Monday, August 3, 2009

Why Live Green?

(Winner of High School Group, Teen Essay Contest 2009)
by Daniel Xu

Countless centuries ago, the Earth was created. She became a planet capable of sustaining life on a large scale. She was the source of life for humans that inhabited on the planet. She provided them with food, water, and air, basically everything they needed to live and thrive on it. We humans owe her a great debt for all the things she has given us. Unfortunately, we have not paid and may never be able to pay our debt back fully. Worse yet, some of us do not realize this. It would be unthinkable if we did not repay what we owe her. And the best way to return her favor is to live green. We should start immediately living green, because doing so is good for the environment, money, and us humans.
What does “living green” mean? It is something that many of us struggle to answer and define. Most of us often associate the concept and practice of “living green” with something big, for example, treaties signed by countries to take actions against global warming. Also, most people think living green may require them to make significant and even life-changing sacrifices. Perhaps this is why many of us hesitate to act on the idea of living green. But as a matter of fact, living green can be any action or activity that results in a positive impact on the environment. Thus, living green can be done virtually by anybody, anywhere, and at any time. It is just that simple. The beneficial, “green” action does not have to be a big one. And we have no excuse of being reluctant to live green and thus pay back our due to the mighty Earth.
One advantage of living green is that it saves money. For example, carpooling can save some money. Carpooling is when a driver takes one or more passengers on a commute or short trip. My dad carpools to work and does see the benefits. Every workday morning, he goes to a place where carpool drivers wait for passengers with the same destination, San Francisco in my dad’s case. He notes that it is faster to take carpool than take bus or BART. Moreover, the entire ride does not cost him anything. It is also good for the environment, as there are fewer cars on the road than if drivers drive alone, hence causing less pollution. In addition to carpooling, resource conservation is another easy way to save additional money. One reason that some property owners pay too high water bills is that they excessively or inefficiently water their plants. Often, the plants are watered too much or the water is wasted by accidentally flowing to the pavement or the walls of a typical owner’s house. However, if the owners start to give the plants just enough water and are efficient in doing so, they will see the cost of their water bills to drop. Similarly, conscious usage of electricity will eventually pay dividends in the form of lower energy bills, as electricity is often wasted or excessively used. For example, simply turning off lights and non-essential appliances reduces electricity usage, therefore lowering the cost of utility bills, which obviously means less money to pay and more money to save. Another way of slashing utility bills is to replace old, inefficient appliances with energy-efficient ones. In addition, there is an advantage of owning solar panels. Homeowners who have installed them can make surplus electricity on sunny and clear days. They can expect to have a near zero energy bill and also sell surplus electricity back to the local energy company. The investment would pay for itself in a couple of years and a lot of money can be saved in the long term. Clearly, by using the minimum amount of all kinds of resource, savings will add up, and we humans benefit from that by having more disposable income.
Living green will also benefit the environment. Again, a good example is carpooling. It uses less gasoline because fewer cars are being driven, and in turn, less smog from cars is created. Because there is less smog being released, less pollutant contaminates the atmosphere of the Earth, leading to a less tainted environment. Also, the natural resource of petroleum, which is in limited supply, is saved because carpooling uses less gasoline. Another “green” possibility is to take public transportation rather than driving. It has a positive environmental impact, as transportation vehicles do not pollute at all or pollute very little compared to ordinary cars. These vehicles also tend to use no or little natural resources for their fuel, thus saving preciously non-renewable resources. Recycling is another simple green action that many households can take. For instance, instead of filling up limited landfill space with wasted paper, we can simply recycle it. All it takes is to put used paper into recycling bins instead of trashcans. The used paper can then be processed to make new paper and other paper products, saving extra trees from being cut down to make more paper. As fewer trees are being cut down, less pollution is created -- Cutting and transporting tree trunks require fuel. This contributes to a cleaner world. Also, having more trees on the planet contributes to a cleaner atmosphere, as they absorb carbon dioxide which is responsible for global warming. Metal and glass can also be recycled. When these items are being recycled, there is less need to mine their sources to satisfy demand. In short, recycling can conserve preciously non-renewable resources on the Earth from being depleted too quickly, save energy and money used to harvest such resources, and keep the environment cleaner.
Lastly, living green is good for human health. As mentioned above, my dad regularly takes carpool to work, and it has, in addition to the environment, benefited his health. In order to get to the carpool waiting area, he has to take a half-mile walk there. He finds that walking is good for his health. And for most public transportation users, they have to walk to the waiting stations. Walking regularly can improve their health. As I pointed out already, these types of public transportation produce less smog, keeping the air cleaner and benefiting human health. We breathe in fewer pollutants, thus reducing the number of harmful particles in our bodies and possibly extending our life spans. Also, changing the way we do our errands can have a positive impact on our physical well-being. Most people tend to drive cars to all of the locations on their to-do list. But such practice is wasteful and not friendly to the environment, in particular when the locations are within a walking distance. Gasoline is wasted in traversing short distances and unnecessary pollution is produced. If more people change the practice of driving to everywhere and instead walk whenever possible, all the human being on the Earth gets the benefit -- The Earth gets less polluted and humans get healthier because of a cleaner environment. True, some green actions entail some form of light to moderate physical activity, but we humans benefit from these actions.
Ultimately, living green saves money, conserves natural resources, protects the environment, and improves the health of humans. Being mindful and careful of our consumption of resources saves us from paying for wasted resources. Additionally, this helps conserve the limited natural resources on the Earth and saves them for use by future generations. Taking either public transportation or carpooling has a greener footprint than commuting work alone by car. Also, green actions are less harmful to the Earth, thus less harmful to our health. Moreover, taking certain green actions can improve physical fitness and health. To an individual, it may seem that green actions are just extremely tiny steps towards a cleaner future, but they become giant steps if more and more people recognize the need and importance to live green. Understanding the need and importance to live green can help us begin to appreciate all the things that the Earth has done and can do for the human being on the one hand, and realize the urgency to offer her our care and protection through green actions on the other hand. Hopefully, with this understanding, we will now start living green and fulfill our obligations to our beloved Earth.

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