These days, it seems like Mother Nature is under attack all the time. From oil spills in the gulf to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, it seems like an insurmountable challenge, but there are many small, incremental actions that can be taken to improve the environment.
It starts with knowing the environmental stewardship definition and then having a guide for simple steps to take. As you read this article, you will come to realize that environmental stewardship is more than just care for the environment because it is a “good” thing; but rather, your everyday choices come to define your morality as a human being.
According to Wikipedia, environmental stewardship is “responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.” But that is kind of vague, is it not? Each of those words has a different definition for various people, so let us clarify some keywords.
Responsible use means utilizing land in an allowed manner. When an area is designated for a certain activity, it should not be used otherwise. Once land is selected for one purpose, it is very difficult to change it to something else. Using it any other way threatens harm to the ecosystem.
Protection for the environment can be done through land acquisitions, which means protected areas grow larger, and conservation easements, which leave land in private hands with drastic restrictions on use. It not only happens explicitly, but indirectly. It includes advocacy, education, political engagement, and charitable donations.
Conservation is using less resources. Not only that, but it is preserving, protecting, and restoring the natural environment. When you cook, that could mean you do not over use or just throw anything away. If you have a lot in your closet, then that means you donate some of your clothes.
Sustainable practices are actions that someone in the future will be able to do. When you are sustainable, you prioritize the environment first, then society, and lastly the economy. Using solar panels to power your home instead of coal is an example. It means that a business has no byproducts. If you take sustainable practices to heart, you build a foundation for the future.
Once you have a clear idea of something, then you can properly confront a problem. That is the case with environmental stewardship. Now that you have a distinct understanding of the phrase, you can help to confront the problems facing the environment.
A guiding doctrine serves as the foundation for making sound choices. Whenever anyone makes a choice, they have an internal statement behind it. Everything they say or do is an iteration of the ethic. For this reason, you should think of these principles when making environmental stewardship decisions.
- Awareness of environmental risks. When you make a choice, there are reverberations throughout a system because of that decision. If you understand what happens, then you can either compensate or make a different selection.
- Know the rules. When you are in a national park or protected area, you must follow leave no trace principles. Ideally, coming to an area would be like you were never there. Depending on where you go, some areas may have particular rules.
- Strive for improvement. There are always ways to reduce your environmental impact. It is just a matter of will power and creativity. You can be sure to find minor changes you can make to your life that will have a profound long term impact.
- Start small but think big. It is overwhelming to try to solve a problem all at once. You are bound to fail. If you split the issue into manageable junks, then you are more likely to succeed. Do not be restricted in what you think you can achieve for the environment. People only make progress if they think beyond what is imagined.
- Educate yourself on the issues. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to building a sustainable future. If you learn about energy issues, environmental degradation, and similar problems, then you are setting yourself for some time to come. In doing so, you become a better steward.
- Do stewardship that is easy and rewarding. Some following actions I list are quite ambitious. Do stewardship that you will enjoy, so you can build an appetite for doing right by the environment. When you accomplish something, you increase your momentum, an amplifier for your productivity and achievement of greater ambitions.
- Choose measurable environmental goals. You can only know if you are doing right by the environment if you understand the results of your actions. Numbers and data are an excellent way to do so.
These are my recommended guidelines for environmental stewardship, but yours may be different. Build and elaborate on these for a fuller effect.
Despite the vastness of environmental turmoil, there are practical steps you can take in your day to day life to help ease pressures on the environment. Here is a list of practical steps to take.
My Top Three Tips
These are my three most recommended actions to have a profound influence on the environment. More importantly, you can implement them right now.
- Change your diet. The greatest impact you could have on the environment would be to cut out animal based food products entirely. A lot of the atmosphere is full of animal farts, often in the form of methane. If you choose to not eat animal based products, you will save water, air, and food for your fellow human being. On top of that, your health and energy will improve dramatically. You will feel the difference when you wake up in the morning.
