Some Small Stuff to Help the Environment

A Sustainable Environment: Our Obligation to Protect God’s Gift

by George P. Nassos

Some Small Stuff to Help the Environment

Everyone seems to be aware that the current state of the environment has declined and is continuing to decline. Government regulations and corporate strategies are attempting to play a role in this massive task by implementing major activities. This is great but there are many small tasks that we can all do to develop a better environment. Here are a few suggestions.

​When you are on a main street and approach a side street (one with less traffic) with traffic signals at the intersection, there are times when you get a red light but there is no cross traffic. The cars on the main street have to idle until they get the green light. Even though it is minor, there is unnecessary gas consumption and carbon emissions, unless you drive one of the newer models that turn off the engines when idling. There should be light sensors for the cars on the side street that are approaching the intersection. This way the side street would get a green light only when a car is planning to cross the main street or turn onto it.

​Something similar that can be avoided is at some railroad crossings. At a train station just upstream from a main street, there is a necessity for an oncoming train to activate the railroad crossing gates about one-half mile upstream particularly for trains not stopping at this particular station, just passing through. However, when the train has to slow down and stop at the station, the crossing gates can be down for five minutes or more. This causes many cars to sit idling, consuming gas and emitting carbon emissions unnecessarily. Would it be possible for the train engineer of that train to have the option to raise the crossing gates until the train is ready to depart from the station? I would think it is possible if it doesn’t violate any regulations. If the drivers in the idling queue are aware of the amount of time the gates will be down, they may decide to turn off the engine which helps.

​Besides transportation, another large emitter of carbon is from the heating and cooling of buildings. Most new buildings are designed to meet LEED specifications for energy efficiency. However, what about all the older buildings that were designed and constructed long before LEED existed? There should be a greater effort in having these existing buildings analyzed and benchmarked versus similar buildings to see if they are operating efficiently. If not, they should be upgraded to meet LEED-EB standards.

​For individuals wanting to make an effort to reduce emissions, a great way is to have an existing organization like a company, school or church open an account with UCapture. This is an online company that has a relation with over 25,000 other online companies that sell products and services online. When someone makes an online purchase from a company, that company will send to UCapture a commission of anywhere from 1% to 20% with the average being around 4%. UCapture will then send 67% of the money to a global project designed to reduce carbon emissions. The balance of the commission is used to operate UCapture and return anywhere from 5% to 15% to the organization that has created an account with UCapture.

​Another major environmental issue is the overconsumption of our natural resources. Worldwide we are wasting over 30% of the food grown to meet our eating requirements. We should be careful not to purchase more food than we will consume and minimize the waste. Be careful not to take advantage of the buy-one-get-one–free (BOGO) deal. Quite often people take advantage of BOGO and end up throwing away the extra item.

​A third major environmental issue is the depletion of available fresh water on this earth. People in the Midwest are spoiled living next to the Great Lakes which represent 20% of the available fresh water on this earth while these lakes serve only 0.5% of the world population. One way to help this problem is to avoid drinking bottled water. Most people love bottled water so it may be difficult to change. In most of the U.S., tap water is cleaner than bottled water as it is regulated by the EPA while bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and EPA standards are more stringent than FDA standards. Also, it takes about twice the volume of the water in the bottle just to produce the plastic bottle so, in effect, you are consuming three times the volume of the bottle. And a third big reason is the cost. Depending on whether you purchase the bottled water at a grocery store or a sports arena, you will be paying anywhere from 300 to 3,000 times the cost of tap water. Make it a habit to carry and use your refillable water bottle.

​What can businesses do to help all of the environmental issues? Whether it is a small family-owned business or a large corporation, the companies should adopt sustainability strategies in their operations. They need to understand what environmental sustainability is and see how to embed some of these strategies in the company’s operations. Large corporations can send their employees to a business school or bring the training to the company. Another option is for online training in Sustainability Management or something similar focusing on the environment and how to protect it.