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We Believe in Planet-Friendly

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

We all live together on this planet and thus responsible for its ongoing health. Small actions matter, when you bring others along with you.

In the face of the looming climate crisis, people everywhere either feel completely powerless or choose to deny that the climate is changing.

But many of us continue to see hope in the gloom. And together, we’re so much more powerful than we are individually.

Transforming that sense of powerlessness we mentioned at the head of this post may not completely solve the climate change problem. But it will raise awareness and re-establish the culture of collective accountability that’s so desperately needed to fight it.

It’s not all about “them”

Too many people point to government as the climate change solution. But it’s individual behaviors that must change if we’re to live on this planet with integrity.

Government can do much to lighten the burden of human activity. A great example is Canada in the 1960’s. Environmental policy in the northern nation was actively pursued during that decade, raising an entire generation with a keen understanding of the cost of our individual actions.

Similar campaigns have been mounted in nations all over our beloved planet, targeting everything from throwing food wrappers and other garbage on the ground, to curtailing the tendency of cigarette-smokers to litter their cigarette butts.

And as the question of climate change has become more urgent, governments are seeking profound policy changes that go well beyond mere littering. Carbon taxes, emissions controls, and other significant measures have been taking place since the 1960’s.

But political will and public pressure aren’t enough. Only personal accountability can really make a dent in what we face as a global community living on a fragile planet.

The time has come to examine ourselves and to change the way we live in order to continue doing so.

Humans aren’t particularly fond of change (especially when someone else is asking that we change our habits). The whole concept of a carbon tax, for example, is lost on an individualistic society in which many feel it’s their God-given right to drive everywhere in cars (responsible for 1/5 of US emissions).

And that 1/5 doesn’t even account for the emissions caused by the extraction and production of the fuel those cars run on.

All change takes time. But the hour is late, and our personal attitudes and the habits we’ve developed since the Industrial Revolution are the axis on which survival turns.

It’s a big job. But many hands make light work, so we’ve put together a few thoughts on how we can all be better, more planet-friendly global citizens by tweaking our behaviors in small but impactful ways.

You are an agent of change, whether you believe that’s true or not. With these minor tweaks, you’ll be uniting with millions (and hopefully billions) of conscious, planet-friendly people to help reduce the impact of catastrophic climate change on the planet we share and love.

Personal shopping bags

Every day, there’s another news story about a city, state, or a whole nation banning single-use plastic bags.

You may think it's not that big a deal, but when you consider that 12 million barrels of oil are consumed in the USA each year to make the 100 million plastic bags that are consumed in the same time frame, you get a much clearer picture of impact.

It’s clear our global oil reserves are rapidly shrinking. Personal shopping bags reduce this unnecessary downward pressure on world oil reserves, as the planet increasingly makes the necessary shift to alternative energy and cleaner, healthier ways of living.

Replacing the consumption of plastic bags with personal shopping bags that are washable and reusable has become second nature for people everywhere. This is a simple way to live in a more planet-friendly manner. Just take them to the store with you to reduce demand for single-use plastics.

Personal energy consumption

Your personal energy use is an effective way to contribute to the global effort to curb climate change.

Just a 2-degree change in your home’s temperature makes a tremendous difference.

And you save money while sacrificing very little in terms of home comfort.

Do you really need every light in the house on? No.

Turning off lights as you move from room to room, as well as changing your bulbs to low-energy options (like LEDs) are effective personal energy consumption tweaks that have a real impact.

When your personal electronics aren’t in use, turn them off. While you may not realize it, not powering down and leaving them plugged in consumes energy.

But what about when you’re away from home, or on vacation? Technology can help here. Your Smartphone can control items like lights, appliances, heating, and cooling. You'll be more planet-friendly while saving on your bills each month!

Good insulation (especially in the garage and under the roof) and double-glazed windows are other key areas where you can save energy. Save water by only running the dishwasher when it’s full. Same for your washing and drying your clothes. If you really want to make a difference, hang your laundry out to dry.

The disposable society

Do you believe you throw away about 81 pounds of clothing every year? You may not. But consider that, as a nation, we throw away fully 26 billion pounds of clothes every year.

Where do those clothes go? Landfills.

There are several actions you can take to change this. One is donating your used items (in good condition) to local charities. The few minutes it takes to accomplish this have a material impact on what goes in our landfills.

Spend a little more on your clothes and buy fewer of them. The disposable society has lulled us all into a false sense of endless abundance. Coupled with the advent of inexpensive imports from nations like China and discount outlets offering low quality, low-cost clothing, this factor has led to a cavalier attitude toward clothing waste. We buy things because they’re “Bogo” (when we only need one) or radically inexpensive. We succumb to the low, low price and create yet more unnecessary waste.

Shop at consignment or secondhand stores. With more people opting to recycle their clothes this way, the selection is excellent, and designer labels (representing quality that lasts) are abundant.

This is just a brief sampler of the small, simple actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, live a more accountable life, and be part of the growing movement to be planet-friendly.

The Impact of Littering

In June this year, a Victoria, Canada driver was stopped by a vigilant police officer for tossing an ignited cigarette butt from the window of his car.

The fine? $575 CDN (USD $433). If that seems like a lot of money to fine a driver for throwing a cigarette butt out the car window, then consider that the officer attending fined the driver under the Wildfire Act of the Province of British Columbia.

For several years now, the province has been besieged by wildfires. This has been attributed to several factors, one being climate change. But the fallout from a changing climate is what has led to the province’s forests being infested with the voracious mountain pine beetle.

