There are far more ways than buying an electric car or getting solar panels installed in your home to help decrease your carbon footprint and lessen your impact on the planet. It doesn’t take a lot, and a little bit goes a long way. All it takes is a slight modification in your sustained habits to affect long term environmental change.
You’ve probably heard quite a bit about recycling. It comes in many forms; whether it’s keeping a separate trash bin at home for cans and glass bottles, composting food waste at the end of meals, or using reusable grocery bags, they’re all ways to fight excessive wastefulness, and do so successfully. Waste pollution is one of the principle issues when working with climate change. Of course, carbon production is the primary culprit, but when talking about the damage we are doing to the planet, wastefulness simply propagates our incessant complacency and laziness when dealing with the fragility of our planet, and certainly doesn’t help to keep it clean. Especially when waste isn’t disposed of properly, or disposed of at all, it’s left to decompose and rot, not only smelling putrid but can begin to leach methane gas if left unchecked, only adding to the Greenhouse Effect. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted”. We waste an absurd amount of food every year, and this amount to the equivalent of about $680 billion, down the drain, every year. Ridiculous.
Food waste isn’t even the last of it, or the worst of it. At least food waste is biodegradable and has the ability to decompose, and, under the right conditions, has the potential to do so in a relatively short amount of time. Our real waste source, however, comes in the form of non-organics like plastic and other trash. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 8 million tons of plastics are thrown into our oceans each year, steadily adding to the approximately 150 million tons already floating around in our global waters. This stuff does not go away naturally, and it certainly does not belong in the oceans. To put it into perspective, National Geographic claims that if had plastics had been around pre-American colonization, and a ship like the Mayflower had been flush with a variety of plastics, “[the Pilgrim’s] plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later”. That is an astonishing and incredibly eye opening anecdote, and one that really brings home how vital it is that we fight against the perpetual cycle of trash entering our oceans. It takes a terrible toll on marine ecosystems as well. Plastic pollution affects over 700 million marine animals every year, and, as said by One Green Planet, 100 million marine deaths are caused every year because of plastic pollution in the oceans. Whether it’s plastic straws getting stuck in the noses of turtles, birds getting their necks tangled in plastic yokes (the plastic things that hold cans together), or the millions of fish that accidentally ingest plastics, there is no justification or necessitating circumstances for this arrogance.
Suffice it to say, waste of all kinds have global implications that go far beyond just warming the planet, and can easily be eliminated by being cognizant of waste processes and ensuring that you do your part to minimize your waste production. Recycling bins are everywhere, and it’s always encouraged to make sure recyclable items are placed where they should be, to increase the chances that they could be collected and reused to make something new. Composting is getting more and more popular, and there are companies nationwide that, just like trash or recycling, will pick up and process your composted items to contribute to future generations of produce. Some companies, like Garbage to Garden, started in Portland, Maine, will even replace your composted goods with fresh, nutrient rich soil, created from prior composting. Another Earth-friendly option for those green thumbs out there. Point is, this planet is a fragile thing, and we want it to last for a while, so let’s do our part. Less than of fifths of plastics get recycled globally – that should at one hundred percent. Let’s get it there.