Technological advancement is a double-edged sword in a lot of different ways. Case in point: the modern world is, quite simply, too loud. Animals experience unnatural stress due to noise pollution, and this can have permanent and harmful effects on their behaviour. The problems can spread deep within an ecosystem, affecting plants as well as animals. When chronic noise drives off species that pollinate flowers and spread seeds, plants and trees suffer, too.
The harmful effects of human-made noise pollution don’t exclude its creators. A recent New Yorker article highlighted the negative impact noise pollution has on public health for humans. Potential problems include hearing damage, heart disease, low birth weight, high blood pressure and chronic sleep disruptions.
It is not going too far to say that we’re at risk of killing ourselves with the noises we make.
Today an increasing number of people are conscious of the environmental impact their lives have. The term ‘carbon footprint’ has achieved wide-scale acceptance; perhaps it is time to give ‘noise footprint’ the same attention. Noise pollution is a difficult problem to tackle, particularly from an individual point of view. Many of the loudest offenders are communal or commercial activities, such as shipping, manufacturing and logging. There is still a role that environmentally-conscious citizens can play, though! You can take steps to reduce the amount of noise you contribute to your community’s soundscape.
Some Basic Tips for Reducing Your Noise Footprint
1) Get A Better Understanding of Noise Pollution around You
Garret Keizer, the author of a book called ‘The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want,’ offers a useful exercise: sit down in your home, close your eyes, and concentrate on all of the noises you can hear. List them individually, and look at the spread between micro (e.g. appliances) and macro (e.g. ambulances) sounds. In all but the most isolated rural communities, you can probably assemble quite a long list this way.
Even if your home is relatively isolated, you may still catch strains of traffic, industrial noise, and aircraft. Genuine silence is becoming ever harder to find. Noted explorer Erling Kagge called silence ‘almost extinct’ in his latest book on the subject.
2) Cut Back on Vehicle Noise
Once you’re starting to appreciate the amount of noise pollution around you, you can start taking steps to minimise your contribution. Outdoor vehicles and tools contribute a great deal to the deafening clamour around us. Motorcycles, sports cars, motorboats, and more: even when they’re operated within regulated decibel levels, the noise they create is harmful to both humans and the natural world.
You can do your part to reduce traffic noise by preferring quieter forms of transportation. Bicycles and mass transit can help you cut down your contribution to the roar of traffic. When you do buy an automobile, consider its environmental impact in terms of decibel levels as well as carbon emissions.
If the throb of an engine is just too sweet for you to give up, at least check to make sure you are complying with local noise laws. Keeping your vehicle in good running order is important to keep its effect on the local soundscape in check.
3) Reduce the Volume of Gardening
Power tools used to care for your landscaping create a surprisingly large amount of noise pollution. This is one area where your noise footprint is particularly rough on wildlife; loud tools can drive away songbirds and other creatures that should be welcomed.
Evaluate your gardening needs carefully before you decide that a gas or electric tool is absolutely necessary. If you have a mower, consider replacing it with a manual or battery-powered model. In the longer term, you can have a positive environmental impact – in more ways than just preserving the quiet – if you plan your garden using hardy plant species that require less upkeep.
4) Minimise Domestic Disruption
The sort of noise issues that disturb neighbours cluster around a few common sources: music, dogs, parties, and fireworks. The fact that these intrusions are far more common at night increases the amount of harm they do. The World Health Organization notes that sleep disruptions can easily lead to more serious health issues, including depression and anxiety. Have a care for your neighbours and mind the amount of noise you produce at night.
5) Mind the Background Noise
Be aware that even soft noises can have a disruptive effect on your human and animal neighbours. Loud fans, air conditioners, and other equipment may be spoiling the soundscape around your home. The next time you replace appliances or renovate your home, choose energy-efficient machines that produce less noise. Improving your home’s insulation can also help by reducing the amount of mechanical heating and cooling it requires. Check out this firm of acoustic consultants in Hampshire for further ideas.