One day a year, on April 22, the social media world becomes flooded with posts celebrating Mother Earth and advocating for environmental protection. Scenic photos of the great outdoors, local beaches, picturesque green meadows, vibrant flora and fauna and the occasional scuba diving photo suddenly make up your entire feed. Somehow, by posting a photo of nature on Instagram, we feel as if we have done our part in saving the planet.
Although Earth Day plays a valuable role in raising awareness for the critical state of our home, why stop there? We can show our love for the Earth in so many more impactful ways than just the annual Instagram photo.
Recently, you may have heard about the Last Plastic Straw Movement, a project of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. With over 500,000,000 plastic straws used each day in the United States, we produce an extreme amount of waste for such minimal convenience. Although many companies, such as Starbucks and Jamba Juice, have begun moving toward compostable cups and lids, the straws are neither recyclable or compostable. Thus, the short-lived tool is used once for your iced coffee or smoothie and then tossed into the trash can without further thought.
Yet the 500,000,000 plastic straws don’t simply disappear, although wouldn’t it be nice if they did? In reality, most of these straws end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. At the rate we are using and wasting these unnecessary pieces of plastic, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
One way we can begin to change the tide includes asking for no straw when ordering a drink and instead sipping from the cup. Another alternative includes switching to stainless steel straws, which are more durable, reusable and less likely to end up in our oceans. Personally, I like using straws, as do most people — evident by the 500,000,000 straws we use daily — and anyone who has had a stroke, has autism, multiple sclerosis or other life-changing physical issues do need to use a straw.
With over 500,000,000 plastic straws used each day in the United States, we produce an extreme amount of waste for such minimal convenience.
Conveniently enough, Amazon has a wide variety of reusable, stainless steel straws to choose from on their website. By deciding to forgo the single-use plastic straw or choosing to use the alternative stainless-steel straw, we combat pollution and prevent more straws from being lodged in the nostrils of sea turtles.
Since the 1950s, we’ve somehow managed to produce 9 billion tons of plastic and 91 percent of it hasn’t been recycled. That is so much plastic that I honestly can’t even comprehend how much plastic that is. However, one example of how we completely hold the key to changing our destructive culture in our own hands is through our use of reusable grocery bags. With many grocery markets no longer having flimsy plastic bags easily available and people taking the initiative to bring their own, the use of reusable grocery bags has become increasingly prevalent during our weekly grocery runs.
However, a lesser-known way to show our love for the environment is through the use of reusable produce bags. Similar to laundry bags for delicate items, these reusable produce bags reduce the amount of waste produced by the single-use plastic bags that most of us use to hold our peaches and broccoli. Plus, they’re sturdier too! You can find a variety of these reusable produce bags on Amazon or even at your local grocery store. Or you can also use your laundry bags. Anything to help Mother Nature, right?
Plastic is only one of the great environmental threats to the world. The hamburger on your plate and the chicken in your Caesar salad have a harmful impact beyond hurting animals. According to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute, animal agriculture causes an alarming 51 percent or more of global greenhouse gas emissions. To put this into perspective, as expressed by Dr. Richard Oppenlander, an environmental researcher, even if we stopped using gas, oil and fuel from today onward, we would still surpass our maximum carbon equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions, 565 gigatons, by 2030 — simply by raising and eating livestock.
When it comes to the environment, actions do speak louder than words.
In addition to climate change, raising animals for food drastically impacts deforestation, species extinction, fisheries, water use, land use and waste. However, by limiting the number of animals and animal products we consume — or better yet, cutting it all out of our diet completely — we take an active role in protecting the environment.
A way to begin for the aspiring environmentalist is to start participating in Meatless Mondays. Even choosing a vegetarian or vegan option at your next outing on State Street or trip to DLG is a way to stand up against factory farms. The impact a single person has is huge. With self-control and compassion, we will save our planet and all its inhabitants from ourselves.
Every day we have the choice to treat the world better than we treated it yesterday. We have the choice to do more for ourselves and for our planet. When it comes to the environment, actions do speak louder than words. The list of all the ways we can leave a greener legacy extends much further than the ways I’ve mentioned here, but we can all start somewhere. It’s time to show the Earth how much we really do care about her.
Calista Liu wants Gauchos to show love for the only Earth we have.