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Friday, 23 July 2010

Be Bright Green and E-Cool.

We can all be Superheroes and help Save the Earth.  Being green is good for your health and well-being and good for the planet too.  How we choose to live our lives makes a big difference.  Do you know how big your carbon footprint is ? This is the mark we leave behind us depending on how much carbon our lifestyle uses.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere leading to global warming and climate change. Once you know how much you create you can reduce it. Try this: Carbon Footprint Calculator, to find out more.

What can I do to help ?
Get to know your planet
It's hard to care about something if you don't understand it, or get out there and be a part of it .  You might choose not to know, if all you ever hear about the world is doom and gloom instead of hopeful and bright.  Being bright green is all about having fun.

What you can do outdoors:
Wildlife garden:  The first place to make a difference is in your own backyard and neighborhood.  You can make a back garden nature reserve. A patch of weeds, long grass or wildflowers left in the corner provides a home for beneficial insects and predators.  The stinging nettle alone, supports over 40 species of insect including some of the most colourful butterflies.  Leaving a pile of logs to rot in a damp and shady corner encourages most wildlife. A pile of leaves and twigs makes a perfect home for hedgehogs and they will reward you by eating up the slugs and snails that love to munch your plants as well as being great to watch.

                                                                              SarahMcManiman image

A pile of stones attracts frogs, toads and newts and even slowworms.  Put them in a sunny place if you want to attract lizards. . Even if you havn't got much space you can make a mini wildlife pond in a bucket, you can add some frogspawn to help get it started: Pond in a bucket.  Add soil and less water to make a bog garden.
It's easy to provide bird feeders and a birdbath, a saucer is ideal, it only needs to be a few centimetres deep. You can make bird, bat or insect boxes and provide homes for wildlife: Make your own bird and bat boxes;

                                                                      Insect hotel, IanVisits image

Sow nectar-rich flowers and soon you'll have a host of bees and butterflies to help pollinate the nature around you. You will have have created a mini eco-system.

                                                                                                   seeks2dream image

Grow your own fruit and veg:  If space is a problem you can grow lots of things to eat in containers or just a sunny windowsill. Fruit and veg tastes better if it's home-grown, it's zero packaging, zero air miles and pesticide free.  A deep pot is best, make some holes in the bottom for drainage.  Strawberries or peas are easy to grow...and eat ! There are lots of great websites with handy tips and suggestions to get you started.  Plants in pots need extra water so it's a good idea to have a waterbutt to collect rainwater to use.

                                                                               Magalie L'Abbe image

Compost:  Instead of filling up the landfill even more you can compost most of your food waste to make nutritious soil to feed your plants that will then feed you with scrummier, jucier fruits and veggies.  Avoid adding meat, diary and cooked food.  You can add cardboard, teabags, hair and nail clippings, lint, sawdust, grass clippings, leaves and egg-shells.  Almost anything that was once living can make compost, just make it into a pile on the soil, mix it well, the worms will help, add water if it gets too dry and in a year you'll have compost: Kids make compost.  What happens to the food waste at your school ? You could ask if your school can become an e-cool, eco-school and have a compost bin or wormery ? Make a wormery

Plant a tree:  "Mighty oaks, from little acorns grow."  The earth needs trees.  Trees help the earth to breathe and help the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.  They are also great to climb, provide shade and are home to birds and other animals. If you havn't got space you can get involved with a community planting scheme: How to plant a tree.

Walk or cycle:  As well as being good for you, this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint with harmless footprints.  Car exhausts cause pollution that is toxic to breathe, bad for your health and harmful to the environment. If you have to go a long way maybe you can car-share for fresher air, or ask the driver if they can turn the engine off, when waiting for longer than 30 seconds. If you need a new car, look for alternatives, such as electric cars.

Clean-up:  Litter is waste in the wrong place.  You can organise or participate in a clean-up of a local stream, park or beach.  Remember to wear gloves and sensible footwear. It's best to avoid broken glass and recycle any cans you find.  As well as making the area around you a nicer place to be and enjoy, you can save an animal's life by gathering up litter.

                                                         Pacific Garbage Patch, tarynsantacruz image

Plastic kills more than one million sea creatures a year.  Turtles think plastic bags look like jellyfish, swallow them and then die.  Birds mistake bits of plastic for food and choke on it.  Plastic 6-pack rings can strangle a creature that gets trapped in it.  It's a good idea to snip the rings before disposing of them to prevent this.  Animals get tangled in discarded fishing lines and swallow lead weights, and ciggarette butts can kill fish.  Being a litter picker is a great way to help wildlife.

