Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging Green

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is the environment. Today thousands of bloggers across the net are writing about environmental topics and concerns. Not to sound like the old cliche, but I really did grow up in a log cabin in the woods--in Vermont, along a dirt road, out of sight of neighbors and miles from the nearest store. Vermont has very little zoning regulation, and as I've watched housing developments and parking lots and Wal-Marts threaten my hometown, I've grown very passionate about environmental issues.

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to the environment. I never feel smaller or more ineffectual than when thinking about issues like global warming--it's easy to give up before I start, thinking I'm just one person and what difference can I possibly make?

I think that environmental activists would say, however, that as one person you're definitely making a negative difference by choosing to do nothing. And I also know that it's no good to look at the Big Picture when setting goals--you have to set goals that are possible for you on a day to day basis. So for Blog Action Day, I'm writing up a list of three easy, relatively cheap things you can do as a freelance writer to make a difference.

Work from home. As a work-from-home freelancer, you're already more environmentally friendly than most office workers. Every day, millions of people drive to work, putting about 333 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yearly. By choosing not to drive to work every day, you are keeping a few tons of carbon dioxide out of the air and significantly reducing your own carbon footprint.

Recycle your office paper--and buy recycled paper. About 41% of solid waste in America is paper. In an office, paper makes up about 80% of that waste. It's a common misconception that recycled paper isn't appropriate for office use--it's thick and discolored and crumbly. But in fact, you can buy 100% recycled paper from Staples that looks exactly like ordinary printer and copy paper. The only difference is the price: it's slightly more expensive.

You are doing the world a favor by choosing to buy recycled paper for your office. For every ton of paper you use, you'll be saving about 17 trees. You'll also reduce the demand for paper made from scratch. This is good for several reasons.

Paper companies don't always harvest wild trees to make paper. Much of the time, they replant the forests they cut down. Sounds good, right? Well...not really. Tree farms often cut down older, diverse forests with established ecosystems, replacing them with a few species of trees that grow quickly and are great for making paper--usually softwoods. But the surrounding ecosystem was adapted to a naturally diverse forest of trees--and without them, it can fail.

By buying recycled paper, you also keep paper out of landfills. It's true that paper is biodegradable. But when it rots, it produces methane--a greenhouse gas twenty times worse than carbon dioxide. There's no doubt that the millions of tons of paper in our landfills is contributing to global warming.

Recycling paper also takes less energy--and emits less pollution--than creating it from scratch. Every ton of recycled paper saves approximately 8,000 gallons of water, plus three to four thousand kilowatt-hours of energy. Recycling paper also puts out 95% less air pollution than manufacturing paper from scratch.

So recycle your office paper--and buy recycled paper. This way, you can help reduce the demand for paper made from scratch, increase the demand for recycled paper, save natural forests, reduce global warming, help preserve natural ecosystems....whew! If that doesn't convince you to recycle paper, I don't know what will.

Use energy efficient bulbs. Simply by using compact fluorescent bulbs, you can save 50% to 90% of the energy used by incandescents. Using energy efficient bulbs saves about a ton of carbon dioxide. It's a smart economic choice, too. Over its lifetime, a compact fluorescent bulb will pay for itself, even though it's more expensive on the supermarket shelf.

Forget making big sacrifices, cutting the cord and living off the land--if just one person does that, it won't make much difference. But if every household in America simply replaced one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent, we could reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as we could by removing 1.3 million cars from the road. Now that's change.

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