Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ecological Footprint Quiz

Numerous people like me have never paid attention to the term “Ecological Footprint”. In fact, I had no idea what the term exactly meant and consequently did not know what my social responsibilities to the world are. When I took the quiz and saw the result I was shocked “IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 5.3 PLANETS”. I started to think over my life style. How many miles I drive every day to school? How many hours I use my computer at home per day? How many minutes I am in the shower? Why I do not use locally grown vegetables and fruits? I waited for a couple of days before taking the next quiz. I wanted to be more realistic and implement some of the changes that were recommended in the website and also gain some experience with my new lifestyle before taking the exam again. Although I had made some improvements the result was still below my expectations. “IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 2.7 PLANETS”. This taught me that, there are still several changes that I need to make in my life to use the available resources more efficiently. Perhaps, one of the most important things in our life is to feel more responsible about our environment. In addition, we all need to find a way to help keep and maintain the natural resources in our surrounding instead of wasting and damaging them. I personally think reducing the ecological footprint and acting economically is not as hard as we may think. It is a good idea to start from small things in our life to make big changes.

Controlling heating and cooling system is a simple approach to reduce energy consumption. We use our natural resources faster than they can be generated. I would not support a Stone Age way of life, but we can further utilize passive systems using natural forces such as wind, solar, etc to heat and cool our residences. Keeping windows closed and using thick curtain is also suggested for cold days and vice versa. Combination of solar energy with other types of heating system can dramatically decrease the level of energy loss. In other hand, by using solar systems we truly can save hundreds of dollars and be part of environment conservation family.

Using of compact florescent lamps (CFLs) is a simple idea to save more energy too. They last much longer than other lamp and use less energy. A recent research by the City of Phoenix shows that replacing at least one bulb with CFL’s in 571000 homes and businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 251 million pounds over the life of the bulb. It will also reduce energy consumption by more than 159 million Kwh and results in $16 million saving in energy costs (per year). The conserved energy would be enough to light 91,000 homes for a year.

Some plastic bags are not recyclable and they cause an irreversible damage to environment. They take too long to decompose and fill up landfills. Several grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Sprouts offer reusable bags for shopping. This is a practical method to stay away from plastics bags. As a good example plastic bags are not offered in grocery store in Europe which encourages people to use reusable bags.

To produce papers for magazines, newspapers, bank statements, etc, valuable natural resources such as trees have to be used. Nowadays, technology can help prevent wasting papers and provide a more efficient and eco-friendly way to exchange information and limit our use of paper. Most banks and big companies provide online services without charge and the customers can receive and review their statements online or via email instead of paper statements. It is understandable that not everyone may be able to access or use these services but their contribution to papers and magazines recycling is still valuable.

Producing more organic food (to eliminate the addition of pesticide, antibiotic, etc to the soil) would result in a healthier lifestyle and also help keep the soil cleaner. Adding more vegetarian meals to our daily diets would also result in a healthier lifestyle. In fact, there are lots of substitutes for meat that could replace it without causing lack of vitamins or proteins in the body. Supporting local farms and markets, purchasing unpacked, unprocessed, organic and sustainable grown are other practical ideas to help the planet and ourselves.

In addition, one of the most important changes we can make in our personal life is to be more efficient in commuting. Riding on a bus, train, or other public transportation means, biking and walking (if possible) are some of the changes we can consider to include in our daily life.

As a matter of fact we waste more natural resources than the earth provides us and it is not late to change our behavior. It takes hundreds or even thousands years for our planet to regenerate the resources that we are consuming. “If everybody lives like me, we would need more planets” is a heartbreaking truth. In fact we are spending resources faster than they are produced.

In the couple of day gap between two quizzes I attempted to consider some of those changes in my habits and everyday life. Although the quiz result was still showing that I need to do more I was already feeling more useful to myself and the community. Using bus and walking to school was a brilliant plan. To stop wasting plastic bags in my grocery shopping I bought two reusable shopping bags and added an extra trash can for paper recycling. I switched some of the old light bulbs with CFL’s to save more energy and money. In addition, I started to practice some new habits in my life such as optimizing the amount of water used during the shower and laundry time.

This quiz and my research about it had a big influence on my perspective in using natural resources. My philosophy is everyone can make positive impact to the planet and change it to a greener place to live. It is amazing to realize that how making small changes to our lives and habits can lead us to a better utilization of resources. Beside that, we are responsible for the next generations. As a big gift to them and the world we can educate them the recycling process and how to appreciate and respect the nature and try to use the resources more efficiently.

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