What can we possibly do to counter climate change? How exactly does a greenhouse effect work?
Doing My Part for Our Planet,
Dear Doing My Part,
The greenhouse effect works like a greenhouse for plants. A greenhouse stays warm inside, even during the winter. In the daytime, sunlight shines into the greenhouse, warming plants and air inside. At nighttime, it’s colder outside, but the greenhouse stays pretty warm inside. This is due to the glass walls of the greenhouse trapping the suns heat.
This effect works much the same on earth. Gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide trap heat like the glass roof of the greenhouse. The problem is that some of the heat is trapped by all those gases in the atmosphere preventing it from escaping back into space at night, keeping it hot.
Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, and car exhaust, actually puts too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping more heat. NASA has observed increases in the earth’s atmosphere and trapping more and more heat.
Plants can help balance the greenhouse effect on earth. All plants from giant trees to phytoplankton in the ocean help. The ocean absorbs a lot of excess carbon dioxide in the air. The problem is, the more the ocean absorbs the carbon dioxide, the more change in the chemistry to be acidic, harmful to shellfish and coral.
What can help? Some of the ways are easy: choosing an energy-efficient car, installing solar panels on the roof of your home, and growing your own vegetables. Growing your own food has a triple effect because you eliminate the fuel-burning trucks, planes and ships that transport the food.
A few more easy ways to make a difference would be to walk or ride your bike instead of taking a car everywhere. You are never too old to ride a bicycle. Even a two-mile car trip puts two pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere! That’s just your car.
Stay out of the drive thru! Drive-thrus should be outlawed except for the disabled. You should feel a bit of guilt in your gut now the next time you go to a fast food, banking or picking-up-a-prescription drive-thru. Sitting in a line of cars with the engine running and polluting is just wrong. Get out of your car and walk into the building. It might even be quicker sometimes. Remember, “sitting is the new smoking,” which includes sitting in your car. You’ll be helping your muscles and helping our earth.
Recycle everything you can – EVERYTHING. Plastic water bottles are an environmental disaster. Carry your water in a reusable bottle. Even when buying products using fewer packaging materials, it still takes energy to create them in the first place and energy to remake them into something else.
Be aware of how much water you use. Imagine that you live in an RV and your water tank holds 50 gallons. Each time you turn on the water, you hear the noisy electric water pump working, sucking up your RV’s battery power. Would you keep the water running while you are brushing your teeth? Would you spend 15 minutes in the shower using all the water in the tank and depleting the battery? Would you plant a lawn in front of your RV to water in the desert? Conscientiousness matters outside the RV too!
You can influence small farmers by your purchases from farmers markets and organic growers who sell at the local grocery stores. It’s like voting: Every purchase you make counts. Just making the small change of eating more vegetables will support sustainable farming and offsets climate change.
Careful use of your electricity, the amount of water you waste and recycling can potentially change our earth. You can make a difference! Doing nothing accomplishes nothing.
Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.