The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Save the Earth—and Recycling’s NOT One of Them E-mail
Monday, 02 August 2010 00:00  |  Written by Rick Theis | Article

Tree in Hand photo by Kevin O'MaraNo question about it, recycling is a great way to help the environment. But it seems to get all the press. There are other even more impactful things you can do. Many are actions that leverage your individual efforts, giving them a far-reaching effect—through space and time. Even better, they improve not only the ecology, but your own quality of life and happiness. As a bonus, most save you money, too. Here’s a countdown of the top ten:

10. Knowledge Is Power – Find an ecology site that you enjoy and trust. Get on its mailing list. Visit it daily to keep up on environmental news, increase your eco skills and gain inspiration. Develop an eco support group. Spread the green word to family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Don’t be afraid to disagree with those spouting anti-environmental views. Chances are, these folks are simply misinformed. See also EcoHearth RSS and eNewsletter Sign-Up.

9. Keep It Local – Trade locally. This means buying foods and other goods produced nearby. And don’t forget that the most local you can get is to create what you need yourself. The easiest and most fun example is to have your own garden. All of this helps minimize your carbon footprint while supporting your local community and economy. See also Think Global, Munch Local.

8. Don’t Be All Wet – The impending water crisis is likely to dwarf the present oil crisis. Already a third of all people lack access to clean drinking water. Only 1% of Earth’s water is safe and available for humans to use. Respect nature’s water cycle by neither wasting nor polluting it. Try to minimize your use of toxic chemicals and properly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals so they don’t end up in our groundwater. See also Fresh Water Supplies At Risk.

7. Veg Out – Meat and its byproducts require much more water, land and energy to produce—and they cause more pollution—than fruits and vegetables supplying the same nutrients. By its nature, factory farming increases the risk of food-borne disease. And let’s not forget the inhumane conditions that animals endure on factory farms. Also, be sure to eat organic so that you aren’t helping to inject dangerous pesticides, herbicides and other toxins into the environment—and yourself. See also Mother Nature Loves a Vegan.

6. Rely on Renewables – Try to use renewable energy (primarily wind, sun and geothermal) or human power, rather than nonrenewables (oil, natural gas, nuclear, etc.). Use less energy by unplugging appliances when not in use and eliminating nonessential devices. If available, choose to purchase your home’s power from a renewable source. See also Power to the People: Human-Powered Gadgets for Camp and Home.

5. Poli Sci 101 – Besides making the appropriate changes to your lifestyle, actively support and vote for eco candidates and issues—everything from local parks and bike lanes to international environmental initiatives like cap and trade. Sign petitions, visit, call, write letters and emails, etc., to the media, government reps and industry decision makers to express your views. See also EcoHearth’s Action Alerts and Lobby Guide.

4. Walk the Walk – Walk, bike or take the train, trolley, subway or bus, rather than a taxi or private car. You’ll improve your health as well as the environment. Cars are one of the biggest contributors to CO2 and thus to global climate change. If you must drive, carpool or  buy a hybrid or electric vehicle—or one that runs on renewable energy. See also World-Class Mass Transit: The Top Cities Around the Globe.

3. Make Love, Not Waste – In simple terms, the number of people times the quantity they consume is equal to the amount of environmental degradation. Fortunately, happiness is about quality of relationships, not quantity of possessions. It comes from fulfilling personal relationships, not the accumulation of stuff. Think of consuming less as making more space in your life for the truly important things. See also How to Stop Buying, Find Eternal Happiness and Save the Earth.

2. No Need to Breed – Most experts agree that the human population has long exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. Overpopulation exacerbates all of our other ecological problems—climate change, habitat loss, species extinction, disease, drought, famine, etc.—and cause severe reductions in the quality of life for us and our progeny. This should be considered when family planning. Those who choose not to procreate can still be a significant part of children’s lives in their communities or through adoption. See also The Five-Year Baby Ban.

1. Keep the Faith – The most important thing is not to get discouraged or give up. Our environment is under threat because of an erroneous view of our place in the universe. We must realize we are not on the Earth, but of the Earth. This will require a shift in consciousness and won’t happen overnight. Don’t beat yourself up for not immediately doing everything you know you should—and to the nth degree. It takes time to change habits. Keep environmentalism in mind and it will filter down more and more to your actions. And don’t be frustrated by the anti-environmental chatter ubiquitous in the corporate media. Once enough individuals change, society will change and media messages will become increasingly supportive of eco lifestyles. See also EcoHearth’s Eco Heroes section for inspiration.

The faster we make changes in ourselves, the faster the world will change. You can get started now by choosing just one area from the list above on which to focus your efforts. Then regularly review the list, get ideas from your favorite eco sites and choose other areas to internalize. Of course, don’t forget to keep recycling, too.

[Do you agree with the order of the list? Is there an issue you think should have been included? Please comment below. - Ed.]

Comments (3)add
Written by Donna Tunstall , March 18, 2011
In response to No Need to Breed. "Experts" views on overpopulation are overstated. I've seen the facts. Let us not promote a culture of death for the human race. Life is holy and precious and should not be limited to a few. Let people treat sex as a sacred act between husband and wife. Our culture encourages sex as a right to self gratification anytime, any place, between anyone without any thought of personal responsibility.
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Written by jjt , August 23, 2010
I'd add: try to get educational institutions to add ecology-related items almost everywhere in their curricula from home economics and psychology to math, history and phys-ed.
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Written by JimmyD , August 02, 2010
Well thought out prioritization! I like that consumption and breeding are near the top of the list. They are the root of most other problems. If we had less people who consumed less, even if we weren't strict in terms of environmental compliance, the Earth could deal with it. However, as it stands we are overwhelming the Earth's natural processes to clean itself.
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