Types of environmental impacts, their effects, and what we can do about them

ENVIRONMENT

The global environment is facing unprecedented crises such as global warming, extreme weather events, and declining biodiversity.

At the root of all these problems is environmental burden.

In this article, we will discuss what is environmental impact? We will discuss in detail the different types, specific examples, and ways we can reduce our environmental impact.

What is environmental load?

Environmental load refers to the negative impact of human activities on the environment.
Specifically, it includes the following.

  • Global Warming: Global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions leads to various problems such as extreme weather and rising sea levels.
  • Air Pollution: Soot and fumes emitted from factories and automobiles can cause respiratory illnesses and acid rain.
  • Water Pollution: Pollution of rivers and lakes by domestic and industrial wastewater reduces biodiversity and degrades water resources.
  • Soil pollution: Soil pollution caused by the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers can adversely affect the growth of crops and human health.
  • Decrease in biodiversity: Destruction of the natural environment through deforestation and development takes away habitats for many plants and animals, destroying ecosystems.
  • Waste problem: Increasing waste places a heavy burden on treatment and disposal.

These environmental burdens are interrelated and can create a vicious cycle.

For example, deforestation reduces biodiversity, which in turn reduces the number of plants that absorb carbon dioxide and accelerates global warming.

In order to protect the global environment, it is necessary to understand the overall picture of environmental burdens and take action at various levels.

Types and Examples of Environmental Impacts

Environmental impacts can be broadly classified into the following three categories.

1. Atmospheric load

Greenhouse gas emissions: Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.

  • Carbon dioxide is mainly emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Methane is emitted from rice cultivation, livestock farming, and landfills.
  • Nitrous oxide is emitted from agriculture, industry, and transportation.

Emissions of Air Pollutants: Soot, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, etc.

  • Soot and smoke are emitted from factories and automobile exhaust.
  • Nitrogen oxides are emitted from automobile and factory exhaust.
  • Sulfur oxides are emitted from flue gases from factories and power plants.
  • Volatile organic compounds are emitted from automobile and factory exhaust gases, paints, adhesives, etc.

2. Water Load

Water pollution from domestic wastewater and factory wastewater:

  • Domestic wastewater contains detergents, fats, oils, and organic compounds.
  • Factory wastewater contains heavy metals and chemicals.

Water pollution by pesticides and chemical fertilizers:

  • Pesticides are used to control pests and diseases, but can harm aquatic life and affect human health.
  • Chemical fertilizers are used to promote crop growth, but can leach into the water and pollute rivers and lakes.

Marine Pollution:

  • Plastic waste can be misplaced by marine life or drift through the ocean and harm the ecosystem.
  • Oil spills can pollute seawater and harm marine life.

3Ј. Burden on Soil

Soil pollution from pesticides and chemical fertilizers:

  • Pesticides can adversely affect microorganisms in the soil and reduce soil fertility.
  • Chemical fertilizers can alter the acidity in the soil and cause hardening of the soil.

Soil runoff from inappropriate development:

  • Deforestation and forest development can result in soil runoff from rainwater.

Severe environmental impacts

Environmental impacts can cause a variety of problems, including.

Global warming

  • Extreme weather: droughts, floods, typhoons, heat waves, etc.
  • Sea level rise: inundation of coastal areas, salt damage, etc.
  • Biodiversity loss: Extinction of many plant and animal species
  • Impact on food security: reduced crop yields

Air pollution

  • Respiratory diseases: asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, etc.
  • Acid rain: acidification of forests and lakes
  • Vision impairment: haze and smog
  • Corrosion of buildings

Water pollution

  • Impacts on aquatic life: fish and shellfish die
  • Water resource degradation: drinking water and industrial water shortages
  • Human health: infectious diseases and pollution-related diseases such as Minamata disease

Soil pollution

  • Effects on crop growth: reduced crop yields and quality
  • Human health effects: health hazards due to contaminated crops

Biodiversity loss

  • Ecosystem disruption: Breakdown of food chain, extinction of species
  • Impact on food security: reduced crop yields due to reduced number of pollinating insects
  • Impact on drug development: fewer materials for new drug development

Waste problems

  • Environmental pollution: soil and water contamination due to illegal dumping
  • Resource depletion: Environmental destruction due to resource extraction
  • Increased treatment costs: Construction and operation of treatment facilities

Ways to reduce environmental impact

To reduce the environmental impact, efforts must be made at various levels.

