group that meets once a week or more often to discuss issues and brainstorm ideas for what you can do to help. Get others to join by spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter and by posting signs around your neighborhood. Host events that will help spread the word about pollution and give people the opportunity to do something about it. Here are a few ideas for events:
- Hold a river or creek cleanup.
- Host a screening of a documentary about pollution.
- Visit schools to talk to kids about how they can help stop pollution.
- Contact your local representative to speak up about your views on keeping water chemical-free.
- Join a group that plants trees to help clean the air.
- Become a bike activist. Work to have safe paths built in your city.
- Roll up your sleeves once in a while and do something to help reduce pollution. If you see litter, pick it up!
- Take your own travel mug when you get coffee at a coffee shop.
- Help Save the Environment
- Most Cost Effectively Help Slow Global Warming
- Become an Environmentalist
- Take Action to Reduce Global Warming
- Create Urban Rainforests
- Save the Environment (for Teens)
- Saving the World
EditSources and Citations
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