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Blog item: A Simple List: Things We Can All Do

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23 comments, last: Sep-28-2013   Add a comment   Author:  PT (Mar-3-2009)    Play a Video
Categories: Philosophical & Quality of Life, Pollution, Sustainable Living, Wildlife and Nature

Don't waste stuff!In this list of effective things to do to help the planet, each item gives one or more examples of how to implement; for example, cutting back on gasoline use can be done in a number of ways.  Every person will find some practical ideas here:

- work at home or locally, walk or use a bicycle, use mass transit, car pool, use an efficient car
- change careers to be greener
- use solar panels or wind power, or other renewable energy (costs may come down in near future)
- reduce consumption of unneeded goods, re-use or buy second-hand, recycle
- use CFL or LED bulbs, insulate home, turn thermostat down in winter, up in summer
- avoid animal products (meat/dairy), eat in-season local foods, & organic or all-natural
- for all purchases, seek those made with natural materials, with less packaging
- avoid plastics; carry cloth or re-usable shopping bags with you
- avoid toxic chemicals; use natural & water-based items (fertilizer, paint, cleaners...)
- limit family size, home size
- vote for responsible candidates, sign petitions, attend meetings
- raise awareness among family, friends and colleagues

Related reading:
  From Farm To Fork (Feb-1-2014)
  Lima, Peru Becomes A GMO-Free Zone (Jun-24-2011)
  Female Babies In China Growing Breasts (Aug-14-2010)
  Resistance Is Ripe! Agriculture Action Day (Dec-15-2009)
  The Food Safety 'Modernization' Act of 2009: Tro... (Mar-13-2009)
  Organic Farming - The Way Forward (Sep-12-2008)
  Government Marketing of Organics - in the EU (Aug-4-2008)

Click one tag to see readings related specifically to that tag; click "Tags" to see all related readings
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Comment by: City Worker (Sep-28-2013)   
I have been wondering: are there any instances where it makes sense to cut down trees to build solar panels? Say, for instance, a few acres in the middle of several acres, not in a species-rich area, where no alternative energy is being used? I wonder which has a higher priority.
Comment by: City Worker (Apr-27-2009)   

Regarding putting something near the front door --- like reusable shopping bags -- to make sure I bring them to the car: this seems to work for me, a bit. Although if I hang the shopping bags on the front door knob, I have, at least on one occassion, turned the knob (with a bit of difficulty) forgetting why they are there, and left without the shopping bags (yeah, it really has happened). But, if I strew the area in front of the door with the bags, making it necessary for me to either step on top of them (which I don't like to do) or pick them up (which actually requires me to take pause) I then seem to remember to bring the bags to the car.
Comment by: City Worker (Apr-25-2009)   

In order to make sure I have resuseable shopping bags with me when I do lots of shopping, I leave shopping bags in the truck of my car, and in order to remember to take them out of the trunk of my car, if I know I'll need them soon, I put one or two in the passenger seat, so I'll see them as I leave the car. (And the ones that can be made very compact work well when I am doing a small amount of shopping, because I can carry them with me most of the time.)
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Apr-25-2009)   Web site

@AG, your sense of humor is showing.... oh, you were serious...
@Wind, if you try long enough, eventually the cloth/reusable bag habit does become effective. One trick I use is that as soon as I unload the food from the bag(s), I put them near the front door so I remember to take them out.
Comment by:  wind (Wind) (Apr-25-2009)   Web site

I have found that carrying my shopping bags with me was a difficult habit to get into. I could remember to bring them into the store, but I could never remember to get them into the car! Walgreens has shopping bags for $1 that zip up into small little compacted bags. I carry those in my purse. It helps me remember :)
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Apr-23-2009)   

Or at midnight: when the pitchforks and torches start weaving their way up the estate driveways.....
Comment by: Steven Earl SALMONY (Apr-23-2009)   

Saving the Earth and life as we know it will not be difficult at the moment the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us, the ones possessing a lion's share of the world's wealth as well as bought-and-paid-for powermongers, decide to regard the Earth and its environs at least as important as the status, privileges, wealth and power which are derived from their conscious manipulation of the global economy for their and their cronies' selfish interests.
Comment by: SanDiegan (Apr-22-2009)   

What a wonderful website. Thank you, David, for spending so much of your time to keep it going. I can always find good suggestions, discussions, and information here!
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-6-2009)   Web site

Perhaps robots are the new zombie. I live on a second floor, and fortunately robots hate climbing stairs.

Seriously, I think a lot of people (although obviously still a minority) are considering what is a safe place to live in case there is a breakdown of social order in the future. It seems the only hope would lie in being part of a strong, successful community that can grow its own food.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Mar-5-2009)   Web site

Forget zombies. It's the robots we've got to worry about. They're getting cleverer and sneakier by the day.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-5-2009)   

Though I grow veggies on my farm, I still ordered this:

Two reasons: 1. Because I like the varieties listed, and 2. Because it is preset for survival storage (just in case I can't get seed or if I have to move in a hurry when the zombies show up, and I don't want to try sorting through my shelves at the last minute). In intend to use some now and refill it for later.

I think the 1 acre claim is highly variable, though, depending on how intensively you garden. The better you can organize and concentrate your garden for optimum use of space, the fewer weeds and less water is wasted.

