Monday, December 12, 2011

7 Billion and Counting

With the world population now at 7 billion, what can we do to have a greener, more sustainable life style? When I heard this question recently*, I  wanted to share my thoughts on it. After all, what could be more sensible than protecting the only planet we have? My thought was the environmental slogan "reduce, reuse, recycle," but on reflection we can and should do more.

Reduce

This thought can be expressed with another slogan "do more with less." Although usually used to justify budget cuts, the thought can guide us here. If we reduce our usage of something, say  a plastic water bottle, we don't need to figure out what to do with it later. Some water distributors have redesigned their bottles to have less plastic in them. As consumers, we can and should reward efforts like this.

We can do our part more directly. By planning our day to be more effective, we can reduce personal consumption without impacting life style.

Reuse

We might not want to refill bottled water, but aluminum thermos bottles offer a highly reuseable way to approach this problem. If you don't want to refill the plastic bottle, can you find another use for the bottle itself?

Recycle

Plastic water bottles are the poster child for recycling. We can and should take the effort to see that they get directed into recycling systems.

Rethink

The point of buying bottled water in the first place is reliable, portable clean water. If we work to make tap water cleaner, we might be willing to reuse or even abandon the bottles. In the meantime, Brita is selling bottles with their filter built in, rethinking the concept of reuse. Reduce, reuse,and recycle can mitigate a problem but only rethinking can really solve one,

Remember

A more sustainable life style improves the quality of life for everyone. Everyone can and should help. If you think you can afford to just toss that bottle away, you don't understand the rest cost.

A poster child puts a face on a problem, allowing us to connect with the problem in a way that would be otherwise unavailable. We can't foresee the consequences of many of our actions, but we should be guided by probable consequences we can see. 

Make a list of things you can and will do right now to to make the world a better, more sustainable place. This should be an action list, not a wish list.    With 7 billion of us and counting, this should create many ideas and a lot of results.

* I heard this question, and some answers, at a Toastmasters Table Topics contest. Contestants are asked  a question and challenged to give a one to two minute answer without preparation. It is a great exercise in extemporaneous speaking. You can learn more about Toastmasters at http://www.toastmasters.org

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