Student Question

How can we protect the environment? What are some ways of protecting and preserving the environment? 

Quick answer:

There are many ways each of us can help protect and preserve the environment, including

  • Reducing our waste production
  • Cutting back on the amount of disposable products we use
  • Recycling frequently and reusing things when we can
  • Reducing our carbon emissions by opting to bike, walk, or use public transportation
  • Lobbying for companies to stronger laws against corporate pollution
  • Educating others about climate change and the importance of caring for the environment

Expert Answers

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Protecting the environment includes the indoor environment and indoor air quality. One way to protect the indoor environment is not to bring indoors any products with surfactants in them. This means switching to safe, non-surfactant cleaners and laundry products. Another way of protecting the indoor environment is not to bring in grooming products that contain phthalates or other volatile organic chemicals or persistent organic particles in them. This means switching to safe, phthalate-free and VOC/POP-free grooming products. This also means switching from manufactured "perfume" fragrances to natural essential oil fragrances, the original perfume material.

Another way is not to bring in bleached recycled paper or plastic products. This includes most food packaging boxes, even organic ones (except for those that have switched to non-bleach/chlorine recycling process products), most meat and poultry trays and plastic wraps, most egg cartons, most ice cream cartons, most recycled school loose-leaf and notebook paper, most plastic bags. Another way is not to walk into the house with your shoes on. The EPA has determined that more than 50 percent of indoor air toxicity comes from petrochemical particulates tracked onto carpets from shoes (worsened when shoe soles are constructed from petrochemical based materials).

Draconian, drastic measures are needed to protect both the outdoor environment and the indoor environment. If our mega-scale free market system worked, we could demand unsafe materials be taken out of production and easily improve indoor air environments, but it doesn't, and we take what we are given while advertising campaigns convince us that what is given is great and the best and that which is what to covet.

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If we could convince more people to walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation, we could reduce air pollution caused by gas emissions. As technology allows more people to work from home or socialize via Skype, Facebook, and similar programs, we can hope the number of cars on the road will continue to decrease.

The article attached refers to many trends that have been identified as changes in the patterns of drivers in the United States. Some of those changes hold promise for continuing the trend, which would produce a positive impact on our environment.

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The best way for people to help the environment is to focus energy on making small, everyday changes.  For example, you can make sure that you turn off lights when you leave a room, and you recycle as often as possible.  Avoid buying Styrofoam or other environmentally unfriendly items. 

You can also make changes in your school, workplace, and family.  If your school does not have a paper recycling program, that is a great way to start.  It can be a fundraiser too.  You can help your friends and family make more environmentally conscious decisions.

The most important thing you can do is make sure to waste less.  Try not to buy things made to be thrown away. 

While recycling technically encompasses collecting, processing, and marketing, experts urge source reduction as an integral aspect of successful corporate recycling programs. (see first link)

Buy a re-usable water bottle instead of a 24 pack of disposable water bottles, for example.

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One way to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and carbon emissions - walk to school/work, or ride a bike.

Doing your daily commute on your own power is just one thing a person can do and but there are numerous benefits that stem from this little habit.  Among other things, you save money and get exercise. 

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I think the best way to protect the environment it to resist the corporate urge to make everything disposable.  In today's world you wake up and shave with a disposable razor, pour yourself a cup of coffee in a disposable mug, clean up any mess with a paper towel, and then fix a lunch in a series of plastic baggies and put it in a plastic or paper bag.  Before an average person leaves the house they the ability to create an economic catastrophe for the waste disposal system.  If people intentionally try to utilize reusable products instead of disposable ones I think very significant environmental gains could be achieved.

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What a great topic for discussion - one that we should be having on a regular basis to ensure everyone becomes exposed in some way to 'reduce, reuse, recycle'  as pointed out by "pophnei."

One of the ways to do this is through education. Children need to learn the importance of recycling, not just from their parents, but in their school environment. Learning by example is also paramount. Schools (and I know some do) and community organizations should have comprehensive programs in place to encourage and support waste management. How simple is it to rinse bottles and tins, squash them and recycle them along with newspaper and paper - especially considering the volumes of these items in schools. I know plastic is more challenging but we're overcoming that problem too - through education.

Also print less from the computer, save your e-statements to a 'stick' instead of copying them, dry your clothes naturally whenever possible ( a reliance on technology can make us lazy!!). What about turning off the TV and engaging in some good, old-fashioned conversation?? 

Some schools hear the mention of the words 'support programs' when it comes to getting involved and envisage enormous set-up costs. However, it is very inexpensive to set up programs for recycling and space is a bigger issue as waste needs to be separated. To the many schools that do already do this, that's great and it is up to parents to then ensure that the environment at home is conducive to continuing the recycling process. Again, a cheap but life-changing process!   

Repurposing is a new catch - word and can be added to the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mantra. It's exciting to see old, seemingly useless objects turned into new furniture and so on with minimal effort, a little bit of vision and without any harmful effects on the environment.

And let's not forget all the natural resources out there. It's time for

the arrogance of humanity

to have a reality check and for us all to do our own little bit.

So let's educate and innovate - even on a small scale - and make our contribution.   

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There are a number of ways in which we can do this.  Some of the best ways to do this are captured in the slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

We can reduce the amount of resources that we use on a daily basis.  We can do this by turning off lights, by setting thermostats lower in the winter, and by not driving when it is not necessary.

We can reuse things instead of throwing them away.  When we buy things like lunch meat in plastic containers with lids, we can later use the containers to store leftovers, for example.

We can recycle things instead of putting them in landfills.  This reduces the amount of landfill area that is needed and it also reduces the amount of new resources that must be extracted from the earth.

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