I am also thinking of offering some of my land for community gardening this year. It will be hard scrabble clay, but close to road access and a surface water source. Good for tomatoes, anyway.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-5-2009)   

The problem I see with dishwashers is this:

When you consider the lack of effectiveness, and that you generally have to run the dishes past the dog before putting them in the dishwasher, then the debate over whether hand washing is less efficient is moot.

Sometimes, it's a synergistic issue: Did you need to use that many dishes in the first place? Do you need to wash a glass that you only used for water? Do you need really hot water for washing dishes?

As someone who spent the first 17 years of my life washing milking machines and carrying buckets of hot water for my mom's Maytag, I can tell you that no machine is more efficient in nature's eyes than humans doing things for themselves. Especially when you consider the cost of disposal of the dishwasher. All you really need is a bucket. The rest is a luxury.
Comment by: LizMcLellan (Liz McLellan) (Mar-5-2009)   Web site

Start a yardshare group with your friends, family and neighbors - start growing food together...

OR be an angel and send a garden in the mail to a newbie gardener at The Great Let's Get Growing Seed Share
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

On dishwashers, well a Web search throws up quite a lot of controversy. Most bloggers seem to come down on the side of the dishwasher, although many reference the same suspect research from the University of Bonn. It seems to depend on the efficiency of the dishwasher, how one uses it and how one washes dishes by hand. Water usage, energy usage and the energy used to manufacture the dishwasher all come into it.

From tomorrow I'll have a solar water heater (yippee!) so I'm going to continue washing by hand and then pouring the dirty water on the vegetable patch. Perhaps for others it's not such a simple choice.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

Here is another one, that may have been Braun-sponsored. From Germany.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

It was not Braun. I can not find the research right now, but this article states that a dishwasher is MORE efficient:

Are they peddling dishwashers on behalf of those whom they "regulate"? Who knows?
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

Yes. I understand the research was carried out by Braun, a dishwasher manufacturer, and compared the performance of the optimally loaded dishwasher to hand-washing under fast-running hot water (ie, instead of using a bowl). I remain to be convinced!
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

Thanks WH - just be aware that, depending on technique, research shows a dishwasher CAN be more efficient than hand washing.
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

Lots of important tips here, so thank you David for the list - and Rona and Auntie Grav for the comments.

Of course, the list could be expanded to 100s or even 1,000s of items, but I would perhaps add:

* Hang clothes out to dry instead of using a spin or tumble dryer.
* Wash dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher.
* Install a solar water heater. (At this time, they are much more efficient than solar panels that generate electricity.)

On driving, there are also ways to reduce fuel consumption without changing your car. Some ideas are listed here:

All of this is helpful, but for the most part following this advice will mean that we as individuals do LESS HARM rather than actually doing GOOD.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

And I have now added an important one: limit family size (and home size).

I must say, AG, that hitting people over the head with a hammer will slow their consumption, but may have other adverse effects, no? I think that self-restraint is clearly a major aspect of this list, so perhaps that is good as it stands.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

Thanks AG and GG for the additional ideas. I had limited time to order all of this to perfection, but I agree that work at home or in walking distance is best, if you can do it, so I changed the order now. And GG, being healthy and eating less is certainly valuable for one's health, but I am not sure it is of a piece with environmental action... possibly.
Comment by:  Greengecko (Rona) (Mar-3-2009)   Web site

All good stuff...

Can I add something special for Earth Hour ( and use natural medicines and natural methods to stay fit and healthy - including good diet and exercise, of course!

We Brits have almost 2 million diabetes sufferers in a population of around 60 million. Most of that is adult onset diabetes caused by poor diet and lifestyle. Modern medicine has a massive carbon footprint, I believe.

Boycott palm oil products which come from Indonesian rainforest areas which have been cleared to grow the stuff - it's in so many supermarket products. We are losing both the natural carbon sinks which rainforests are and precious species such as orang utans.

Lastly - and many people will find this one hard - don't fly. Flights account for a massive amount of carbon emissions - around 4% I believe.

I'm sure there are lots more ... join the transition town movement, support Avaaz and, Greenpeace... local wildlife organisations. Still, we've got to live, so we can't drive ourselves totally mad!
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Mar-3-2009)   

There is a reason that it goes in this order: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."
The first 10 suggestions should be ways to reduce. Instead of "use mass transit", the first thought should be "stay home".
Instead of "use CFL's (check into the dangers of these things, though!)", it should be "turn off the lights and go to bed when it's dark".
Trying to come up with 'sustainable' ways to maintain our current overconsumption is orders of magnitude harder to deal with than simply reducing our use of resources. Most of the things we use or do can be done without or replaced with local sourced items. There is a huge gap between what people THINK they need and what they actually do need, and then there is the uphill battle to climb out of the 'freedom' hole: where everyone had to buy their own individual BBQ grill, washing machines, televisions, cars, trucks, lawns, houses, etc.
Putting the commons back in common won't happen without a failure of the System of marketing systems.

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About author/contributor Member: PT (David Alexander) PT (David Alexander)
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Member: PT (David Alexander) My lifelong pursuit, since age 18, has been to live more fully and find wisdom. This has involved studies with Zen masters, Tai Chi masters, and great psychotherapists while achieving my license as a gestalt therapist and psychoanalyst.

Along the way, I became aware of how the planet is under great stress due to the driven nature of human activity on this planet.

I believe that the advancement of human well-being will reduce societies addictive behaviors, and will thus also help preserve the environment and perhaps slow down the effects of global warming and other major threats to the health of human societies.

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