Still fresh from the turn of the year, what best way for us to start 2021 than to say goodbye to our bad habits and welcome better ones. All throughout last year, environment-wise, we have seen negatives countered by positives—volunteers cleaning up beaches, people planting more trees, shoppers using reusable bags to help lessen trash on the island.
To kick off this year, Saipan Tribune was able to sit down with reigning Miss Earth Northern Mariana Islands Maria Lael Terlaje, and this charming advocate for love and nature graciously shared with us these ten easy ways to a greener, better lifestyle.
1. Turn the lights off. Lights are an essential part of our lives. We use it at home, at the office or in school, or even outside. Terlaje stresses that turning off lights can reduce carbon emissions and harmful greenhouse gases that extremely contribute to climate change. Turning off your lights, especially when not needed, can reduce wasted energy to lower the effects of climate change.
2. Recycle! One of the biggest environmental problems, not just here on island, but the rest of the world, is trash and reducing the amount of trash each of us generate is key. It’s normally adults who recycle, but Terlaje shares that even children can help.
“Helping our environment can be a great part of family time. Family time is the base of learning and developing important qualities that render love for the environment. Although it may seem like the responsibility to reuse, reduce, and recycle may be the job of the parents, children can help around the house to assure that no plastic ends up in unnecessary areas.”
3. Plant a tree. Trees provide so much, food and culture-wise, and it was so unfortunate that the islands lost a lot of trees from the recent disasters. Thankfully, there are solid tree planting campaigns on island, including the #Plant500Marianas campaign she organized with Miss NMI Shannon Sasamoto, and CNMI First Lady Diann Torres, the goal of which is to reach 500 trees by the end of Jan. 31, 2021.
4. Use both sides of the paper. Speaking of trees, maximizing the use of paper helps save trees. For Terlaje, “home, school, and work should be the place to develop sustainable actions.” The young beauty queen recommends that instead of printing several one-sided papers, clicking the double sided option on printers will help reduce paper consumption, stressing that millions of trees can be saved, and wastes could get lessen, if offices and schools could implement more efficient practices that could help our environment.
5. Eat less processed food. Processed foods contribute to the negative impacts of the environment in many ways, said Terlaje. “During the process of packaging, intensive energy production occurs, letting our tons of harmful gases and carbon emissions into the environment. Packaging of processed foods also end up in our landfills, contributing to our plastic crisis. Both the beginning and end of consuming processed foods are detrimental to our environment.”
6. Stop buying bottled water. Volunteers normally pick up plastic bottles during cleanups making CNMI a contributor to the 35 billion plastic bottles being thrown away by Americans every year. “Not only do water bottles fill up our landfills and end up in our oceans, they produce toxic contaminants that surround our air and water,” Terlaje stressed, adding that during the manufacturing process, water bottles release a load of carbon dioxide into the environment, which also impacts our health. “Water bottles contribute to the peak of the plastic crisis, filling our land and sea like a disease. Reducing plastic consumption and using reusable products can heavily benefit what water bottles do to our environment.”
7. Drive less, walk more. For Terlaje, driving a motor vehicle has everything to do with contributing to climate change and global warming. “These vehicles emit tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, polluting our airs and shifting our planet’s healthy temperature higher. This contributes to sea level rise, more hurricanes and typhoons, and death.”
8. Turn off your computer at night. Another energy-saving tip from Miss Earth that almost all of us can relate to, especially students and those who work from home, is turning off computers. “Anything that produces energy releases toxins into our atmosphere. Even something as simple as shutting off your computer can contribute to a healthier environment,” she said.
9. Use fluorescent bulbs. Just like turning the lights off when not needed, switching to more energy-efficient lighting helps the environment. “Fluorescent bulbs are more efficient,” Terlaje said. “They have a much stronger lifespan, leading to less waste in our landfills, and use less energy, reducing the release of carbon into our environment.”
10. Bring reusable shopping bags. More and more stores are advocating for the use of reusable bags, the practice of which, more in the community are beginning to embrace. “Persuading customers to bring reusable bags will cut down plastic consumption. Incentives like a small discount or charging for a plastic bag will encourage responsible back usage and lessen the waste in our environment.”
Remember, these are just 10 of the many things we can do to help the Earth. Perhaps, one other that is most important too is to help spread awareness and share these tips with your families and friends. The more of us who clean up our act, the better it is in the long run, not just for the Earth, but especially, for us too.