What are the biggest problems facing our environment? What do you do to protect the environment?

We all enjoy the sun, the freshness of the air and the cleanliness of the water. However, these can no longer be taken for granted in our country. For many years environmental problems have been completely forgotten. Financial pressures, industrial and agricultural needs have been more important. This short-sighted policy has resulted in disastrous consequences.

Poland is one of the most heavily polluted countries in Europe nowadays. The contamination of rivers, lakes and the sea has become commonplace. The water is viewed as a dumping place where sewage and industrial waste can be washed away and hopefully disappear. As a result, swimming is forbidden in many places at the seaside and in many rivers and lakes. In fact, 90% of Polish rivers are so badly polluted that the water is not only unfit for bathing or drinking but even for washing and using in the cooling system in factories! The pollution of water has also contributed to the destruction of the wildlife habitats in many regions and resulted in the extinction or decimation of numerous species.

Another big environmental problem in Poland is the pollution of the atmosphere. There is heavy smog which hangs over the industrial areas. The inhabitants of the most polluted Polish cities are susceptible to such serious medical problems as respiratory illnesses, miscarriages, mental retardation and many others which are difficult to count.

What is more, whenever we go for a walk through the streets of a big city we notice at once how dirty they are. Litter, scraps of paper, cans, bottles and plastic wrappings are scattered almost everywhere. It is generally believed that the one way we can increase human wealth is by producing more and consuming more. However, if we do not want to turn our environment into a garbage heap in the process, we should change our way of thinking and stop being so wasteful.

Sometimes I can consider what we, ordinary citizens can do for the environment?

Even if we do not consider ourselves ecofreaks, or do not particularly like the idea of taking part in ecological campaigns or protests, we can still try to be more 'environmentally friendly' in our everyday life. One thing I can do is buying only ecologically safe products made from or wrapped in recycled or biodegradable material, and boycotting others. There are some soap powders which are more concentrated and packed in small containers, tooth – paste tubes are sold without boxes and plastic wrapping has been reduced.

Another possibility is returning cans and bottles to a store or putting them into specially designed containers. Finally, I can save newspapers and return them to a recycling centre. What else can I do? Save water - so I turn off the tap when I clean my teeth, I prefer to have a shower rather than have a bath; and save electric energy – so I don't leave for example a loader in the socket and I buy energy – saving bulbs.

In a time when newspapers and TV news bulletins are filled with depressing stories of environmental disasters, it is important to remind people, especially children, that they can make a difference. After all, they can recycle their waste everyday. We should remember that children are always watching and learning from their parents and the adults around them. What we do today will be imitated by our children tomorrow. We should be aware of the message that we are giving them. By showing them that the environment is important to us and sharing our thoughts with them they grow an appreciation for the things we care about.