Fewer people than ever dispute the fact that humans have a negative impact on the environment. Sadly, however, that number is greater than you might think. It’s therefore important that we not only recognize that humans are affected our environment, but how they are.
In this post, we’ll take a look at global warming, one of the most serious issues facing the human race and Mother Earth today. Global warming, a scientifically provable increase in planet-wide temperatures over the last few centuries, is damaging to the ecosystem and brings with it a raft of additional concerns, such as extreme weather, acid rain and species extinction.
If we’re going to make a dent in this problem, it’s time for change. That in turn requires recognizing the biggest contributors to global warming. Here are 10 of the most alarming.
We clear forests for a huge number of reasons, from harvesting wood to make lumber or paper, to clearing land for cattle and pig ranching, to putting in vast tracts of monoculture crops: corn, wheat, palms. While crops may fix a small amount of carbon – removing it from the air and storing it in roots – it is nothing compared to the amount that trees can fix, or “sequester.”
Plus, burning forestland is hugely harmful to the atmosphere. According to the World Wildlife Federation, “When vegetation is removed or burnt, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming. Up to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas pollution comes from deforestation and forest degradation.”
Ranching is devastating to our planet in more ways than one. In addition to necessitating the removal of all that valuable forestland, ranching also produces massive quantities of animal waste, which in turn produces lots of methane – a very harmful greenhouse gas.
Also, since animals are higher on the food chain than plants and therefore concentrate energy, it takes a huge amount of plant matter for a small amount of reward (meat). If we chose plants over meat more often, we could save a huge amount of forestland and significantly reduce the methane output across the world.
While organic farming practices can actually help reduce global warming, sequestering carbon through the growth of crops, it also has some seriously devastating side effects. For one thing, our industrial agricultural system requires a lot of fossil fuel. Shuttling fertilizers, equipment, seeds, crops and so on requires a tremendous amount of gas and diesel, especially when we’re shipping across the U.S. – or across the world.
Treehugger reports that, “The U.S. food system contributes nearly 20 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions; on a global scale, figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say that agricultural land use contributes 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Fertilizers and Pesticides
These two common farming inputs are also deadly to the environment. Not only do they annihilate soil, and kill native plants, insects and animals, they pollute waterways and air. They are manufactured at huge plants which dump chemicals into the environment, including Global Warming villains carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Global warming isn’t only a product of the harmful gases being pumped into the air. We are also making the surface of the planet hotter by paving over naturally cooler green spaces with asphalt and concrete, which hold much more heat than do living things. That heat is then reflected back into the atmosphere, back down to Earth, et cetera, in an endless loop of heating.
We burn fossil fuel to produce electricity. Burning it generates heat and other output that turn turbines, gathering energy and storing it as electricity, which can be delivered out over the grid. We must invest in clean energies to stop the constant burning of fossil fuels.
Just like power plants, vehicles burn fossil fuels. In doing so, they release carbon and other toxins into the atmosphere, both causing an overall warming effect and dirtying our air and water. While cars are the vehicle most often pointed to, any that uses gas or diesel is also responsible: trains, buses, boats and planes.
Airplanes emissions can be additionally harmful, as they travel at such a higher altitude and therefore inject emissions right into the layers of atmosphere where they do the most damage. However, given that airplanes are a form of mass transit and when the plane is full they achieve significant fuel savings, you don’t have to boycott them on principle.
Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic water bottles are shockingly bad for the environment. Even plastic bottlers themselves are starting to recognize the issue: “To make the 50 billion plastic PET bottles each year it takes 1 and a half million bottles of oil. That is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for an entire year. That is only the oil that goes into the bottles.” It doesn’t include fuel to run the plants, prepare the water for bottling or distribute the bottles. Nor does it account for the greenhouse gases that plastic emits as it sits in landfill, not decomposing, for centuries.
While we really shouldn’t be buying any plastic water bottles, you can at least help keep them out of landfill when you buy products made of recycled plastic, such as toys, clothing or recycled rPET bags and totes.
By now, science has definitively proven that aerosols are terrible for the environment. They’re chockfull of greenhouse gases such as standard carbon dioxide and methane, but are additionally loaded with chlorofluorocarbons, which essentially eat the ozone layer and allow harmful UV rays through. That not only causes a rise in cancers, it leads to an overall increase in the warming of the planet.
Refusal to Change
Global warming will hardly disappear overnight, even if we address all of these issues immediately. Perhaps the biggest problem though, bigger than all of the above, is that humans do not want to address the issues. We don’t want to change our ways – and so the problems continue. So we must all do our part to fix that. A few quick ideas include:
- Buying fruits and veggies without a lot of extra packaging
- Reducing meat intake
- Buying local
- Turning off lights
- Buying recycled items
- Giving up the water bottle habit
- Keeping reusable bags on hand
… and, we might add, offering reusable bags to your clients and customers if you’re a business. While it might seem like a very small contribution, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction. Cutting paper bags out of the American shopping landscape will go a long way toward preventing unnecessary deforestation, while reducing the manufacture of plastic will keep a raft of chemicals out of the air.
All you have to do is check out the many custom reusable shopping tote options here at ReuseThisBag. We invite you to get in touch by calling one of our representatives at 1-877-334-5323. Our American-owned, American-made bags come with a 100% quality and price guarantee. Reach out to learn more about how we can help you – and the environment – today.