Please Practice Conservation Every Day

There is much waste this time of year, so let’s keep conservation in mind as the holidays are upon us.

There is much waste this time of year, so let’s keep conservation in mind as the holidays are upon us.

At the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, our primary, mission-driven focus is on land conservation. We work to conserve the important areas of Chautauqua County as they relate to wildlife, water quality, and scenic/rural character. While this is critical in order to maintain healthy and functioning ecosystems, provide clean water for all, and keep our beautiful landscapes undeveloped, there are plenty of other aspects of conservation that we can all employ to have a measurable impact on our planet.

For decades, there have been debates about human-driven climate change, fossil fuels versus renewables, and the impact humans are having on our world. These debates don’t change the facts that our planet IS warming and that fossil fuel use IS one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases, which are warming our atmosphere. Many of us are constrained by the realities of the world in which we live. For example, most of us need to drive to work, some of us drive for work, and many of us are almost “forced” to use fossil fuels in order to get through our daily lives. It doesn’t have to be this way, though, and it will likely change over the next few decades – but for now, we must operate in the world in which we live.

So what can we do? We can alter our day-to-day patterns to help offset the aspects of our lives that we can’t change. We can utilize vehicles that get excellent gas mileage. This not only saves money but also helps reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. We can all do more to conserve energy in our homes. Many people are not aware that around 50% of the electricity we generate and the food we produce is wasted. Simply turn out the lights when you leave the room, and remember to unplug cell phone chargers and other electrical devices when not in use or fully charged. Make appropriately sized meal servings so that they can be finished without waste. Buying organic foods is a healthy, increasingly affordable step that reduces the amount of toxic petrochemicals that one consumes while decreasing the amount of herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers applied to agricultural areas. Buying local products helps to reduce gasoline consumption and supports one’s local economy as well.

One of the most important (and easiest!) conservation steps we all should take is to reduce the use of single-use disposable plastic items to the greatest extent possible. Nearly every piece of plastic ever created is still in existence, and straws, forks, plastic wrappings, etc. are used just once before they, hopefully, end up in a landfill. A large percentage of these items, however, don’t get disposed of properly, and they end up in our waterways where they eventually make their way to the sea. Scientists are projecting that, in the coming decades, there will be more plastic in our oceans by weight than FISH! Because plastics aren’t biodegradable, they simply break down into smaller and smaller particles that easily enter food and water resources. These “microplastics” have been found in sea salt, fish, and even beer!

Also, please try to reduce the amount of wasted materials in the upcoming holiday season. Purchasing recyclable gift wrapping can help immensely, as does ensuring that it is recycled once more when the kids are done opening their gifts. The temptation may be there to use plastic cutlery at big holiday dinners, as this makes cleanup that much easier. Keep in mind that, even if you are disposing of them properly to ensure they don’t become oceanic litter, there is still a massive environmental toll from plastic production and shipment. You very likely already have metal forks, so save some money and get the kids to do the dishes!

Very few people enjoy someone pointing a finger and lecturing on how one should live his or her life. That isn’t at all what I am seeking to do here! We as a species are facing an unprecedented level of environmental decline both globally and locally. Plastics are entering food and water resources, deforestation and habitat conversion is taking place at a record pace, plants and animals are vanishing, and all of this is occurring at the same time that climate change is ramping up. These issues are serious, and there isn’t a single government or law that will effectively address them. This is something we all have to do together, as humans, and as residents of planet Earth. Let’s work to leave something better for the next generation!

For more information on sustainable living and what we can all do to better the world we live in, please feel free to reach out to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy at info@chautauquawatershed.org. The CWC is a local not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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