Everday we hear more bad news about our planet. Reports tell us that wildlife and forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Newscasts give the latest word on how quickly earth is losing its protective shield and warming up. Newspapers lament the pollution of our air, water, and soil. What can we do in the face of such widespread gloom? In fact, we do not have to feel helpless.

We can each learn practical ways to better our environment. For example, saving and recycling newspapers has a number of positive results. First, recycling newspaper saves trees. The average American consumes about 120 pounds of newsprint a year-enough to use up one tree. That means close to 250 million trees each year are destroyed for paper in this country alone. If we recycled only one-tenth of our new paper, we would save 25 million trees a year.

Second, making new paper from old paper uses up much less energy than making paper from trees. Finally, this process also reduces the air pollution of paper-making by 95 percent. Another earth saving habit is 'p recycling' waste. This means buying food and other products packaged only in materials that will decay naturally or that can be recycled. The idea is to prevent un recyclable materials from even entering the home. For instance, 60 of the 190 pounds of plastic-especially styrofoam-each American uses a year are thrown out as soon as packages are opened.

Be kind to your planet by buying eggs, fast food, and other products in cardboard instead of styrofoam cartons. Buy beverages in glass or aluminum containers instead of plastic ones. Buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging, you will save money too. Finally, when you can, buy products whose packing shows the 'recycled' logo.

Materials that have been recycled once can be recycled again. Wise management of hazardous household wastes is yet another way of taking action for the planet. Hazardous wastes include paint, old car batteries, oven and drain cleaners, mothballs, floor and furniture polish, pesticides, and even toilet bowl cleaners. First of all, we should store hazardous materials properly by keeping them in their original containers, making sure they are clearly labeled, and keeping them in a cool, dry place that is out of the reach of children. Second, we can reduce our use of these products by buying only what we need and by sharing anything that might be left over. Third, we should take great care in disposing of hazardous wastes.

Certain wastes such as old car batteries and motor oil can be refined and reused, and in some cities can be turned in for special burning. However, local authorities have to be contacted because disposal practices vary so much from place to place. These personal actions may not seem important. At the very least, though, they can relieve some of the helplessness we all feel when faced with the threats of global disaster.

If carried out on a larger scale by millions of individuals, they could greatly improve our environment and lives.