Why YOU Matter in the Race Against Climate Change

The prevailing belief all over the world is that one human being cannot impact or incite a change that stop the escalating issues of our environment. While it’s true that one person is not the key to stopping climate change, this idea comes from one of the most common misconceptions of modern, consumerist society: that one person does not use that many resources. One person isn’t that much of a burden on our ecosystem. One person’s trash isn’t going to fill a landfill and one person’s biodegradable coffee cups will decompose in our lifetime.

I almost wish this were true, because if one life didn’t impact our environment at the rate most do, our planet would not be in the state it currently is.

Regardless of whether we want to believe, let alone hear it, the average US citizen’s carbon footprint is far larger than we believe. In reality, a single American citizen creates thirteen times more ecological damage than a child in Brazil. We use a third of the world’s paper and a quarter of the world’s oil and coal.

One American citizen, on average, will use 148,600,000 BTU of energy in their lifetime. That’s enough to send Marty back to the future 138 times.

While we could become hopeless, say that were doomed, and continue on our merry way and littering as we go. We could also notice the fact that this means as citizens of a first world country consuming at a faster rate than any other, our commitment to the environment has more gravity others’. Our singular commitment equals to a commitment of a whole family or an entire neighborhood block of some communities. If the average fossil fuel consumption of just one American equals that of two citizens of the United Kingdom or six of Mexico or thirteen of China and Brazil or 31of India or 128 of Bangladesh, shouldn’t we be the ones feeling the necessity of sustainable living?

“How many earths would we need if we all lived like…?” by Tim de Chant 

Yet, according to National Geographic’s Greendex, we come in dead last in sustainable behavior. Even though we consume at a rate 32 times faster than developing countries, Americans (on average) are the least concerned with their daily environmentally unfriendly behaviors, excessively large carbon footprint and the results that will inevitably follow.

 

We are in a unique position, however, because the fact that we are the worst culprits means that we most influence on the future state of the planet. Our personal and individual commitment matters more than any other, so we owe it to other inhabitants of this planet to do whatever we can to reverse the degradation.

 

In my lifetime, I’ve heard too many people say that living an eco-friendly lifestyle is hard. It might be inconvenient at times, but it isn’t hard. In a country like ours, it certainly is not impossible. We can choose to live in a way that helps or, at least, harms less than we currently do.

 

Here’s just a few ways you can help:

1. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

The average American generates 75 tons (150,000 lbs) of garbage in their lifetime. We’ve all heard that we should “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” What we need to do is to follow the three R’s in order. Reducing in little ways like unplugging all outlets when we leave the room, using canvas shopping bags, a mug from Peirce instead of a paper cup makes far more difference than recycling. (And no, this doesn’t give you a free pass on recycling.) Recycling at EVERY opportunity ensures that less of waste is sitting in landfills and that proves the green industry is something to invest in and continue.

2. Go Vegetarian or Participate in Meatless Monday

The daily consumption of one American’s water is 159 gallons. Eating a meat-free diet saves more water than skipping six months of showers. It takes 2,400 gallons to produce a pound of beef and only 25 gallons to produce wheat, rice, and other plant-based sources. If all of America went vegetarian one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water. In that one day, we would also save 1.5 billion pounds of crops fed to livestock, 70 million gallons of gas to process and transport the animals, 3 million acres of land to raise them on, 3 million tons of soil erosion, the $70 million dollars needed to repair the soil and 33 tons of antibiotics fed to the animals and used to clean the meat.

3. Take the time to turn the faucet/shower ALL THE WAY OFF

A leaky faucet can waste anywhere between 10 and 75 gallons of water a day. There isn’t a faucet on campus I’ve found that can’t be turned off completely. It might an extra ten seconds to twist it tightly enough or find the right position, but ten seconds of time versus ten gallons of water? It’s a no-brainer.

4. Thrift. Donate. Recycle Old Clothes. Buy Consciously

On average, each one of us throws away almost 65 pounds of clothing annually. That’s 14.3 million tons of clothing per year from the USA alone. The best way to combat this is by reducing our textile consumption by buying used clothes. Vintage and thrift is in, thankfully, but sometime we need to get rid of the stack of t-shirts we never touch and no one at Goodwill wants. If you can’t find a DIY project to upcycle the clothes with, the textile recycling industry does exist. A simple Google search can show you where a collection bin is and you can always open a textile recycling center in your community by applying to organizations like SMART (Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles). Clothes are broken down for insulation, couch stuffing and more. Don’t forget that you have a say overtime you shop. Buying from ethical brands, organic materials, and 100% cotton garments makes a big impact too.

5​.     Use reusable and canvas bags as often as you can

Several states have started to ban the plastic bags grocery stores are far too fond of. What people don’t realize, though, is that a takes 1,000 years for just one of these bags to fully degrade. Archaeologists of our future will most likely know more about Target and Wal-Mart than us, due to these polyethylene menaces. By always using canvas and decreasing the production of plastic bags, we save a landfill from bearing our grocery burden for millennia.

The state of our planet doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. First, we need to accept just how harmful our lifestyle is and commit to changing that lifestyle.

 

Resources:

Energy.gov

World Population Balance

Scientific American

NY Times

Pop Sci

World Watch

Water.usgs.gov

Alternet

The Guardian

Mindfully

Care2

Smart ASN

Image Credit: Type Inspire, Credit Loan, Pop Sci, Main Vegan, Elle, Pinimg