Supported by Ara Chackerian
For centuries, few distinct groups of people thought about the environment on a global scale. Now that we have an understanding of how human actions impact our ecosystem, most people understand the importance of eco-health and want to treat the planet better. Below are some of the innovative ways that businesses and other organizations are trying to protect our environment in 2017.
1.Parting With Plastic
More businesses are swearing off plastic cups, utensils, bags and straws. The Lonely Whale Foundation has initiated the #StopSucking challenge, which asks consumers to give up disposable plastic straws. Americans waste 500 million plastic straws on a daily basis. That sounds like a lot, but it’s only a small portion of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic that rests in our waters and landfills. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
Plastic products provide us with convenience, but there are usually better alternatives that serve the same purpose. For example, reusable metal straws are becoming popular. Reusable bags, water bottles and coffee mugs also save tons of waste from landfills each year.
2. Switching to Renewable Energy
Now that energy companies are finally moving toward using more sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar power, some are providing incentives for customers to make the switch. Depending on where you live, Green Mountain Energy may be able to help you go renewable even if you currently use another energy provider.
3.Creating New Coral
The world’s waters are getting warmer, which is killing coral across the globe. Because they are so vital to underwater ecosystems, the loss of coral reefs is causing chaos in our oceans. Fortunately, some smart scientists have created genetically engineered corals that are stronger than the species that are dying off, so hopefully we can repopulate the ocean floor.
4. Floating Wind Power
The best place to harness wind power is in the middle of the ocean, which is why floating wind farms will soon start popping up. The first one is currently in development off of Scotland’s coast, and about 40 more are in the works around the world. Of course, these structures could have a negative impact on nearby wildlife, so there must be measures put in place to protect aquatic animals.
5. Using Drones to Monitor the Environment
Many people associate drones with things like government airstrikes or surveillance, but they many actually have some positive uses. In New York, unmanned aircrafts are helping workers monitor oil spills and wildlife activity to help preserve natural habitats.
The Department of Environmental Conservation currently has a fleet of 22 drones patrolling New York’s skies. In addition to identifying oil spills in Staten Island, the drones have the ability to also track the growth of an invasive plant species across 200 acres of St. Lawrence County wetlands. Thanks to thermal sensors, they can also uncover subterranean bat hibernation sites during the snowy winters.
6. Carbon Footprint Calculators
Organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have developed calculators to help you determine the size of your carbon footprint. By providing information about how you get around, how much energy you consume and what your shopping habits are like, you can know within minutes how you compare to others. Such calculators also provide advice for how to lessen your personal impact on the environment.
7. Offsetting Air Travel
Planes pump far more carbon into the air than vehicles, which is why airline companies are offering environmentally conscious customers ways to “offset” their trips. For example, some carriers allow flyers to donate a tree or contribute part of their plane ticket toward renewable energy initiatives. Jet Blue, American Airlines, and Delta all participate in such programs. If an airline doesn’t offer offsets, you can always purchase one from Native Energy or Cool Effect.
8. Petitioning Government Officials
Individuals are encouraged to lobby their local, state and federal representatives to support environmental initiatives such as protecting public lands and investing in clean energy. Calling public officials directly is the best way to go about it, but organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund also have online form letters that you can send to congress. Don’t forget to add a personal touch in the form of a message about why environmental protection is important to you.