Some Simple Things to Help the Environment

By. George P. Nassos

We continue to read that countries and corporations are making strides to mitigate the major issues of our deteriorating environment. However, if you look at the Climate Change Performance Index or the Global Footprint Network, we are not improving fast enough in terms of climate change or the over-consumption of our natural resources. If we, as individuals, can do some simple things to make some improvements, however small they may be, to move in the right direction, it will help the future generations.
If you live in an area where tap water is safe to drink, bottled water should be eliminated. Chances are the tap water is cleaner than the bottled water since EPA regulations (for tap water) are more stringent than FDA regulations (for bottled water). Also, it takes about twice the volume of the bottle in water to produce the plastic bottle, and there will be about a 90% probability that the plastic bottle will never be recycled. In addition, the cost of bottled water is about 300-3,000 times more expensive than tap water depending on whether you buy the bottled water at a grocery store or at a sporting event.
Do you get upset when driving on a main street and coming to a red light with no cars crossing the street? You sit there, idling your car, wasting time and unnecessarily emitting carbon dioxide. It can be even worse when you sit idling for several minutes because railroad crossing gates are down. The train is sitting at the station for passengers to get off and on but is upstream from the crossing gates. Why can’t the train engineer overrule the crossing gate signal and not have it actuated until the train is ready to depart?
We should reconsider the type and size of an automobile when we are due for a new one. We should buy smaller automobiles that are more fuel efficient, but first the automobile manufacturers should start producing them like they did 50 years ago. In addition to reducing the consumption of gasoline, it will also reduce carbon emissions. The transition to electric vehicles will then decline, which is very important as we are not ready for everyone to start switching to EVs. In addition to providing conveniently located charging stations, there are other major infrastructure needs. The guard rails along the highways will all have to be replaced because they will not be effective if an EV crashes into the guard rail. EVs are about 30% heavier than an internal combustion engine (ICE) car primarily because of the weight of the batteries. Also, multistory parking garages may have to be updated because in many cases the garage floors will not be able to hold up if the floor is loaded with EVs.
The next step to smaller cars is making use of bicycles. If you have a short distance to run an errand, think about walking or taking your bicycle weather permitting. Many cities have regulations for new parking lots that require one parking space for a bicycle for every 10 spaces for cars. It seems that this should be modified to provide more bicycle parking. In The Netherlands, the regulation may be just the opposite, one car parking space for every 10 bicycle spaces.
Can we get pizza restaurants to change the containers for carry out pizzas? Pizza boxes are used for 15-30 minutes, and then they are either trashed or recycled. In either case, a natural resource (wood) was consumed to produce the box and emissions and cost were required to discard the box. Why can’t we get pizza restaurants to use reusable pizza containers? They can apply a small charge for the box and reimburse the customer when the box is returned, probably for the next pizza.
Speaking of pizzas, think about this decision you may have to make. You want to eat pizza but can’t eat the whole pizza that is in the freezer. It seems that you have three options. Bake the whole pizza, eat half of it and throw the other half away. Or you can bake the whole pizza, eat half of it and put the other half in the refrigerator to eat at a later date, but not too late. Or you can bake half the pizza and put the other half in the freezer for a later date, much later than the baked one in the refrigerator. The answer seems easy, but are we doing this?
And here is a small example of how to be efficient. If you are a tea drinker, you typically boil a cup of water and insert the tea bag for two or three minutes. Then remove the tea bag and discard it. Next time you make tea for yourself, don’t throw away the used tea bag. Save it for next time. When you make your next cup of tea the normal way, make two cups. In one cup of hot water, insert a new tea bag and in the other insert the used tea bag. Taste the two cups of tea, and if there is little difference between the two, you have just become a little more efficient.
Just to summarize, we should all consider different ways to be more efficient and thus less wasteful. Try to shy away from the linear economy (make, use, discard) and head to the circular economy (make, use, reuse, recycle).