We’ve all heard about ways to go green one way or another, things like changing your light bulb to be fluorescent and taking shorter showers, turning lights off when you leave a room and unplugging your electronics when not in use, things of that nature. Little tweaks like these in your lifestyle can make a big difference, but is it enough? The issue of global warming has quickly evolved into the crisis of climate change, and it seems as though all our cries to help the planet are falling on deaf, greedy ears. Along with climate change, people are also harming ecosystems and the habitats of wildlife, and let me tell you I don’t want to raise my future children in a word without penguins. It may seem bleak and insurmountable, but there is still some things we can do to reduce our footprint in this issue and work towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.
1. Forget Straws!
One of the leading items found littering coastal areas are plastic straws. These little menaces are small and lightweight, and therefore can easily blow out of trash cans and into storm drains that then flow into the ocean. Also due to their shape and size, recycling machines don’t always catch them, and they fall through to the filtering screens where they are then discarded as garbage. If they are to end up in the ocean, animals will think they are food, and when ingested, they have a 50% chance of mortality. Americans use thousands upon thousands of straws a day, but there are was to turn it around. By requesting “no straw please” at restaurants, coffee shops, or bars, and encouraging your friends to do the same, we can reduce the rate of consumption and pollution. Visit thelastplasticstraw.org to learn more about the issue!
2. Conserve Energy (and no, this does not mean taking more naps)
While fluorescent light bulbs are great, there is much more you can do to save energy, as well as some money. The highest energy consumer that makes up nearly half of a person’s electricity bill is heating and cooling. By turning the thermostat down a bit in the winter and bundling up in warm blankets, and turning it up a bit in the summer while you’re out having adventures, you can reduce the intensity of your energy use. Also, by purchasing a power strip that can be manually turned on and off, you can reduce the amount of phantom energy used, which is energy that continues to load even when an appliance is shut off. You can also evaluate your energy using habits and decide what needs to change, even something as simple as washing your clothes in cold water to lower the cost of water heating or letting your dishes air dry instead of using the dry setting on your dishwasher can be a step in the right direction.
3. Beware the Beef
Did you know that livestock, mainly cows, need so much land that according to the Food and Agriculture Organization 41.4% of land in the US (excluding Alaska) is used for grazing? Beef is in high demand these days and it takes a lot of work to keep up the supply. The dangerous thing about this fact is that cows eat a lot, on average 24 pounds of food a day, and as they eat they burp out methane – an abundant greenhouse gas. This excessive production is a large contributor of climate change, and while you don’t need to rule out beef entirely (because let’s face it, some of us can’t function without a burger here and there) you can reduce the amount of beef you eat per week. Switching over to chicken is also a great alternative, as they only need a fraction of the land that cows do and produce far less in terms of greenhouse gases. Go check out your local farmer’s market, as it would not only support local businesses, but most local farmers are humane and organic – La Verne has one right here on the main campus going down D street every Saturday morning and Claremont has one downtown every Sunday morning.
4. Drink Wisely
Bottled water is super convenient, you just grab one as you’re heading out the door to work or to class, and easy to recycle as well, but they have their dark side as well. In fact, the market for bottled water has skyrocketed in the past five years, making billions of dollars towards another form a single use plastic while there are still homes across the country with no tap water. Also, plastic bottles overflowing in our landfills and are more commonly littered than straws, not to mention they take over a thousand years to biodegrade. By purchasing a reusable, preferably aluminum water bottle, you can skip that extra trip to the store to buy an expensive pack of water. Besides, lots of places are coming out with super cute ones nowadays as a push to use less plastic bottles. It would also be a good idea to invest in a water purifier to clean your tap water. It can make you basically independent from the need to buy water bottles, and will save you money in the long run.
5. Take Charge In Your Life
The most important thing to think about when making a lifestyle choice is the fact that you know yourself better than anyone. Take some time a think about the way you go about your day and where you can improve in terms of being eco-friendly. Whether it be carpooling to work, planting drought-resistant plants in your garden, borrowing books from the library instead of buying new ones, or other little things in your life that contribute to a bigger picture, you can have an impact in the future of our sustainable planet. Also remember that with election day coming up, it is of the utmost importance that we vote out those in the senate who deny climate change is an issue and those who block any bills that will put a dent in the revenue they receive from private fuel companies. This is our time to take back our planet, and I wish everyone to take some of these ideas to heart.