When we are asked what we, ourselves, do to protect the environment, it is easy to become embarrassed under questioning and feel that what we are actually doing is nothing much. Compared to the size of the problems we can come to the conclusion that our contribution is either to small to really be worthwhile and quit altogether, or potentially that we are being lazy and should be ashamed of our pitiful contribution. It is usually not true that either of these is the case, but we can often find more to do.
Something simple, which is often forgotten by people who are conditioned to feel that green living is all about recycling and leaving the car at home, is the important issue of saving energy. When you have lights or extraneous appliances running all day, the effect is a greater demand on the nearest energy supply. This in turn causes a greater demand on the resources which go into providing this energy, and leaves us with a deficit of natural resources. So you can help by doing something as simple as turning off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.
Something else we can all do is avoid turning the heating on when it does not need to be. If the weather outside is freezing, or close to being so, then of course we need to heat our homes. But if it is slightly chilly, wearing a sweater will be enough to keep most of us warm without needing to place a further demand on the energy supply, and as a nice side benefit it saves us money on our bills.
Depending on how much you are prepared to do, the range of options for greener living can be modest but beneficial or it can be far-ranging and dynamic. A lot also depends on how much you can afford to spend, as some options are expensive and others are difficult to practise if you do not have the means. One way of helping the environment without having to spend too much money is to source as many of your goods locally as you can.
A lot of companies have come to the conclusion that sourcing the materials for their products overseas is a way of cutting costs and increasing profit margins. And while this might be true for a company that is buying in huge stock, an individual consumer can find good deals close to home that will be more beneficial. Locally-grown or bred stock is more environmentally beneficial because it does not have to travel huge distances – making use of air travel and road haulage as it does so – to arrive at the factories or stores that make it available to consumers.
It may be that you have a farm shop close by. The benefit of having something like this is that the transport involved in getting food from a farm directly to a shop is minimal. This costs the farmer less and they are likely to pass the saving on to their customers. As an additional benefit this means that the food is likely to be fresher and taste better. If you do not have a farm shop nearby, you might like to consider starting your own vegetable patch in your garden.
Most people view recycling as something that involves taking used items to a recycling bank and depositing them to be taken away by a municipal body or a private company to be turned into something else. However, recycling can take place in the home and be beneficial to you without ever having to pass through any other person’s hands. It depends on what you are willing to recycle or what you have the capacity to do for yourself. And the truth is that there are almost no limits to what you can do.
For example, you can recycle containers originally used to contain food simply by washing them out and using them to contain something else. Many people will use an old preserve jar to keep pens or paintbrushes in, for just one example. Others will use a water bottle that has been drained of its original contents to refill from public water fountains, thus saving time, money and resources that might otherwise be used in packaging.
Alternatively, you may find that if you are a gardener, much of your garbage can be used to make compost. Food and certain forms of packaging can be placed in a compost bin or heap and left to biodegrade naturally until it is usable as fertilizer for your lawn or flowerbeds. By doing this, you can have a beneficial effect on the environment, especially if you use compost to fertilize a small vegetable crop which means that you are getting the most beneficial form of locally-grown produce, that which you have grown for yourself.