Warmer winters have permitted this destructive insect to thrive. And now that the pine trees the beetle habitually ravages is scarce, it’s jumping to other species of trees.

The results can be seen in a drive up the Coquihalla Highway (affectionately called the “Coke” by locals). One can see, on either side of the winding highway, which connects the south of BC to the province’s interior, trees turned red. Dry and brittle, these trees are at the heart of the wildfire problem.

Small actions. Huge consequences

That seemingly inconsequential cigarette butt, casually discarded, has the power to spark an out of control fire, consuming trees, depriving wildlife of habitat and threatening homes and businesses.

To fight that fire, emergency personnel are deployed. That deployment, of course, includes helicopters dropping large-scale fire retarding materials. Firefighting efforts can drag on for weeks, in BC’s rugged terrain, punctuated by mountains, valleys and desert areas.

Doesn’t the fine imposed seem a small price to pay, when you take all that in? It does to us.

It does to us because the cost of firefighting is a provincial government responsibility and to satisfy that responsibility, citizen revenues must be set aside each year. As the integrity of BC’s forests is threatened by climate change and its gift of the mountain pine beetle, that wildfire budget grows commensurately. The fires are now expected at the start of the summer season each year.

That reality makes it extremely difficult for the government to budget for this line item. In fact, just last year, BC spent $274 million fighting wildfires.

But the budget only accounted for a $63 million commitment[i].

That disparity tells a story about the economic toll levied by one small act. Just one cigarette, thrown into tinder-dry, hot weather conditions can take down BC’s proud legacy of forestry and natural beauty. Summers not choked by the acrid smoke of wildfires seem a distant memory now.

Just one small, thoughtless act and the consequences are enormous – financially, socially and environmentally.

Perhaps this is a dramatic example, but it's a fair place to start a conversation about what we carelessly toss on the ground without a second thought.

And the discussion goes well beyond cigarette butts.

What if all of us took some small steps toward being more mindful about what we drop on the ground? What if we changed our habits just a little? Could we make a difference?

Let’s talk about the impact of littering and some small steps we can take toward not being part of the problem.

One small piece of trash (becomes billions)

We all make excuses for dropping stuff on the ground.

“There’s no garbage can! Why aren’t there more garbage cans?”

While it’s certainly true that infrastructure is often lacking in the realm of street sanitation, everything isn’t about government stewardship. Much depends on individual behavior.

Your choices and your accountability for the way you treat public spaces are not the government’s responsibility. They’re yours.

Consider that about 51 billion unique pieces of trash are discarded on US roads every year. And that’s with a 61% decrease in littering since 1969.

The high price of littering

Keep America Beautiful did an annual National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study that revealed some surprising statistics in its 2009 summary. For example:

  • Every year, the USA spends over $11 billion for litter clean up. Businesses pay a further $9 billion

  • Neighborhoods with a littering problem see the value of homes drop by 7%

And then there’s the high cost to the environment. Litter doesn’t just stay where it’s dropped. Wind and rain move it around, depositing it in storm drains. From there, it winds up in waterways. Litter near oceans ends up floating around in the great, blue deep. The results of this can be seen in numerous “islands” of plastic and other contaminants, far out at sea.

And litter in the ocean doesn’t just float around. It ends up in the stomachs of fish and sea birds, sometimes entangling wildlife in plastic, crippling and killing them.

What you can do

We know you’re reading this because you have concerns about littering and want to reform your own habits. Now that you know what something as small as a cigarette butt can do and about the cost of littering, you’ll want to know that there’s much you can to curb littering and to set an example for others to do so.

Responsibility means preparation

We’re all busy. But preparing yourself to go out into the world is a responsible decision we should all be making right now. Here are some simple things you can do to stop littering while you’re out and about.

  • A pocket ashtray is one way smokers can reduce littering. Small and compact, it’ll fit in a pocket or bag. Any small, reusable receptacle will serve the purpose. Just stub it out, put it away and take it home. This keeps cigarettes butts out of the water supply. When available, use publicly provided ashtrays and garbage receptacles for disposal.

  • Take your litter with you. Dropping anything on the ground (including your gum) is contributing to the problem of global litter, so take it with you. Alternatively, hang on to it until you see a garbage receptacle, then dispose of it. If you’re a driver, keep a trash receptacle in your car and use it.

But litter can be generated in the home, too. So, try these tweaks to reduce the potential for trash generated in your home becoming litter.

  • All paper going into your recycling bin should be placed in a paper bag to prevent it being redistributed in the area by wildlife, the wind, and rummagers.

  • Talk to your neighbors about sprucing up your street with landscaping and repairs. People are much less likely to throw litter on the ground in areas that are well maintained.

  • Do the lids on your trashcans fit well? They must in order to ensure that if they’re knocked over, trash doesn’t drift off in the wind, becoming litter. Join a neighborhood cleanup or start one yourself. Tidy areas discourage littering.

  • Talk to your friends and family about your efforts and why you’re trying not to litter. Setting an example is a great way to raise the consciousness of those around you with respect to their own littering. Your commitment becomes more effective with every person you talk to. Planting a seed is a powerful agent of change, and while everyone may not appear amenable, you’ll find that your words will resonate with them, eventually. They won’t forget what you have to say, even if somewhat dismissive to start with.

  • Actions speak louder than words. Set an example for your children. Don’t litter and pick up litter when you see it.

We all live together on this planet and thus responsible for its ongoing health. Small actions matter, when you bring others along with you.

[i] CBC News, August 21, 2018

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