Initiatives by national government, local governments, companies, etc.

1. Stricter environmental regulations

  • Stricter emission standards: Encourage companies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, air pollutants, water pollutants, etc., by making environmental standards more stringent.
  • Introduction of an environmental labeling system: By certifying environmentally friendly products, we will increase consumers’ willingness to purchase them and promote the reduction of environmental impacts in the market as a whole.
  • Strengthening the environmental impact assessment system: Prevent environmental destruction by making it mandatory to assess the environmental impact of development projects in advance and take appropriate measures.
  • Introduction of an environmental tax: By imposing a tax based on environmental impact, the government will raise environmental awareness among businesses and individuals and promote investment in environmental measures.

2. Development of environmental technologies

  • Promotion of Renewable Energy: By promoting the spread of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, we will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Development of energy-saving technologies: By promoting the development of energy-saving technologies, such as energy-efficient appliances, energy-efficient building materials, and energy-efficient automobiles, we will reduce energy consumption and lower environmental impact.
  • Development of environmental remediation technologies: By promoting the development of environmental remediation technologies, such as technologies to clean up contaminated soil and water and technologies to convert waste into resources, we will repair environmental damage and create a sustainable society.

3. Promotion of environmental education

  • Enhance education on environmental issues from early childhood education to university education to raise environmental awareness.
  • Hold lectures and workshops on environmental issues to increase momentum for society as a whole to address environmental issues.
  • Utilize the media to widely disseminate information on environmental issues and deepen understanding.

4. Realization of a sustainable society

  • Effective use of resources: Prevent resource depletion and reduce environmental impact by reducing the amount of resources mined and promoting recycling and reuse.
  • Transition to a circular economy: By viewing waste as a resource and promoting the transition to a circular economy, we will achieve effective use of resources and reduce environmental impact.
  • Support for environmentally conscious companies: By strengthening support for companies that manage their businesses in an environmentally conscious manner, we will promote the realization of a sustainable society.

Ways we as individuals can reduce our environmental impact

1. Eco-friendly lifestyle habits.

  • Use energy-efficient appliances: Energy-efficient appliances consume less power than conventional appliances, helping to save on electricity costs and reduce environmental impact.
  • Use public transportation: Using public transportation reduces car use and CO2 emissions.
  • Bring your own bag: By bringing your own bag when shopping, you can reduce the use of plastic bags and help reduce plastic waste.
  • Recycle: By collecting and recycling paper, plastic, bottles, etc., you can contribute to effective use of resources and reduce environmental impact.
  • Reduce food loss: You can contribute to reducing food loss by planning your shopping and preserving food in a way that prevents food from going to waste.

2. Choose environmentally friendly products.

  • Choose products with environmental labels: Environmental labels are certification marks that indicate that a product was produced with consideration for the environment.
  • Choose eco-marked products: The eco-mark is a certification mark that indicates that a product has a low environmental impact.
  • Choose FSC certified wood: FSC certified wood is a certification mark that indicates that the wood is produced through the sustainable management of forests.

3. Take an interest in environmental issues.

  • Participate in environmental activities: By participating in environmental activities organized by environmental protection organizations and civic groups, you can contribute to solving environmental problems.
  • Communicate your opinions on environmental issues: By actively communicating your opinions on environmental issues to politicians and companies, you can influence policies and corporate activities.

Foods with high environmental impact

1. Meat

  • The livestock industry requires large amounts of water resources and land, and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases.
  • Reducing meat consumption can greatly reduce environmental impact.

2. Dairy Products

  • Dairy cows emit large amounts of methane.
  • Reducing consumption of dairy products can reduce environmental impact.

