Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Everyday Sustainability

Posted on February 29, 2016 in Perspectives, Sustainability and ME
By USM Free Press

By Joie Grandbois

Climate change, oil spills, toxic drinking water, bad news abounds these days.  And it if isn’t news of damage to our environment, just change the channel or scroll down to read of yet another international company caught utilizing child labor in their factories or exploiting native peoples for their natural resources.  It is enough to make one want to find a cave and run for the hills leaving the world behind.   Since most of us can’t hide away from the world, we are left feeling helpless, with our hands tied, and unable to make a difference.

Most of us are familiar with common practices like taking public transportation, reducing consumption, composting and recycling.  We bike and walk to work or school and dutifully set our recycling bin out at the curb once a week.  But is there anything more we can do to help build a more sustainable world?  Yes, there is.  

One of the greatest contributors to climate change is CO2 and one of the greatest producers of CO2 comes from producing energy to heat and cool the buildings we live and work in.  If you have control over your thermostat try lowering the temperature by a few degrees when you are not at home or when you go to sleep.  It is estimated that if each person turned the heat down by one degree we could save as much at 600lbs of CO2 per person! To put that in perspective, some larger trees can remove up to 450 pounds of CO2  annually, so it’s on the level of planting a tree. Turning down your thermostat can also save money on your energy bills.

Buying local can go far to help reduce CO2 emissions as well. By purchasing food from your local farmers’ market, you are doing more than just reducing the emissions due to shorter transportation distances. You are also helping to keep money in the local economy and you are getting to know the person who grows your food.  Buying local is not just about food – there are lots of other goods and services offered by local businesses.  If you want to know more about buying local visit Portland Buy Local at to connect with local businesses and support their work.

But what if you can’t find the item you are looking for locally?  How can you ensure that the company you are buying from isn’t using exploitive labor practices or damaging the environment?  There are many ways you can find out about the sustainability practices of various companies.  Good Guide ( allows you to search for common products and see how they are rated in three categories: health, environment and social impact.  They also have a smartphone app so you can read about products as you shop!  

It can be so easy to think that we are each just one person who is powerless in the face of the woes of the world, but if each of us make changes in our lives we can make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens and the world.

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