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What to Spend Money On to Protect the Earth

Updated on March 13, 2015
watergeek profile image

Susette has a Masters degree in wise use of natural resources. She leads the Green Council and writes for The Sustainable Business Review.

It's way too common for people to complain about the world, but then not do anything about it, especially if they don't have a lot of money. So I started thinking, what if I had all the money in the world that I needed? What would I do to help protect the earth for future generations (and mine)?

I would look at the three elements most supportive of human life - water, air, and soil. For maximum effectiveness, I would look to see what projects I could carry out that would support all three elements. Any actions that had benefits for the community I would prioritize over anything that benefitted me alone. And I would take action without waiting for some person or law to force me into it.

Plant a Tree, Save a Life
Plant a Tree, Save a Life | Source

With a background in water conservation and environmental protection I already had a pretty good idea of what I would want to do. Here are three such projects, all of which are described below:

  1. Plant groves of trees.
  2. Grow food locally.
  3. Create parks in low income areas.

All three of these projects would benefit water, air, and soil, and they all three could have an uplifting effect on humanity in whichever locations they are carried out.

Spending Money on Trees

I would plant as many trees native to the area as I could - in my yard first, then in my business landscape if I have one, then out in the community.

Trees provide moisture in the air that helps attract rain, which cleans, cools, and removes carbon dioxide from the air. With their crowns, leaves, and trunks, trees capture rain when it falls and direct it down to the ground. From there rain sinks down through the intricate mesh of tunnels dug by the tree's roots, feeding the soil-creating microbes underneath and helping the earth to absorb water, even as some of it feeds the tree.


Trees provide the oxygen we breathe. Through their own breathing process, which is opposite to ours, they breathe in carbon dioxide (removing it from the air) and breathe out oxygen. By shading the earth so it doesn't heat up as much from the sun, trees also cool the air.

Planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to improve the long term quality of our air, whereas cutting down trees is the worst. Since they are natural carbon dioxide air cleaners, then when there is an excess of CO2 in the air (as there is now) we need more trees not fewer.

In addition to water, tree roots provide passage for air into the soil. This supports colonies of microorganisms, small insects, and small invertebrates (worms) that help break down the old leaves and other tree discards into healthy soil (compost).

A healthy tree also provides shelter and food for birds and animals (fauna), humans, and smaller plants growing near it. As the soil improves, so does the health of the tree and its fruits and those who feed from them.

I would choose trees that are native, that will thrive under the weather conditions in my area and not need much care, thereby also conserving energy for me and my landscaper. Native trees support local fauna, whereas most foreign trees do not. Some trees I would plant strategically near enough to shade the building, so I could conserve electricity in summer that would otherwise be used in cooling.

Of course, whatever services native trees provide in my area, they will also provide wherever they are planted, so I would give money in donations to tree-planting projects near where I live, and to forest preservation and replanting projects elsewhere - all money well spent that can help with improving water, air and soil.

Artichokes | Source
Tomatoes | Source

Spend Money to Grow Local Food

By growing and sharing local organic food, either in my own yard or via a community garden, I could help to increase the health of the soil and the health of the community around me. I would encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same, which would end up decreasing the amount of food needed from other countries. The reduction in long distance transportation would cause a related decrease in truck, train, and airplane emissions, which in turn would help clean the air.

By composting and using my own organic wastes, instead of throwing them in the trash, I could save room in landfills and help prevent contamination there. In my garden the compost will make the soil fluffier, letting water be absorbed more easily. By composting instead of grinding kitchen waste in the disposal, I also would save a ton of water. And, of course, by growing healthier food I could increase my own health and that of my family.

Spend Money to Buy Land and Create a Park

Why not? If I have the money, why not go whole hog? We need more parks for trees, water, beauty, and safety. Furthermore, the Forest Service discovered that big, old trees help prevent crime. Here is a report on that research.

