A Better Earth Starts at Home This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

We all have concerns that consume our busy schedules, but the global state of the environment has the greatest impact on all of us by far. Global warming, or climate change, is the increase in the Earth's average air and ocean temperature due to human activity including deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and chemical and biological waste. These activities emit carbon dioxide, which corrodes the ozone layer – part of the Earth's atmosphere that absorbs the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Without the ozone layer, the ultraviolet rays can not only damage our skin, but all forms of life. However, preventing deterioration of our ozone layer can be simple – and inexpensive – when you begin at home.

For example, to help reduce electricity use, turn off the lights when leaving a room and unplug electronics like cell phone chargers. Unplugging unused electronics is important, ­because the items still draw in electricity even when they're not in use. For larger electrical appliances, like televisions or computers, plug them into a power strip, which can hold several appliances at once, and has an on/off switch that you can easily flip to cut energy.

Many common household items can be recycled. Plastic soda bottles and cans can be rinsed and brought to a local ­supermarket for a five-cent refund. Glass or ­aluminum beer bottles and cans can be collected and taken to a local redemption center. Many cities and towns also schedule curbside collection days, where a ­recycling program collects bottles, cans, newspaper, and cardboard.

If you use plastic shopping bags, bring them to a store to recycle along with your bottles and cans. Even ­better, eliminate paper or plastic shopping bags altogether, and purchase reusable canvas shopping ones. Some stores will deduct five cents from your order for each reusable bag used.

When shopping, be aware of what you buy. Buying organic and local products cuts down on the chemicals that are used to keep produce fresh. You can tell how the produce was grown by looking at its sticker; a conventionally grown piece of fruit has a sticker with four numbers, while an organic piece of fruit has five numbers and starts with a nine. Buying from local farmers also cuts down on the emissions used to transport the produce. You can also choose products that come in bags instead of plastic packages. If buying the item in a bag is not an option, when you're done with the plastic container, recycle it.

Looking for more things to recycle? If you have a yard, start a compost pile. Any food waste, from coffee grounds to eggshells, can be composted. Make a special container for the waste; when it's decomposed, it becomes a mulch that is less expensive and better for the environment than the chemical mulch you can buy. Coffee grounds are really great for rose bushes, too! In the fall, when your lawn is covered with leaves and pine needles, rake them up and run them over with the lawn mower, and decompose them with the compost for mulch.

All of these things are inexpensive and will help the environment. They're not as extreme as installing solar panels or buying the latest fuel-efficient car, but in the long run they will save money and the environment.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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FantasyNight said...
Jun. 30, 2010 at 11:40 pm
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