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Making a Difference: Five High-Impact Ways to Reduce Our Planetary Impact

Ashwani Vasishth

1. World View: Change How We Think, Before We Think

• Pay attention, to context and to consequence. Consider where things come from, what it takes to get them to us, and where they will go when we are done with them.

• Happiness is the highest form of Prosperity. Explicitly consider what it means to be “better off”

• Sufficiency. Consciously think about how much is enough, for yourself.

2. Transportation: Travel Lightly Upon the Land

• Walk the short trips. Cars put out 80% of their air pollution in the first mile of a 20 mile trip—it takes that long to get your catalytic converter warmed up to operating temperature. So, if a trip is less than one mile, consider walking or biking.

• Drive to economize. Cars use the most fuel when accelerating and decelerating. Drive to minimize braking and speeding up.

• Watch the speed limit. Cars operate most effectively between 55 and 60 miles per hour. Drive as close to that speed as you can possibly bring yourself to do.

3. Economy: Localize Our Life

• Shop local, whenever you can. Money spent locally, stays longer within your community and generates a multiplier effect. Money spent at a large chain store leaves the region, even the State, every night, never to return.

• Use less stuff. In general, model the principle of sufficiency

• Compare cost and price. Most things cost more than their price. Gasoline, for example, really does cost society more than the price we pay at the pump—in health care, and pollution.

4. Food: Eat Our Way to A Sustainable Future

• Eat Less Meat. Of all the foods, meat has the highest ecological footprint. The less meat you eat, the better off you leave the planet.

• Eat Seasonal. Out-of-season foods usually come from far-away places, and have larger food miles attached to them. Whenever you can, buy from Farmers Markets, or join a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) in your area. This is a good way to ensure you are eating both locally and seasonally

• Grow something. Try to grow at least some of your food—even if its just herbs.

5. Energy: Conservation Is Conservative

• Weatherize your home. Use the subsidies and incentives available to you to improve the energy efficiency of your house.

• Bundle up in the winter. Wear sweaters indoors, to use less heat.

• Use fans instead of air conditioning. As much as you can, use less air conditioning.

6. Water: Go With the Flow

• Avoid bottled water. Use filtered tap water instead, as much as you can.

• Turn off the tap. Don’t let water run, unless you are actually using it.

• Turn your lawn into a garden. Gardens are prettier than turf grass, and if you choose native plants, use less water.