7 things humans can do to save the planet, as told by delightful claymation animals.

Saving the earth is, well, a big job.


Thinking about the sheer scale of the problem can be overwhelming.

And while there are some major steps we need to take collectively on a global scale to solve climate change, there are a few things each of us can do to make a personal impact.


Because you gotta start somewhere, right?

So start right here, and let these charming animated animals, the stars of a series of videos from Animal Planet, give you a few pointers on how to do your part.

Because it's their home too, you know.

1. Go easy on the showers.

All GIFs via Animal Planet/YouTube.

You don't have to convince me that long, hot showers are totally awesome. But they also are one of the biggest chunks of our residential water use. In the U.S. alone, we use almost 1.2 trillion gallons of water just for showering. That's enough to supply New York and New Jersey with all of their water for the whole year! Clipping just two minutes off your shower can personally save 10 gallons of water each day.

But if cutting down on shower time just isn't gonna happen (again, I totally get it) consider replacing your showerhead with a more water-efficient model. It costs between $10 and $20 and requires minimal handyman skills.

2. Unplug those devices.

Even when you're not using them, phone chargers, coffee makers, cable boxes, and other electronics draw power. They're known as energy vampires, for the way they drain electricity and money. A typical household has 25 electronic devices plugged in at any given time, so it's no surprise that energy vampires can account for around 20% of the average electric bill. Ouch!

3. Recycle your plastic bags the right way.

According to the Clean Air Council, an estimated 102.1 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year, and fewer than 1% of those are recycled. Instead, much of the waste winds up in landfills or worse, our rivers and oceans. Birds, turtles, and other marine animals are dying from intestinal blockages, choking, and starvation.

What can you do? Recycle your bags whenever you can, and call on plastic producers to create more eco-friendly and recyclable solutions.

Or better yet, BYOB: Bring your own bag.

You can avoid plastic altogether, and many stores give shoppers a discount for bringing their own bag.

4. Get your home winter-ready.

Pumping up the heat is one way to stay warm this winter, but it also a way to burn lots of natural gas and money. If your health allows, consider setting your thermostat to 68 or lower. In the 60-degree-to-70-degree range, you can save 5% on your your energy costs for every degree you lower your heat.

You can also winterize your house or apartment, checking for leaks around windows and doors and making sure your furnace filters are fresh and clean. These simple steps can save natural gas and potentially lower your bills this winter.

5. Pick up after yourself.

As this angry cartoon leopard, or this very real disfigured turtle will tell you, litter is THE WORST. Litter harms animals both directly, by choking, strangling, or poisoning them, and indirectly. These indirect incidents occur when animals eat trash or food thrown to the side of the road and risk running into traffic.

But tragedies like this are 100% preventable. And properly disposing your trash is one of the easiest things you can do to make a difference right this second.

And while you're at it, recycle too.

6. Consider swapping out a few lightbulbs.

Traditional incandescent bulbs use more energy and burn out faster than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. While CFL bulbs are a little more expensive upfront, they last six times as long and provide a quick return on investment. In fact if every home in the U.S. replaced one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star-qualified CFL, it could prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to over 800,000 cars each year.

Speaking of which...

7. Give your car a break.

In an effort to reduce congestion downtown during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, car travel restrictions were put in place. During the games, traffic declined an estimated 23%. In that time, ozone concentrations dropped about 28% and acute care visits for children with asthma fell 41%. More recently, check out what happened to the sky when Beijing put driving restrictions in place for two weeks.

While limiting traffic citywide is likely a no-go, making the personal commitment to drive less is something each of us can do. Replacing short automobile trips with walking, biking, or public transit is a simple way to cut down on our personal CO2 emissions and perhaps improve our air quality in the process.

You don't need to be Captain Planet to do right by the earth.

Small acts can make a big difference. You can do your part by making even just one or two of these changes. You can also point and click your way to a better world by signing this petition to support America's Clean Power Plan.

This is the only Earth we've got. And since it's the only place humans (and claymation animals) can call home, every positive step, even a small one, is a step worth taking.

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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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