by John Berge
Many of us consider ourselves good stewards of our money, but how many of us are as good stewards of the environment as we could be? Frequently, the two can be the same. Take for example the use of LED (light emitting diodes) in our homes. Although they have a high initial cost, they save money and energy (relate that to fossil fuels and CO2 in the atmosphere) in the long run. Most cities are replacing all their street and traffic lights with LEDs for the economic benefit; we should be doing it in our homes for both reasons.
For environmental and ethical reasons we should be avoiding what has been labeled “Conflict Palm Oil” in our snack foods. Conflict Palm Oil is palm oil produced through practices that cause rainforest destruction, human rights violations and massive climate pollution, most significantly in Borneo and the East Indies. Maybe it would be better for our health if we cut back on all snacks containing palm oil and grabbed some fresh fruit instead.
It is good environmental stewardship to cut back on the paper we use, but also to increase the amount of paper and cardboard that we recycle. The USA produced 20,700,000 tons of paper products last year, but only 53% of that was recycled. There are some restrictions on what type of paper the city’s recycler will accept, but other than that, no paper should be filling up our landfills. There are other types of recyclables that also should be kept out of the trash and the landfills, but that is another column.
When purchasing home furnishings and appliances, clothing and other consumer products, one should not only consider the immediate costs, but the environmental and ethical costs of raw materials and manufacture, energy costs when in use, and costs to the environment for disposal. Numerical analysis of these costs are probably beyond the capabilities of each of us, but a reasonable consideration of these factors is quite within our abilities and should lead us in the right direction and to a right decision. The energy-efficient refrigerator and the gas-guzzling automobile are two examples on each side of the equation.
And speaking of the automobile, we should be leaving it in the garage and walking or biking on nearby errands. I will leave it to each person to define nearby for themselves based on their age, physical condition, need for exercise and other factors. But I am sure that nearby can be significantly farther than we have assumed for most of us. I am frequently astounded by people who drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill.