What Can We Do About the Environment?
From Pradeep Srivastava, Albany, CA
In light of Earth Day, coming up on April 22, it would be a good idea to remind ourselves that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the entire world to protect the environment.
Here are some of the best quotes on the environment that would hopefully motivate folks to do something to preserve, protect, and nurture the environment that we all take so much for granted.
“The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved.” – Richard Rogers
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” – Unknown
“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?” – Robert Redford
What can individuals do to reduce their carbon footprint? There is a New York Times piece “How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint” by Livia Albeck-Ripka which is the most comprehensive and helpful guide on this topic. As it suggests, “While real solutions will require action on a global scale, there are choices you can make in your day-to-day life to lessen your personal impact on the environment. This guide will walk you through some of them”
Now, do I personally do what I hope others would do? Even though I was born and raised in an upper middle-income family in India, I was always very thrifty by nature. I couldn’t stand wasting water or electricity, and hated to spend money on clothes and luxury items. Though I have been in the US for 54 years, and have remained in the upper middle income category for my entire life (except in graduate school), my thinking regarding thrift hasn’t changed at all. I still believe in thrift as much as I did when I was growing up in India; I still cannot waste water, electricity, and gasoline, or spend money on superfluous items or lead a luxurious life.
The following are some of the specific steps I have taken.
One, I have replaced all my incandescent light bulbs by LED light bulbs. LED lights use up to 85 percent less energy, last up to 25 times longer and are cheaper to run than incandescent lights.
Two, I have always preferred to live in condominiums with good amenities, instead of single family houses. This not only has allowed me to lower my carbon footprint but has also allowed me to spend more time with my family and on my own hobbies, such as reading and writing because I don’t have to worry about the yard work and house maintenance. I have also made it a point to match the size of dwelling to the number of occupants because bigger the size of the dwelling the bigger the carbon footprint in terms of land usage, lighting cost, heating and air conditioning cost, and maintenance cost. Right now, we live in a two-bedroom condominium because our children are grown up and have their own dwellings. Too often, people buy as big a house as they can afford for reasons of investment or peer pressure or both, while paying little or no attention to their carbon footprint. I hope I would be able to change at least a few minds.
Three, my wife and I decided to have only two children because the larger the family the bigger the carbon footprint. I grew up in India with six sisters and a brother and observed how hard it was for my mother to raise eight children, although, she did have the help of many servants, which one can afford in India but not so easily in USA.
Four, I got PG&E folks do an energy audit on my unit and had them seal all the air leaks around the doors and windows through caulking and weather stripping to minimize heat loss in the winter. I live close to the bay and that provides natural air conditioning.
Five, I always buy midsize cars because smaller cars are too unsafe and bigger cars consume too much gas. Also, I buy them brand new and keep them till they became too expensive to repair. I strongly feel that changing cars every 2-3 years, as lot of folks do, is a waste of the finite resources of our planet Earth. We bought a new hybrid car last year after driving the previous car for 17 years. I wanted to buy an electric car this time to minimize my carbon footprint but all the charging facilities in my condominium have already been rented out. Besides, I only drive 3000 miles in a year because everything is close by, which again helps me to minimize my carbon footprint.
Six, both my wife and I are vegans, which is good for the environment. Most experts agree that cutting down on meat, and red meat in particular, is a better choice for the environment. This is because the production of red meat uses lot of feed, water and land. Cows themselves also give off methane emissions (a harmful greenhouse gas).
Seven, we try to buy what we need, not what we want because needs are finite but wants are infinite. Mahatma Gandhi once famously said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed ”
Eight, we always use cloth bags while shopping and minimize usage of plastic bags.