There’s A Place For You
Environmentalism can be a difficult subject to breach, as it covers a vast amount of issues to care about and fix. Some environmentalists specialize in stopping plastic from ending up in our seas, while others are concerned with air pollution and water quality. Despite the difference of agendas, each issue comes down to the same principle: the protection of the planet we call home.
We all care about and use the environment we occupy in some form or another. You may love going on runs in the morning when it’s cooler, or you might love gardening; You could even stay inside most days and still use the environment around you, enjoying the convenience of taking showers and preparing your meals with tap water.
Thus; there are several environmental issues that could stifle your chilly morning run, the growth of your garden vegetables, the water you drink, and other daily habits we don’t traditionally associate with environmentalism.
For those concerned about the environment but not knowing where to start, be assured; there is a place for you in environmentalism. If you’re a full time student working part time, there are still opportunities in your everyday life where you can care for the environment you have grown from.
What Does It Mean?
The most common environmentalist terms we hear include global warming, carbon footprints, greenhouse gases, and climate change. All of these terms go hand in hand with each other, yet many of us are left not entirely sure what they mean, or how we can minimize their adverse effects.
To start, greenhouse gases are defined as gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Two of the most common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide and methane.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency outlines carbon dioxide as primarily entering the environment through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil). Methane is emitted during the production of fossil fuels, and is in a large part emitted by the raising of livestock.
The term “carbon footprint” is essentially the total of all CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions that you put out in your lifetime. When you drive to work or the grocery store, the burned fuel creates some amount of CO2. When you heat your house through oil, gas, or coal, you also put out CO2.
Global warming is the rising of the average global temperature, which has risen at a record breaking pace in the past 50 years. NASA has been recording average global temperature since 1880, and the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Finally, climate change is the change in global climate patterns, specifically seen at the end of the 20th century. Climate change is a result of the over-emission of heat trapping greenhouse gases that have raised the average global temperature.
How to Be Environmentally Conscious With a Busy Schedule
Though every human benefits from the environment, our environment does not inherently benefit from us. We have to make an effort to do good by the land we live on. Finding the best way to do that can be overwhelming, especially when everyday life is hectic.
Some of the easiest (and free) things we can do every day include reducing our electricity use. Carbonfund.org has a range of examples outlining how much carbon we can offset in our daily habits.
- Turn off the lights. If we turn off excess lights and ceiling fans when we are out of the room, we can reduce 380 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
- Opt for the clothesline. Allow laundry items to air dry when possible, reducing 1400 pounds of CO2 a year.
- Only run a full dishwasher. This saves 200 pounds of CO2 a year and saves wasted water.
- Low in the winter, high in the summer. Appropriately setting our thermostats to be lower in the winter and higher in the summer can reduce up to 1200 pounds of CO2 a year.
- Wash clothes in cold water. This reduces 500+ pounds of CO2 a year.
- Take shorter and colder showers. This reduces 250 pounds of CO2 a year.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. This simple task can reduce 200 pounds of CO2 a year.
- Fill up a sink to wash dishes in. This way you only use the water you need, and reduce up to 200 pounds of CO2 a year.
- Take it easy on the cheeseburgers. Brave New Climate says, “At average levels of consumption, a family’s emissions from beef would easily outweigh the construction and running costs of a large 4-wheel-drive vehicle, in less than 5 years.” Eating less red meat and opting for chicken, turkey, fish, or vegetables also reduces methane output. As mentioned earlier, livestock emit a great portion of methane into the atmosphere. Livestock produce between 70 and 120 kg of methane each year, and methane is 23 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon.
Each of these small actions will not only reduce carbon emissions, but cut down water and electricity bills.
Beyond the short term, investing in LED light bulbs can reduce 180 pounds of CO2 a year per light bulb. Choosing to walk, bike, or carpool to your nearby destination is another easy way to reduce 20 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gas saved.
If you have an income of $50,000 or less in Oklahoma, you may qualify for Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s free home “Weatherization Program.” The program includes insulation installment, sealing air leakage around doors and windows, duct sealing, and installing energy efficient light bulbs. The program reduces excess energy output by efficiently heating and cooling your home. If you do not qualify for the free weatherization program, taking the steps to properly insulate your home is another way to reduce carbon emissions.
OG&E also offers wind and solar energy options. Switching to wind power can remove up to “9 tons of emissions from the air,” according to the the utility’s website. To find out how to utilize wind or solar energy, visit oge.com.
You can also invest your time into an environmental group such as the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club Foundation, which advocates on behalf of protecting the environment. It is also encouraged that you regularly contact your representatives when they are voting on legislation that you care about. If a bill is filed that has to do with fracking, or water purity, it is your responsibility to let your representative know that their constituents have concerns and wants that should be fulfilled.
Now Is Critical
President Trump has appointed former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is designated to “protect human health and the environment,” as written on the EPA website. Pruitt has been historically skeptical and critical of the need for environmental regulations and has participated in or led 14 lawsuits attempting to block EPA regulations.
With our earth’s rapid global warming, it is now more than ever that we must work to offset, reduce, and repair the damage that we have brought to our oceans, forests, animals, and ourselves.