But can’t more be done? Whenever I see one of those lists, I keep looking for suggestions for actions that the city, state, or corporation can take. Because there are so many things that are outside of our control as individuals, and that have a huge impact on the environment – the way our cities or workplaces are designed, for instance. These things suggest actions that have to be taken at the governmental level.
Where are the guidelines for governmental action to save the planet? Why are municipalities let off the hook? I’d like to see a set of comprehensive legislative initiatives that will enable cities or states to reduce their carbon emissions, reduce water and energy use, decrease solid waste – and all the other good things that we are usually urged to do on the household level.
Below, reflecting my own priorities, is the beginning of such a list. Many of them are actions being taken in some places already (like plastic bag bans) that I think should be more widespread. Maybe most Mayors (Governors, Congressional Reps…) just don’t know where to start?
1. Build up the public transportation infrastructure, and subsidize it heavily. Make buses, trains and trams so convenient, frequent and cheap that it won’t make sense for people to drive in from the suburbs or within city limits. Put bicycle lanes everywhere, and create pedestrian only zones.
2. Prioritize open public space over parking lots. Fill these spaces with benches, native trees, shrubs and plants, playgrounds and public art. Keep them clean and inviting.
3. Ban plastic grocery bags. And any other plastics that can’t be efficiently and locally recycled into their original forms. Regulate the types, materials and quantities of packaging that businesses can introduce in your city/county/state. Mandate that secondary packaging (crates, palettes, et c) must be sustainable and reusable. Single use, disposable packaging is a poor use of resources.
4. Bigger, better bottle bills – to make manufacturers responsible for the waste they produce. Better yet, mandate that beverage bottles be reusable, the way they were before we entered the throwaway era.
5. Introduce intensive recycling, so that everything not reusable, and not eliminated through source reduction, can be reclaimed. If the waste stream is treated as a resource, there will be a decreased need for extraction/production of raw materials as well as landfill space.
6. Provide substantial financial incentives for energy efficiency so home owners, landlords and businesses can insulate older buildings and convert heating and cooling systems to more efficient and renewable technology. Municipal buildings should be the first to adopt green systems and practices.
Like I said, it’s just a beginning. Feel free to add to the list, make changes. And forward it to your local representatives. Maybe the more such lists they see, the more likely they’ll be to adopt (or legislate) some green practices. It worked for me.