What Does Conservation Mean, In Definition and in Practice?
What does conservation mean? What does it look like in practice? Is it only a large scale concept? Or does it hit closer to home? Now that we've covered reducing, reusing, and recycling tangible items, I'm going to do my best to explain how to do the same with bigger finite resources such as water, natural gas, and power. Stick with me, though. It's a big topic.
First, the definition: The textbook (or in this case, online dictionary) answer is "the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation". It goes on to talk about using things wisely, ensuring what's there will be there for future generation, and even describes things being under supervision, such as in the case of forest management or national land preserves, or state or national parks being protected from farming, logging, or building, as well as being maintained to prevent damage, even from natural elements.
That's the textbook definition, and it's pretty cut-and-dry, right? But to me definitions like this sound like we're just talking about Yellowstone or (my personal fave) Zion National Park; beautiful areas or big topics that require a task force and legislature and a boatload of funding to make anything happen.
And that doesn't cut it for me. I don't like answers that say "leave it to the Big Dogs" and shoo us back to our voting booths. I like answers that actually empower us to do our part, because THAT is what is truly sustainable - change and action at a grassroots level.
So, what does conservation mean, really mean, to us...the everyday person? Do we play a part, and how big a part do we play?
Short answer: Yes, we play a part...and yes, it's a big one.
Sure, part of our part IS voting for conservation and preservation plans. It involves remembering things like "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos" when we're enjoying these natural areas. It involves volunteering when your local state park needs your help planting trees or rebuilding paths after a storm.
But I think when we focus solely on these Big Money issues we neglect the part of conservation that perhaps makes the biggest impact. What is conservation of our national parks, land, or animal habitats without conservation of the things that impact those areas, namely the things we do in our homes and lives?
With 132 MILLION households in the US alone1, how we use or waste water and power impacts the local, national, and global environment in huge ways. Take Las Vegas as an example (my hometown and this being a major reason we moved): In 2010, with a population of nearly 2 million, the only water source was and has been the Colorado River. In order to sustain such a massive city in the middle of a barren desert, surrounding areas had to be destroyed and submerged to create Hoover Dam, both to provide a water reservoir and electricity demands. Despite such a huge change to the landscape, neither the local rainfall (as low as 1 inch a year!2) nor the Colorado River can sustain that (and 6 other states) and water levels continue to drop. This affects wildlife, the natural terrain, and of course, the people dependent on that water. (And despite what the Review Journal says, just doing the math is abysmal. They are betting on rain dances and massive funding to keep it going with no thought to the desperate water restrictions needed...not what I'd call a sustainable plan.3)
Depending on where you live, the story is the same, even if the details aren't: How we, as consumers, use our natural resources will absolutely affect how we can preserve them.
So again, what does conservation mean to you?
It's easy to look at our efforts and feel as though it's a drop in the bucket. But ya know what? A full bucket is made up solely of those tiny drops. The efforts you make not only affect your own home (and utility bills), but they ripple out too. They inspire the grassroots change we want and need to see in our friends, family, neighbors, and community. They create a snowball with the power to create a movement. But it's gotta start with a single drop.
True conservation begins at home by considering the value of what we use, how we use it, and why.
So, let's talk about some easy-to-make changes, shall we? They really aren't hard, I promise, although some of them might be for the more diehard and intrepid souls, so those ideas might feel overwhelming. But if I can throw on my life coaching hat for a minute, I'd like to remind you that overwhelm creeps in when we think we have to do it all now and don't want to acknowledge we can't. That's not possible anyway, so don't worry about it. Just read the articles below, bookmark them, share them with your friends to strike up conservation, and start implementing the things that feel like "baby steps" now, especially things you think you can actually sustain. Start shifting your mindset to one of conservation, and pretty soon you're gonna be schooling me on how it's done. In which case, I expect a full report. Or a guest article. I'm flexible.
Ready to jump in? Go through these articles in order, or pick the one that jumps out to you...
According to the University of Nebraska, approximately 30% of the nation is reporting drought conditions4 and yet few people are conscious of their water usage. Reducing water waste is SO easy, especially with the tips in the article below, and you'll see the benefit on your next bill, too.
Read More: 110+ Ways to Save Water
As a culture, we use purified water for everything we do, sometimes unnecessarily. (I mean really, how many countries would be appalled that we defecate into clean drinking water??) And we only use it once before we send it back for more purification. But did you know your washing machine water can sustain your garden?
Read More: How To Start Greywater Recycling
The price of energy is going up and our reserve of natural resource is dwindling. It's not possible for everyone to pull off the energy grid, but it is possible for everyone to reduce their personal consumption (and their power bills). From electricity to natural gas, these tips make a difference. (We personally cut our power bill by 65%!)
Read More: 85+ Energy Saving Tips
Perhaps one of the greatest consumers of energy, heating our homes can be expensive and is often flat out inefficient. With a few tips you can find sustainable and affordable ways to stay warm (you do NOT have to freeze) and save money while conserving your heating energy.
Read More: 26 Home Heating Tips and Alternatives
Depending on where you live, keeping cool may be an even bigger concern for you, especially as energy prices rise and our dependence on finite resources increases. These tips will help you cut back on your air conditioning usage, save money, and lessen your carbon footprint...without sweating your face off.
Read More: 28 Home Cooling Tips and Alternatives
Other home conservation articles:
- 7 Ways to Make Your Wood Burning Stove Greener
- Salt Water Swimming Pools: Neither Eco-Friendly, nor Chemical-Free
- Off-site: Basically, everything you need to know about getting solar in your home
- Creating a Natural Swimming Pool (coming soon!)
- Line Drying in Any Size Home (coming soon!)
What else would you love to see in this section? Let me know in the comments below!