- Look at product labels. One of the greatest powers you have is as a consumer. When you walk down a grocery aisle or through a market, you make choices of what to put in your basket. Once you make a purchase, you are making a decision for what you want the world to be like.
- Green apps are your friend. If you are like me, you probably have a smart phone with apps. Some include CoolGuide, which scans bar codes to tell you a product’s environmental impact, and Skeptical Science, which can be used as a resource to give you facts to counter climate change skeptics. Both are free.
- Replace your light bulbs. By far, the most energy efficient bulbs on the market today are LED light bulbs. They last longer and are brighter than any other bulb. When you pay the relatively high up front cost, it pays you dividends down the road through savings and maintenance.
- Get a shower timer. One of the most common places to overuse water is in a shower. By just putting a five-minute suction cup hourglass onto your tile, you will save tens of gallons in a year.
- Install solar panels. Solar is now the least expensive form of energy on the market. Buying solar panels for your home can be expensive, but it is a long term investment.
- Track your household usage. Every month without fail, my Dad inputs how much he spent on heating and electricity for the month into a graph. When you have data, you have power to know where you need to make changes.
- Insulate it. Air has a habit of escaping through holes and porous materials. If you put a draft stopper underneath your door, you will save tens of dollars each year. Also, when you put insulation material into your walls, it helps to keep heat inside.
- Make a compost pile. I used to work at Ace Hardware and we sold Compost bins that ranged from a small desk to one no taller than your cat. It is quite easy to pick up one for your home. In essence, you recycle nutrients back into the soil.
Daily Routine Changes
- Walk or bike. I go to UC Santa Cruz and one of my favorite activities is to walk. I pop in a good podcast on spotify and stare at the trees as I take my stroll to class. When you walk, you release endorphins to help your body, benefiting your health. The same goes for biking. You get a good workout and help the world.
- Put on a heavy jacket instead. It is tempting to turn up the thermostat when it gets cold outside. I know that I have done it. Wearing a jacket in the cold, though, is much cozier. You save hundreds of dollars in a year by turning off your thermostat and opting for a warm coat.
- Carpool with friends. Most people on the road drive alone. From an efficiency stand point, it is an incredible waste of resources. That energy would be better used if shared between others.
- Batch your errands. When you combine your errands all into one, then you not only save energy, but you make more time for yourself. You can now use that extra time by spending it with family, restoring the environment, or using it in any other way.
Not every practical step that could be listed was mentioned here. If you are creative, then I am sure you can come up with your own ways to reduce your environmental impact.
Questions to Consider
When making decisions, it helps to throw a question at it. By asking a question, you open up a fountain of answers that your brain loves to explore. It revels in finding solutions to problems, but the key is for it to be in the form of a question. Your brain only gives you an answer when you ask it a question.
- What minor changes could I make in my routine to benefit the environment? People are habitual. They follow a day to day schedule that runs like clockwork. You can bet that there are adjustments you can make to have less of an environmental impact. It is just a small change.
- Where is what I buy coming from? Sometimes the products you buy are produced in nations with low environmental regulations for retailers to save you money, but it is inflicting an unseen cost on the whole world. The cost is transferred elsewhere. Think twice before pushing your cart to the checkout counter.
- Is there anywhere near me I can volunteer at? More than likely, there are plenty of places near you where you can volunteer and help the environment. It is just a quick Google search away. Aim to be part of something where you can make friends. If you make good friendships, then you will want to stay.
Not every question that could be asked was listed here, only the ones I thought were most relevant. Think of your own ones and write them down to ask yourself. You experience personal growth when you ask a question.
Environmental stewardship is more than just a catch all phrase for doing right by the environment, but a moral code of living. Even when you take small steps to ease the pressure on the environment, you make room for someone else to benefit. Your everyday choices are an opportunity for environmental stewardship.
Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. If you have any thoughts, questions, or opinions, please do comment below and share it. I wish that you make today a great day!