At a time when we as a nation and a planet are so concerned with carbon footprints, with cutting down carbon emissions and conserving resources, it's easy to despair that small actions won't make a difference. Yet there is one simple step that all of us, no matter our age, can do to reduce the senseless wasting of energy and contribute to this push towards energy sustainability:
Cut out the ice in your beverages.
Here's why: It takes energy to create ice. The source of this energy is almost always a non-renewable energy source, a fossil fuel.
I learned this when I lived in Israel in the early 80's. Except for hotels and restaurants catering to Americans, no place served beverages with ice. The kibbutz I lived on didn't even make ice for drinks. When I asked why this was, they told me, "Ice is oil. We are at war, all the time, all over the world, because of oil. Why would we want to waste it on something as unimportant as the temperature of our drinks?"
"Ice is oil." That comes to mind every time I visit a fast food restaurant and see a slush pile of ice melting in the gutter of the drink dispenser. Never mind that the sodas are already chilled to a temperature capable of giving one an instant freeze-headache. For some reason, we as a nation are convinced that if we don't turn every drink into the equivalent of a slushie, it won't taste right.
When we use ice to chill a drink, the energy used to create it is released as the ice melts. The drink gets colder - temporarily - as the drink becomes diluted - permanently. And then the energy is gone. To what end?
In truth, that ice cold drink isn't good for us on many levels. The tongue doesn't recognize the flavors in a super-cold liquid, so we automatically down more of it, trying to taste it. The stomach has a hard time dealing with quantities of anything cold, so it slows down digestion until it can warm up the icy contents, which usually are gulped down in large quantities. (One might argue about the impact of sugar or aspartame, along with artificial, chemical flavorings on one's overall health - but that's for another time.)
So as we approach the summer season - and all the rest of the year - do your part to walk gently on the earth. When you go out to eat, take your drinks without that mountain of ice. You'll be able to taste it better, digest it better, and reduce your carbon footprint by just a little bit.
It may not be much, but it's a start.