3. Processed foods

  • The manufacturing process consumes a lot of energy and the environmental impact from packaging materials is also significant.
  • By reducing consumption of processed foods and cooking your own food, you can reduce your environmental impact.

4. Imported Foods

  • CO2 emissions are high during the transportation process.
  • You can reduce environmental impact by choosing locally produced foods.

Examples of concrete actions to reduce environmental impact

Shopping

  • Bring your own bag: By reducing the use of plastic bags, you can contribute to the reduction of plastic waste. Choose your own bag that suits your needs in terms of material, design, and ease of carrying.
  • Choose local foods: By choosing local foods, you can reduce CO2 emissions from transportation. It also helps support local farmers.
  • Use independent stores instead of mass merchandisers: Independent stores tend to use less packaging material than mass merchandisers. This can also contribute to the revitalization of the local economy.
  • Choose seasonal produce: In-season produce tends to be more nutritious and less expensive. Choosing seasonal foods can also contribute to reducing food loss.
  • Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk reduces the frequency of shopping trips, which in turn reduces the use of transportation.
  • Reduce food loss: To reduce food loss, it is important to shop systematically and store food in a way that prevents food from going to waste.

Getting Around

  • Use public transportation: Using public transportation reduces the use of cars and CO2 emissions. It can also help reduce traffic congestion.
  • Ride a Bicycle: Bicycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around.
  • Walking: Walking is a great way to improve your health and reduce your environmental footprint.
  • Stop idling: Stopping idling is an effective measure to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Reduce car use: To reduce car use, actively use other modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, and public transportation.

Diet

  • Reduce meat consumption: Meat production requires large amounts of water resources and land, and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. Reducing meat consumption can greatly reduce environmental impact.
  • Select seasonal foods: In-season foods tend to be more nutritious and have a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Cook for yourself: Cooking for yourself can help you adjust your food usage and reduce food loss.
  • Become a vegetarian: Becoming a vegetarian can significantly reduce meat consumption.
  • Reduce eating out: Eating out has a greater environmental impact than eating at home. By eating out less, you can reduce your environmental impact.

Energy

  • Turn off electricity more often: Turning off electricity more often can help save money and reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances: Energy-efficient appliances consume less power than conventional appliances, helping to save on electricity bills and reduce environmental impact.
  • Reduce the temperature setting of your air conditioner: By moderating the temperature setting of your air conditioner, you can help save on electricity bills and reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Use renewable energy sources such as solar power: Using renewable energy sources such as solar power can help reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Conserve energy-saving driving:** By conserving energy, you can improve fuel efficiency and effectively reduce CO2 emissions.

Recycling

  • Collect paper, plastic, bottles, etc. separately: By collecting paper, plastic, bottles, etc. separately, you can contribute to effective use of resources and reduction of environmental impact.
  • Donate used clothing: By donating used clothing, you can reduce the amount of clothing waste.
  • Use recycle stores: By using recycle stores, you can give new value to unwanted items instead of throwing them away.
  • Recycle unwanted items instead of throwing them away: Look for items that can be recycled instead of throwing them away.

Other.

  • Getting concerned about environmental issues: Getting concerned about environmental issues will raise your awareness of the issues and lead to action.
  • Participate in environmental activities: By participating in environmental activities, you can contribute to solving environmental problems.
  • Choose environmentally friendly products: By choosing environmentally friendly products, you can promote your company’s environmental measures.
  • Transmitting information on environmental issues: By transmitting information on environmental issues, you can raise the awareness of those around you.
  • Require companies and politicians to address environmental issues: By requiring companies and politicians to address environmental issues, you can influence policies and corporate activities.

Conclusion

Awareness and action on the part of each individual are critical to reducing our environmental impact.
Let us start with what we can do in our daily lives.
It is important for each of us to take action to protect the global environment.

Companies and organizations working on environmental issues

  • https://www.env.go.jp/
  • https://www.wwf.or.jp/
  • https://www.greenpeace.org/japan/
  • https://www.foejapan.org/

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