Take Action:  Spread the word and get involved.  Your voice matters and you can get involved in an environmental campaign or even start your own.  Check out Tree MusketeersKids saving theRainforest and Cool Kids, for ideas to get started, or One Climate Net to find like-minded "greenies". You may even end up getting a Eco Hero Award.  It's also worth writing to, or emailing your local M.P. or elected official.  It's their job to pass the laws and listen to you about your concerns and ideas.  Find out if there's a local zoo or aquarium you could support by volunteering or maybe you could ask to "adopt an animal" for a birthday present, or ask your school to adopt one.  Remember, knowledge is power, so find out as much as you can about our wonderful world and the balance of nature.  There are lots of great websites and books out there to help you become an expert.

At the shops:
Precycle:  This is a way to reduce waste right from the start, before you even need to recycle.  It's about choosing to reduce your carbon footprint by thinking ahead and avoiding the consequences of the throw-away society we now know.

                                                                                           Foldablebags.com image

Buy Green:  Reduce waste by looking for zero-packaging items or toxic-free and biodegradable goods.  Look for long-life products when you need new batteries or lightbulbs or buy rechargeable batteries.  The longer they last the less you have to buy them, which means less packaging and less products dumped on landfill.  Search out products with recycled packaging and buy recycled paper or paper made from sustainable sources.  Look for the FSC label which is a sign of well managed forests. 
  Avoid throw away products.  Styrofoam contains polystyrene which is the most difficult material to breakdown in landfill sites and is considered a hazardous waste.  Take a bag with you when you go to the shop so you don't need to use extra plastic or paper bags.  Look at the labels and try to find natural, chemical free products when buying beauty or cleaning products.  If you put toxins onto you or in your house they can build up, combine and make you ill, so try to keep your environment toxic-free.

 It's worth thinking "Do I really need this ?".  If you buy things only when you need them it can help you to enjoy them more.  Not only will you help save the planet you'll save money too ! 

Inside you:
You are what you eat:   Organic food tastes better, it's better for you and better for the environment.  It has less food additives, is pesticide free and is not genetically modified or full of antibiotics. To find out more you can visit The Soil Association.  If you can't buy organic, look for locally produced food and try to eat things when they are in season.  This helps the earth as it takes less fuel to transport the food and usually requires less packaging and preservatives.  A good example of this is "Pick Your own" strawberries at a local farm.
 Eat brasil nuts ! Not only are they good for you and packed with selenium, a mineral that's a natural feel-good, but it creates protected areas.  Brasil nut trees, don't grow well in plantations, so eating them supports natural forests.
 Eating less meat has a positive effect on the world.  Food production causes a third of all greenhouse gases and meat production is the largest cause of this.  There is the demand for land for the animals to live and graze, land to grow feed for the animals and energy to transport the feed.  Not to mention the methane produced by the livestock themselves.  If you like to eat fish it's important to choose it carefully too.  Your choice of fish can impact the oceans.  Cod is overfished at the moment.  Look for the MSC sign for sustainable seafood and "dolphin-friendly" tuna.

                                                                                                          mjmonty image

Drinking bottled water may seem like a healthy option.  The water is, but the bottle isn't ! The plastic can contain dangerous chemicals and it takes up millions of gallons of oil to create them and transport them, just to throw them away.  It takes energy to deliver the bottles to the shops, when all you need to do is turn on the tap.  Most of us have safe drinking water on tap, and if you don't like the taste you can get a water filter.  Keep it in the fridge and fill up reusable bottles to take with you when you go out.  To make an e-cool packed lunch, take a re-usable lunch box instead of plastic wrap and silver foil.

In the home:
Save Energy:  By turning off lights when they are not in use you save the earth a lot of energy.  Don't leave things on standby and unplug unused electronics and chargers.  A laptop uses less energy than a desktop PC.  All this helps to save the earth.

                                                                                                     cyborgsuzy image

Instead of turning the heating up, get cosy in snuggly jumpers and blankets, or cuddle up with a friend or pet and share body heat, you can always dance and get fit at the same time as saving energy, for a guaranteed feel-good.  Block draughts and close curtains at night to conserve the heat in your house. If you use air conditioning  to cool down in Summer, there are some great and fun alternatives such as ice lollies and water pistol fights !.

Save Water:  Conserve water by looking for leaks and getting them fixed.  Turning the tap off while you're brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers instead of baths saves a lot of water.  This stops unnecessary water needing to be cleaned and recycled which is an energy-thirsty process.

Save paper:  Save trees by using both sides of a piece of paper, and saving scrap paper and envelopes for writing notes on.  You can even set your printer to print on both sides.  Use a hand towel instead of paper towels and cloth napkins.  All this means less trees will need to be cut down, which helps reduce global warming and climate change.

Save clothing:  If you are fed up of your clothes instead of throwing them away and buying more you can arrange a clothes swapping party with your friends.  Earn some extra money by having a carboot or table-top sale, donate them to charity or customise them:  Decorate your jeans.

Save packaging: Learn to cook.  It's great fun and avoids all the extra packaging that comes with processed, takeaway and fast food.  Healthy and tasty too.

Now you have the challenge. Spread the word and.. Save the Earth.

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