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August is just around the corner, meaning summer is in full swing.
Although most of us are focused on trying to stay cool and beat the heat, the season also brings many opportunities to be environmentally friendly and make a difference, too.
Throughout my interactions with people in my time as an environmental biologist, I’ve found that many are so overwhelmed at the state our planet is in, things start to feel hopeless. This frustration only escalates during the summer when so much water and energy go to waste.
There’s no way around it—we’re responsible for the state of the earth. It’s our job to fix it.
This shouldn’t be cause for panic, though. Instead, we need to work together and adjust our lifestyles.
The following are a few pieces of advice I’ve tried to incorporate into my own life.
Start Walking More
It’s no secret that the summers can get hot, and while it’s easier to hop in your car and opt for a short ride over biking or walking to your destination, it’s also more damaging to the environment.
Instead, I’m being more intentional about planning my day. I’ll save trips for the early morning or the evening so I can beat the heat for a more manageable trip. This also helps me feel less rushed. If your destination is too far away for a walk, check to see which public transportation options are available.
Garden With a Purpose
Exotic plants are beautiful and can add a unique flair to your home, but they can also be incredibly difficult, requiring lots of water or disrupting the local ecosystem.
This year, try planting with a purpose and grow a garden full of native plants. Not only will they create a habitat for native fauna, but they also require less water, which helps reduce our water footprint.
With a garden, you can even grow your own food! This way, you’ll be able to eat your own produce instead of buying it from the store, where it’s amassed a large carbon footprint being transported across the state or country from farms to stores, harming the environment.
Local fauna are also an important part of your garden. Honeybees, for example, are not native to California. Leafcutter bees, on the other hand, are. I’ve found that you can encourage these bees to stick around by installing native leafcutter bee houses. Support a local shop if you can find one, or source out a DIY option (with upcycled materials if possible).
Stop Wasting Water
Summer is the time of year when the most water goes to waste, and with the pools, backyard games, and cool showers, it’s easy to see why. In my home state of California, droughts are common, meaning that conserving water is especially important. Although we are drought-free for the first time in seven years, it is all of our responsibility to pitch in and make sure we avoid such an occurrence again in the future.
Taking on so much responsibility to protect our communities, states, and the planet can be overwhelming, but I’ve found that it’s best to start small. This can be as simple as taking shorter showers and remembering to turn off the faucet as you brush your teeth or shave. Other good steps are to limit sprinkler usage and collect rainwater in rain barrels.
Think about how much paper you use on a daily basis: from taking notes to sending mail, we still use paper for nearly everything, even in a digital world. While recycling paper is great, lately, I’ve been working on cutting back on my overall paper usage.
With most bills and statements available online these days, we often don’t really need a paper copy if we already have a virtual one. Calling your billing company to request that they stop sending you snail mail only takes a few minutes. This is also true for many other paper and magazine subscriptions—go digital!
Reduce Electricity Usage
It’s important to unplug your devices when they’re not in use throughout the year, but you also want to make sure that, in the summertime, you’re turning off whatever you’re using to stay cool during the summer, too.
Powering down and unplugging your fans and air conditioners when you don’t need them or aren’t home can help reduce energy usage, both helping the planet and saving you some extra money.
It’s up to us to be mindful of our water, paper, and electricity consumption this summer. By taking small steps like these every day, we’ll be able to help make a difference in the security of our planet.