Most college students who had any amount of homework or research that required any online activity probably noticed the cute little graphic jigging around on Google last Monday. In honor of earth day, the G-o-o-g-l-e looked more like mountains, lakes, and trees than letters, with a tiny sun and moon taking turns rotating over the little utopia. Every earth day, students and adults alike take one day to realize and appreciate the magnitude of beauty in the world around them. The next day, most people return to their everyday lives, hardly noticing the grass beneath their feet.
Growing up in rural central Pennsylvania, the term “tree-hugger” scared me away from any attempt to show concern for the environment. I recycled about as often as I checked for ticks, and I probably did not check for ticks as often as I should have. In all those years, it never occurred to me that the resources I rely on are finite. Now, I find it disturbing that those people I grew up with, who live smack in the middle of nature at its finest, show such disregard for the environment they depend on.
Environmental concerns, like any other critical issue in the United States, often have divided political ideologies, the parties that espouse them, and even the people that make up the parties. Politicians debate over which energy sources to support, which causes to fund, and how much attention to pay to any of it. For many people, this means proving some kind of point by criticizing eco-conscious folks, calling them “tree-huggers,” and caring little about their own harmful actions. But despite personal priorities and partisan politics, everyone should be able to agree on one thing: The world is where we live, at least until space monkeys from Makemake arrive to teach us to survive without oxygen. Until then, we live here, and we depend on the natural resources here to support us.
Granted, some people still do not believe that global warming threatens the earth and I am not trying to convince anyone of any new environmental harms, but the facts that earth is in danger continue to pile up. Even those who deny the facts can take one look around to see litter, carbon emissions, oil spills, and landfills plaguing the atmosphere. If my home was messy, I would clean it, or at the very least, stop adding to the mess. The same concept applies to the environment. Nobody needs to be an activist to take care of the world we live in. Though the Republican Party has made it infinitely clear that environmental concerns will not prevail over big business profits anytime soon, citizens should stop waiting for inspiration to strike one brainy politician, and take matters into their own hands. Americans must realize the power of the consumer. One person may be a single drop in a sea, but hundreds of people acting together are a turning tide. Consumers can make many small, simple changes to improve the environment while barely changing their daily routines. Here are a few ways that you can take action this summer:
Print double-sided. Just yesterday, I needed to print 25 copies of a two page document. Rather than waste 25 staples and 25 extra pieces of paper, I wanted to print double sided. Throughout my morning I checked with five different students to see if anyone knew where I could print double-sided. No one had a clue. Turns out most, if not all of the printers in computer labs on campus are capable of double-sided printing. All students have to do is change the print options. With the many scholarly articles, surveys, and other nonsense I have printed this semester, I could have saved at least 200 sheets of paper just by printing double sided. Imagine if all students made this simple eco-conscious decision!
Use a reusable water bottle. You probably already own one. Not only is the decision eco-conscious, it is wallet friendly and probably better for your health as well. The average American uses 167 bottles of water a year and 90 percent of plastic bottles end up in landfills. With more than 12,000 undergraduate students at West Chester, our campus alone could keep close to 2 million bottles out of landfills this year.
Buy local. Not only will you support local farms and enjoy delicious fresh foods, but you will eliminate shipping needs, therefore eliminating greenhouse gases created from shipping and flying products.
Check out the second-hand shop. Not only is it fun and thrifty to buy from second-hand stores, but they are the ultimate way to recycle. If you have old stuff that you do not want anymore, drop it off at Good Will or Salvation Army. Thought you may not need it anymore, someone else might. You can even donate clothing without ever leaving your home through the Purple Heart Pickup Service. If you have or need an item not conducive to the Good Will drop off, try checking out Chester County Freecycle. There is no better way to keep good stuff out of landfills than finding someone else who needs it.
Go online for bills and bank statements. The modern convenience is just one reason why going paperless is a plus. Imagine how much paper the United States could save if everyone relied on electronic statements. Talk about saving trees.
Pick it up. Despite the obvious harms of littering, trash still lingers on the sides of freeways, at the beach, and even on West Chester’s campus. You do not have to join a clean-up crew to make a difference. If everyone picked one piece of trash up every day, the people littering would not be able to keep up.
These are just a few ways we can all work to save the environment, and they probably are not new news, but if everyone actually put the effort in to improve the environment one little step at a time, the difference would be astronomical. Now is the time to stop waiting around for huge policy changes and make the everyday difference we can.
Joy Wilson is a fourth-year student majoring in communications with a minor in studio art. She can be reached at JW794401@wcupa.edu.