Typical brownfield needing decontamination and reconstruction.
Typical brownfield needing decontamination and reconstruction. | Source
Bioswale (gully) designed to absorb rainwater.
Bioswale (gully) designed to absorb rainwater. | Source
Artificial pond acting as rainwater catchment.
Artificial pond acting as rainwater catchment. | Source

I would buy a brownfield, if there were one nearby, i.e. land in a poor residential area that has been contaminated. I would raze any buildings, recycling as much of the materials as possible or giving it away to local residents. I would engage their assistance, paying them a little and giving away a lot. We would transform the brownfield into a park.

I would get residents involved in planning and maintaining the park using native trees, bushes, and mushrooms that thrive in whatever toxins exist in the soil, and a rain detention pond, possibly with a mini-reclamation facility to clean out toxins leaching from the soil. We would plant water plants in the pond and direct all irrigation overflow into it. We would test the water after each rainstorm, until it tests clean enough to add fish and frogs to keep the mosquitoes down.

Together we would plan a space in the park for a community garden, and I would find instructors from the city or local college to teach residents how to compost and grow food. I would work with the city to hire and train locals to maintain the park and pond, then turn it over to them and go somewhere else to do the same thing again. This project would help retain rainwater, clean the air, increase the health of the soil, and also improve the health of those who eat from the garden.

Other Ways to Sustain the Earth

Beyond these projects, there are more that support one or two of the elements, rather than all three:

  • Car pooling to help reduce toxins in the air.
  • Conducting water use surveys to identify ways to reduce water used.
  • Revamping landscapes to get rid of grass (biggest landscape water user of all).
  • Working with the city to set up kitchen organic waste composting sites.
  • Carrying out some sort of political activism.

Everyone is or could be an activist in some way. If a healthy environment were important to you, what would you do to be a good steward of the earth?

Have you taken action to make your lifestyle more sustainable?

See results


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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 2 years ago

      I agree, Dari. You'd be amazed how different it is in Southern Africa from here. In Botswana, where I lived as a Peace Corps volunteer in the '70s, wildlife abounds. I used to go out on photographic safaris with friends, driving slowly through heards of giraffe, spending nights in a big canvas tent, listening to zebra whistle and lions roar. When I came back to the U.S. and realized how little was left here, I was really disappointed. That was the trigger for my own activism. I really hope we can make a turnaround.

    • profile image

      Darienne 2 years ago

      Hi watergeek, I love your "big dream"! Honestly, I feel that getting to know the specific natural communities of native plants, animals, rocks, etc. of your region is essential to bonding with the earth such that one will care enough to make appropriate changes. And enabling the younger generation to forge this kind of loving relationship with our non-human neighbors is integral to a healthy planet. There are so many obligate relationships that go unnoticed when humans only hang out with other humans. I feel like that's where all our problems started...

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago

      Yes, you're very right about that. I chair an Environmental Action Group for our church that organizes monthly presentations on how to live more sustainable lifestyles. We also distribute literature, talk about our own experiences (e.g. I drive, but don't own a car), and are preparing to conduct "green" house surveys for congregation members free of charge. This coming Sunday on Earth Day we're sponsoring the play "Mother Earth vs. the World' People," a comedy that highlights the damage we're doing to the environment. I know a lot of people who are making changes already. I'd like to know what my readers are doing.

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      sedotwc 5 years ago from Indonesia

      The easiest things are starting our own homes and may be followed by neighbors and eventually may spread to the wider community.

      by the way, do not wait to get rich, by giving the example of others through our actions, we certainly can do it.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago

      I'm dreaming big (lol), but it's very inspiring. The dream, itself, motivates me to do what I can where I am. And I agree about developing a relationship with the natural world around you. Everyone has a different life situation, so is able to do different things to help out. Hiking or photographing or just walking the neighborhood can often give a person ideas that are small to start with, but can lead to others.

    • catalystsnstars profile image

      catalystsnstars 5 years ago from Land of Nod

      I like where you are going with this, I really do. Its what I would love to encourage and do as well if I had the extra money. I believe however that the key to sustainability is starting small and being able to maintain a positive respectful relationship with the animate natural environment around us. So although having a lot of money will allow one to impact in a larger way, starting small can lead to the same results as other start to share in your actions.

      I for one would love to be part of your projects if you end up starting ever. Good luck, and thank you, hope you write more hubs on as passionate subjects as these.

      By the way, I also love your pictures, very inspiring.