There are many ways that you can make a significant contribution.
They range from simple things like recycling to larger, more costly things such as solar energy for your home.
It is common for people to feel overwhelmed by all of the green information in the media these days and they do not know where to begin making these changes.
An easy way to start living a greener life is to take a look at what you put into your body.
Make a move towards greener meals by using the four steps outlined below.
1) Use Fresh Ingredients Cooking meals using fresh ingredients usually means that less energy has been used to produce and transport those foods.
You will spend about the same amount of time and money preparing meals in this way and the taste is considerably superior.
Moving away from pre-packaged, convenience foods will be an adjustment if this is what you are used to however, with just a little planning you will be whipping up meals from scratch in no time.
In addition to reducing your impact on the environment, you'll also reap the benefits of meals that do not include any synthetic chemicals that are common in most pre-packaged foods.
2) Buy Locally Grown It is estimated that the average US meal comes from 5 different nations and that most food travels an average of about 1,500 miles to reach your table.
Buying from local growers and sellers greatly reduces the effects on the environment by decreasing the distance that food travels.
This means less carbon dioxide emissions and less packaging materials.
You'll also support your local economy when buying directly from your area's growers and cutting out the middlemen.
When you purchase foods at large grocery stores, only about 18 cents of every dollar go to the farmer, the rest goes to numerous middlemen involved in the processing, packaging and transporting.
Supporting local farms also helps protect the land in your area from urban sprawl and development.
The best way to find local foods is at farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA).
3) Purchase Organic Organic means much more than just food that is free from harmful pesticides and herbicides.
It means fertile, nutrient rich soil, healthy ecosystems, workers safe from chemicals and thriving wildlife.
Our traditional farming methods have only been in use for the past 75 of 10,000 years of recorded agriculture and they have caused significant environmental damage.
The use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides destroys soil microbes which are needed to produce crops, so the plants can only receive air, water and sunlight from their environment.
Everything else like soil fertility, nutrients and nitrogen must be given to the plants by farmers and is usually transported from thousands of miles away, adding to the impact on the environment.
The fertilizers that are added back further harm our planet by polluting our water system.
When you purchase organic foods you are supporting sustainable farming methods that result in much less pollution and top-soil loss than traditional agriculture, Since most organic foods are slightly more expensive, get the most bang for your buck and purchase organic when buying foods that are usually the most contaminated.
The Environmental Working Group did a study and identified the "dirty dozen" as Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Lettuce, Imported Grapes, Pears, Spinach, and Potatoes.
If you want to begin purchasing organic, start with these foods and you'll lower your exposure by about 14 pesticides per day.
4) Reduce Meat Consumption Reducing the amount of meat you eat is one of the simplest changes that you can implement and it is thought to be the most effective green move you can make.
Of all of the types of foods on your table, meat uses the most resources.
For example, one pound of beef requires about 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to only 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes.
In addition to water, raising livestock also requires large amounts of grain, fossil fuel and land.
Some of these farms produce as much sewage as a small city however they are not required to treat the waste.
Instead, it is held in large pools and spread on the fields where it often runs off and pollutes nearby water systems.
There are also large amounts of methane being released into the air from the millions of pounds of waste.
Methane is believed to be among the most important greenhouse gases contributing to global warming today.
Going meatless is a big undertaking for many since most of us are used to eating it at least once a day.
Do not be intimidated, you do not have to go completely vegetarian to make a difference.
Begin by using meat as an accent to your meals in stir-fries and soups, instead of serving it as the main course.
Then cut out one serving of meat per week; if we all did only this, the impact would be phenomenal.
There are a variety of meat substitute products on the market these days such as tofu and tempeh.
Other foods like portobello mushrooms or legumes make an excellent main course in place of meat.
When you do purchase meat, look for grass-fed meat.
Most of the pastures for grass feeding use low-cost grasses that usually require very little added water and few or no synthetic fertilizers.
Aside from making a huge impact on the planet, reducing your meat consumption will also greatly benefit your health since numerous degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer have been linked to meat consumption.
Using fresh, local, and organic ingredients when possible and reducing your meat consumption is better for your health and for your world.
Remember, one person really can make a difference.
Do not feel pressured to make all of these changes at once.
Doing any of the above in any amount is so much more than doing none of them.