Making A Difference In America
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” said anthropologist Margaret Mead. Our readers have proved her words true time and again. Since 1978, the environmental movement has become more organized and more influential. No longer dismissed as “hippies,” “tree huggers,” and “radicals,” today’s environmentalists include world-renowned scientists, Fortune 500 executives, garden clubs, 4-H groups, and kindergartners. Families across the country have made the effort to recycle and seek out energy-efficient appliances, according to POP Environment. Over the years, our readers have championed the Endangered Species Act, applauded the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, and supported the creation of the Canyons of the Escalante National Monument, in southeastern Utah. They have sought out information on organic-food regulations, national park and nature center funding, global warming, composting, lead poisoning, creating backyard wildlife habitats, and the availability of solar power.
In short, men and women committed to saving our countryside have worked to make a difference and have much to show for their efforts. Over the past 20 years, the Endangered Species Act has helped to recover the bald eagle, American alligator, California sea otter, and many other threatened or endangered animals and plants, serving as our main defense against species and habitat loss. Groups like the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Center for Marine Conservation, and the National Wildlife Federation have provided leadership and guidance, empowering grassroots conservation groups to save marshes, forests, and sand dunes from development in their towns and cities.
Roughly 25 percent of America’s trash is now collected for recycling. More and more of it is being used by manufacturers to create new products. Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees. Recycled paper can be found in the boxes that line the cereal aisle at your local market as well as in high-end stationery shops. Today it’s not uncommon for discarded plastic soda bottles to be spun into Polarfleece, a plush, colorful material used to make clothing, bedding – even teddy bears. (One jacket made from this material keeps 15 two-liter soda bottles out of our landfills.) For the home, there are recycled glass tiles, carpets made without formaldehyde and toxic glues, and paints that emit few volatile organic compounds.
Timber consumption is also being reduced by forward-thinking companies that make paper products from such materials as kenaf, hemp, and agricultural residues like wheat straw. And labels like SmartWood and Green Cross, both certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, let consumers know which woods have been cultivated and harvested with minimal environmental destruction.
Alarmed to learn that the United States is losing approximately a million acres of farmland each year to nonagricultural use, our readers have reached out to support urban farms, local farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs, and groups such as the American Farmland Trust, a hardworking nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the family farm. And Country Living readers from coast to coast have generously contributed to the Country Living National Arbor Day Forest, which is now 1,336 acres strong.
Much has been accomplished in 20 years thanks to the continued efforts of individuals who have made a personal commitment to “do something” for the environment – whether it’s installing water-saving aerators on their faucets, switching to longer-lasting fluorescent lightbulbs, starting a recycling drive at the office, biking to work, carpooling, or planting a vegetable garden. Conservation is about choices. We all play a part.