Nine Unpopular Things You Can Do to Save the Planet

No kids, no meat, no vacations

True, Earth Day was last month - but every day is Earth Day, right? Since green is the new black, I present to you my suggestions for what you can do to save our suffering planet from total environmental destruction. Why is this list different from the others? Because whereas most mainstream tips are all about sounding hip (organic gardening, hybrid cars) or easy to deal with (energy-saving lightbulbs, recycling), mine actually make a big difference - and are tips that most people don't want to hear.

  1. Don't have kids. The best thing anyone can do to save the world is to not bring another person into it. Gents, step up to the plate and get vasectomies. Condom production uses up resources and pollutes the air. And used condoms pollute landfills and clog sewage lines. Birth control pills are even worse; they often have negative impacts on female bodies (and require more drugs to counteract mood swings or discomfort), and they release hormones into the oceans and mutate sea life. But there is nothing environmentally unfriendly about getting yourself snipped.
  2. Stop eating meat, or at least stop eating beef and fish. It's a truth too inconvenient for even Al Gore to share. But as you must know by now, huge amounts of water, land, and food resources are used to feed cattle, and the methane produced by cows doesn't help. Plus, too much red meat will kill you. As for fish? Poor things, they're the healthiest of all meats, but overfishing has screwed up the ecosystem and nearly every single fish on the planet now carries dangerous amounts of mercury, thanks to industrial pollutants. Of course, vegetarians would have you refrain from eating all meat, but beef and fish are the big no-nos. If you must eat meat, cut back on how much you consume, and try to stick to (hormone-free) poultry.
  3. Live in a small house or apartment. Just like driving a smaller car, this one's obvious. You need less energy to power a smaller place, and limited square footage also keeps you from acquiring too much stuff, so you use up fewer resources. Also, chances are if your house or apartment is small, it's old (because people in bygone days didn't feel a need to buy as much junk as we do today), which is good. New construction, no matter how "green" the building's design may be, is generally bad for the planet because of the energy and resources used in the process.
  4. Work near your home. Well, this one isn't controversial. Who would choose to drive an hour each day to the office if they could work the same job just a mile away? Living in LA, it shocks me how far people are willing to commute - even for jobs they hate. And with gas prices forever on the rise, the money they save by living in cheaper homes in outlying areas is getting eaten up by the extra amount they spend on fuel. Plus, traffic is demoralizing, and drastically lowers one's quality of life. I practice what I preach, here; I had a 12-mile, 30-minute commute back in 1992, and every job I've had since then has been closer to home and shorter. And now I work from home and drive my car just 3-4 times a week.
  5. Stop eating out so much. I love restaurants. I've loved them a little less ever since I married a gourmet cook (home-cooked meals made from scratch, with love and care, are always better). But yeah; eating at home, using fresh ingredients (and not prefabricated everything), is better for your body and for the world. You eat less, so you use fewer resources. You don't burn gas going to the restaurant. You eat healthier and reduce emissions and waste from industrial kitchens. Don't have the time to cook? You might if you worked closer to home.
  6. Don't use air conditioning. Although this is a small-scale tip, in a way it's the flakiest, because I can't prove what I believe about A/C. We all agree that it uses up a ton of energy. But I also believe it increases our risk of viruses and other physical ailments, which of course increases people's need for medications (which use up resources, pollute oceans, etc.), and inhaling freon-cooled air all day can't possibly be better for you than inhaling normal air.
  7. Never buy new stuff until the old stuff breaks. Corporations don't want you to think this way! Yet this is why "planned obsolescence" is getting more and more prevalent. (Ever notice how appliances and such seem to break a lot faster than they used to?) Still, advertising drives us to buy new things even when the old things still work perfectly. New cars, new cell phones, new clothes, new computers. Stop feeling pressured to obey industry-dictated trends, and keep using your old stuff until it stops working. If you fear looking unfashionable, then it's time you developed your own personal style anyway.
  8. When you do buy new stuff, buy used stuff. Another no-brainer. Whatever you can buy new, you can also buy secondhand. You reduce the amount of waste in the world by buying somebody's cast-offs, you don't use up any resources required to create or transport new stuff, and you save money (which means you can deal with a job closer to home that may pay less than the one you have to drive an hour to). You may, in fact, notice that one by-product of all of these tips is financial savings. That's not a coincidence. (As for me, most of my wardrobe is secondhand. And I don't buy much else really, besides food and movie tickets.)
  9. Don't go on vacation. This is the big bummer for me, and one that I don't follow unless out of financial necessity. But traveling anywhere, unless you walk or take a bicycle, uses up fuel. Especially cruises, which should be outright banned. Airplanes are bad too. I suppose you could get away with it if you took a trip to a city that had great public transportation, such as New York, so you could say, "Yes, I did ride this polluting jet across the country, but then I'm taking the subway for two weeks, and that's two weeks that I'm not driving my car 50 miles a day!"