I’ve been wondering about the answer to that question. The fact is, taking care of the environment, including the air, is an expensive project. Very expensive. Obviously, the trillions of dollars needed to effect real progress against climate change and air pollution will have to be shouldered by government, multi-national green organizations, and the ultra-wealthy who are willing to be generous.
But at much lower financial level, is it too much to ask of working families and individuals to go green? That argument can be made pretty easily. After all, even after tax rebates, it can take years for an expensive new hybrid car to pay for itself through lower fuel costs compared to its non-hybrid counterparts. I’ve read many times that we should buy food that’s organic and locally grown, saving the environmental costs of transporting food grown elsewhere and preventing chemicals from being sprayed into the air and the soil. But such food is often more expensive, and in many places, unavailable. We always hear about improving the insulation in your home, about how you can use LED light bulbs, and so on. These all have a short-term costs that can’t always be ignored.
People are understandably slow to make changes that cost more in the short-term, even if there is a long-term payoff. After all, that new hybrid you can buy will eventually result in lower gasoline bills. And eating healthier foods with fewer chemicals will, theoretically, over the course of your lifetime, lead to fewer healthcare costs. But it’s hard to make decisions that take years to pay off. Adding to that difficulty is that much of the culture in developed countries centers around the idea of “having it all, right now.”
Where does that leave those of us who aren’t wealthy, then? Shall we conclude that our small personal economies can’t make a difference? Not at all. Consider the following ways that you can have a share in improving air quality and climate change without destroying your finances.
- Drive less. Most cars burn some variant of fossil fuel. Burning fossil fuels leads to pollutants in the air. Some have found that carpooling is a workable choice that leads to fewer cars on the road at the same time. Use a little planning in your family to avoid unnecessary trips. Or if the distance isn’t that far, consider riding your bike.
- Check your driving habits. The way you drive your vehicle makes a big difference in how much fuel it burns. Which means that it makes a big difference in how much pollution it puts into the environment. Simply put, the more aggressive you drive, the more fuel you’ll use. Keeping your car well-maintained and with properly-inflated tires helps too.
- Use less electricity. Our electricity often comes from “dirty” sources, such as coal burning. Simple and common-sense steps such as turning off the lights when leaving a room and adjusting the thermostat a few degrees will lower your use at home.
- Buy less of what you don’t need. We all buy things we don’t really need. How many times do you find something in the garage or the back of your closet that you’d forgot you even had? Every one of those things involves manufacturing, packaging, and transportation costs charged to the environment. So think twice before that next impulse purchase!
There you go. Four changes that lead to cleaner air without costing a fortune. In fact, they’ll all save you money. Of course, each of us needs to ensure that we’re not using our finances as an excuse for avoiding our part in helping the environment. It’s all too easy to quickly throw our hands up, proclaim we can’t afford to go green, and move on with our lives. Don’t let that happen.
What ideas do you have for making a difference without breaking the bank? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.