It's the little things....
Environmental stewardship does not have to mean marching with Green Peace or chaining yourself to a tree. There are so many little things that can add up to big change, if you're willing to seek out these opportunties.
When I went out for my evening run yesterday, I noticed little white grains on the sidewalk all around the perimeter of a neighbor's lawn. Granular fertilizer. Ugh. Take a look at what fertilizer can do to your sidewalk and driveway. What's more, the fertilizer that ends up on the sidewalk and not on your lawn ends up in the storm drains ("fertilizer runoff") and eventually makes its way into rivers, lakes and oceans, fertilizing blooms of algae that deplete oxygen and leave vast "dead zones" in their wake, where no fish or typical sea life can survive. Some of these algal blooms are Harmful Algal Blooms ("HABs"), which are toxic to both people and marine life.
If you use granular fertilizer, be sure to sweep any excess back on to your lawn to keep it out of storm drains.
Here's another tip for you tree huggers on how to properly love trees. On another day's run, I noticed a couple "tree volcanoes". The one in the picture below is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Over-mulching at the base of trees is one of the worst things you can do for your tree. The area where the trunk of the tree hits the ground is called the root flare. When you bury the root flare under mulch or dirt, it encourages the roots to grow upwards instead of outwards. Roots that grow up are especially dangerous, as they often wrap around the trunk and girdle the tree. If you have a trees buried under a volcano of mulch, it is gasping for air. Dig it out and expose the flare. Don't bury your tree! If you must mulch around your tree, don't pile it up against the trunk, and don't mulch too deeply - around 2 inches should suffice.
I am taking a gardening class, and snacks and beverages are brought in for the students. I noticed dozens of empty water bottles and various other beverage containers in the garbage after class. I offered to bring in a recycle bin and take it home to keep all of those bottles out of the landfills. When you are frequently out and about, or dining away from home, if you start keeping track of all the containers generated it sure adds up! Consider rinsing the containers and bringing them home to put out in your recycle bin. Of course, keep in mind that paper packaging with grease/food stains (like pizza boxes and McDonald's fry boxes) cannot be recycled. While food residue gets burned away during the recycling process for plastic, glass, and metal, the same can’t be said for paper. When paper is recycled, it is mixed with water to form slurry. Oil and fat from food residue don’t mix with water; instead, they float on top of the slurry and mingle with the paper pulp. Oily pulp makes very poor quality paper and is, in effect, unusable.
But, I'm sure you aren't using disposable water bottles anyway, right? You have your own that you refill and reuse!