Photo by West Chester University Office of Sustainability,
Global warming has become an international emergency caused by irresponsible human activity and ignored by decision makers in government, but there are plenty of things that we can do here on campus that will make a huge impact on the greenhouse effect and force lawmakers to change policy.
Carbon emissions are elevating global temperatures and melting the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise and intensifying weather patterns. Corporations are clearing forests and removing rich tops soils to make room for massive cattle ranches while the oceans are filling up with islands of plastics. Let’s face it, the planet is literally burning down around us and instead of putting the fire out, the grown-ups in the room just keep fueling it.
It is most important to elect representation that not only supports green policies but is willing to bring these policies to the floor of the General Assembly for debate.
We may feel overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to facing our environmental challenges, but if the governments and corporations won’t do anything to fix this mess, then it is up to us to save ourselves. There are plenty of ways to combat global warming as a student, and if a 9-year-old boy can convince a multi-billion-dollar international corporation to ditch plastic straws, and a 16-year-old girl can sail across the Atlantic and address the United Nations, we can change a few of our own behaviors and lead more eco-friendly lives as well.
Here are five simple things we can do to not only reduce our carbon footprints, but also save a little money as well.
1. Eat Less Meat
The most effective way to regenerate our ecosystems and prevent their destruction is to eat less meat and dairy. According to Joseph Poore, an environmental researcher at Oxford University, livestock production is the single largest contributor to global warming. He says that meat and dairy only provide 18% of our calorie intake and 37% of our protein intake, but account for 83% of our farmland. Poore says that “converting grass into meat is like converting coal into energy.” More than planes, trains and cars combined, cattle ranching, and dairy production emit 12 times more carbon emissions into the atmosphere and monopolize 50 times more land for grazing alone. Choosing a vegan meal at least once a week will drastically reduce our carbon footprint.
More than planes, trains and cars combined, cattle ranching, and dairy production emit 12 times more carbon emissions into the atmosphere and monopolize 50 times more land for grazing alone.
2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We have all heard of the ”three Rs” that combat global warming, but we struggle to identify everyday practices beyond recycling our lunch trash or using our reusable water bottles to participate. There are plenty of additional ways to utilize the “three Rs” that will make an impact. Besides the obvious, the EPA suggests reusing last year’s school supplies or buying minimally packaged green supplies like pencils made from recycled blue jeans or binders made from old shipping boxes. They suggest only buying what we need, investing in durable products that will last, and maintaining and repairing the materials we have. Additionally, the EPA advises using electronic documents as opposed to printing and suggests that if we must print, that we do so on recycled paper products and print on both sides. These simple changes in behavior require very little effort and make a huge impact on the environment.
As the number-one consumer of personal electronics, we have a responsibility to reduce our energy use. Simply turning off the lights when we leave a room has a huge impact on the environment, but there are even more things we need to pay attention to that we may be taking for granted. Our devices and appliances continue to use energy even when they are turned off and not in use. Unplugging our phones and laptops once they are charged is vital. Choosing to wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat makes a difference not only in carbon emissions, but our wallets as well. We can also invest in energy saving light bulbs, rechargeable batteries and altering the way we commute. Choosing to carpool with the RideAmigos app is helpful but walking and biking are ideal. The fewer vehicles on the road, the better.
Being an advocate on campus changes behaviors. Leading by example and influencing our peers can be essential to the forward momentum of a movement. The Office of Sustainability has programs we can join to work together as a community to achieve an even larger impact. SUB SAC, or Students United by the Sustainability Advisory Council is a place to collaborate with other students and organizations to plan and implement green programs on campus. Encouraging composting programs, paperless classrooms, and even winter coat drives for local school children are ways we can participate in green advocacy within the committees. Being active in our community is part of being a responsible citizen.
Lastly, it is most important to elect representation that not only supports green policies but is willing to bring these policies to the floor of the General Assembly for debate. Many politicians orate environmental rhetoric but don’t actually act on it. It’s up to us to hold them to their word and we can only do that if we show up at the polls. Politics can be confusing and overwhelming, but Pennsylvania makes it much easier to participate. We can learn who our representatives are and where they stand on the issues through their website, https://www.legis.state.pa.us/. This site has everything you need to be an informed citizen. It tells us who our representatives are, what their voting record is, what districts we are in and where to vote. If we want to change the policies that are degrading our future, being active voters is key.
April Strunk is a first-year student at West Chester University. AS938710@wcupa.edu