The most unlikely ways to make a REAL difference this Earth Day!
Don’t get me wrong, bringing reusable totes to the grocery store and recycling your soda cans is great. But here are four unexpected ways to have a positive impact on the planet!
1. Birth Control, And Plenty Of It!
The planet's environmental problems weren't nearly as bad when there were only two billion, three billion, even five billion people here. But our seven billionth baby was just born, and things are getting dire. When pressured, most environmental experts will reluctantly agree: the best thing you can do for the planet is not have children.
If you really want to have children, consider adoption! There are thousands of children in the world who are in desperate need of a loving family.
If you don't intend to have children (or not right now), get serious about contraception. Women, follow your birth control instructions to the letter. Be aware of the medications which can affect your contraceptive. If you make an error (like skipping a pill, or forgetting to schedule a refill in time), don't have unprotected sex until your doctor says you're in the clear.
World's best birth control: someone else's screaming baby! Courtesy Flickr/TheGiantVermin
Men, use a reliable condom that includes spermicide. If you feel you will never want children, consider getting a vasectomy.
2. Go Vegetarian
Michael Pollan once quipped that "a vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius." Between transportation, the volume of food required, what I'll politely call "biological waste," and the rampant use of antibiotics and hormones, America's meat industry is a true plague upon the planet. Overall, the livestock industry is one of the world's biggest contributors of greenhouse gases.
Cattle in a southern California feedlot - courtesy Flickr/David W Oliver
Even reducing your meat consumption can have a surprising impact. Skip one hamburger, and you'll save as much water as 40 showers with a low-flow shower nozzle! Instead of having meat at every meal, have a vegetarian breakfast and lunch. Or join the new "Meatless Mondays" trend.
3. Don't Have Pets
No one's asking you to put your cat to sleep in order to save the planet. But you should be aware that our pets contribute to the destruction of the Earth, too. They have diets which are high in meat (see #2, above), their waste creates hazardous runoff conditions in our waterways, and cats allowed to roam outdoors have a huge impact on the local wildlife. (And on the kitty!)
Image courtesy Flickr/daphenator
If you have a pet, please have it spayed or neutered in order to prevent unwanted animal pregnancies. Support your local animal shelter's spay/neuter initiatives. Consider not getting another pet, or holding off for a while. And whether you live in the city or the country, you can participate in - or initiate! - a "TNR" (Trap, Neuter, Release) event for feral animals.
4. Hang Onto Your Gadgets
The statistics are dismaying: each new gadget - be it a cell phone, iPad, Kindle, tablet device, flat screen TV, or what have you - enters the world with a huge carbon footprint. In addition to the production overhead (including toxic chemicals and huge amounts of electricity used by the factories), electronic devices require substantial amounts of raw minerals like tantalum and copper.
Tantalum is what's known as a "conflict mineral." Most of the world's supply is under the control of warlords who engage in horrors like genocide, mass rape, slaughter, child slavery, human trafficking. The amount of human suffering that is essentially generated by the electronic industry's greed for tantalum is nothing short of shocking.
Copper, on the other hand, is by and large produced with no more than the ordinary amount of human suffering. But it is mined using some of the most toxic methods known to mankind. Companies like Anaconda Copper destroy the planet right under our noses, lie about their activities, and leave behind a legacy of toxic contaminants leaching into the local aquifer.
Copper mine in Mexico - seen here from OUTER SPACE. Photo courtesy Flickr/NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
All things considered… maybe you can hold off buying the new iPad for another year? Consider keeping your existing gadgets longer. And when you do need to upgrade, shop for second-hand items first. Each new gadget you DON'T buy will save another little piece of the world!