the simplest actions have profound effects

I wrote this post for The Giving Hands a few months ago. I really liked writing it since I care deeply (although I have a long way to go in implementing my concern) about the environment and I don’t write much about it at brip blap. People took issue with my point about foam cups, but I’ll let you be the judge!


Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

Sometimes the simplest actions can have the most profound effects. A tiny nail can puncture a car tire and cause an accident. A handful of votes in Florida can change the course of history. And according to the infamous ‘Butterfly Effect’ even the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can change weather patterns across the US.

When we look at global warming, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways in which our small actions can help postpone the coming disaster. Too often people are intimidated by the enormity of global warming. Thinking of such vast and epochal changes can make our role seem insignificant or even unimportant. However, the road we are traveling down is propelled by countless individual choices, and if enough of these choices can be made for the good of the environment instead of for its harm, we may yet see some slowing of these troubling trends.

So the challenge is to help people identify the small changes they can make as a first step in the fight against global warming. Not everyone needs to attend a demonstration, or live like No Impact Man (although it couldn’t hurt to emulate a lot of what he does). Instead, try doing some of these simple steps yourself.

  • Take the stairs. The average office elevator consumes 350 watts of electricity to travel from one floor to the next, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. That’s enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 3.5 hours.
  • Unplug your chargers. According to the US EnergyStar program, the chargers for cell phones, laptops and other rechargeable devices can use up to 20 times more energy than the devices themselves! They continue to actively draw energy as long as they are plugged in, even if the device is fully charged.
  • Unhook unused devices with remote control capability. 40% of the energy used by a TV in its lifetime will be used while it’s turned off.
  • Change your thermostat. When it’s hot outside, remember that a room cooled to 75 degrees Fahrenheit uses more than 25% more energy than one cooled to 78 degrees. And when it’s cold outside, for each degree you turn down the heat while you sleep your heating bill is reduced by approximately 1 percent.
  • Turn off the water before brushing. Every time you brush your teeth you use up to 5 gallons of water if you leave the water running.
  • Take a bath. A typical bath uses about 25 gallons of water. A typical 5-minute shower uses 50. Consider installing a low-flow shower head to cut back on shower water usage.
  • Switch out ONE light bulb. Replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 pounds over the lifetime of the bulb.
  • Skip eating meat for one meal. A pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water. A pound of beef requires an amazing 10 times that much water – 2500 gallons. The massive overuse of water doesn’t include the damage to other water supplies due to runoff from animal waste.
  • Use a foam cup for your morning tea or coffee. This one is surprising, but did you know that for each time you use a foam cup, you use 1/1000th as much energy as is needed to produce one ceramic mug? That means you need to use a ceramic mug 1000 times before you are ‘breakeven’ with the energy usage of a foam cup – and that is assuming you use an EXTREMELY water-efficient dishwasher and don’t wash by hand. So if you use a foam cup for 3 cups of tea or coffee before disposing of it, it’s significantly less wasteful of energy than if you used a ceramic mug EVERY day for 8 years before it breaks or is disposed of! The energy needed to create (and wash) a ceramic mug makes it less friendly to the environment than you might think.
  • Most importantly, convince one other person to look at this list and start making changes in their lifestyle. That is the biggest step of all.