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But What Could I Do?
The United States is home to about 5% of the world population, yet we contribute to 22% of the entire world’s carbon emission. 20% of the carbon emission we contribute is from the vehicles that people use every day, such as cars and trucks. Approximately 15% of the carbon released into the environment is from deforestation. Before the industrial revolution, the climate was roughly stable, but since then, our climate has rapidly worsened. Though you as an individual person might not be responsible for the negative effects that we, as the United States, are creating for the environment, you as an individual person can change your way of life, and therefore contribute to the healing of this world.
I have written out two different scenarios that imitate what everyday life might look like for you, as the reader. The characters in these stories, as well as you, are not solely responsible for the rotting of this planet, but you could always change your lifestyle in a way that will better benefit the planet. As you read through the stories, try to pick out what changes these people can make to lower the amount of waste they are contributing to.
I wake up in the morning and turn on the shower. While I wait for the water to turn hot, I brush my teeth, because as we all know, a hot shower is much more enjoyable than a cold one. I lather my hair with the lavender-scented shampoo and then rinse it out. I like to keep the conditioner in for about ten minutes, so it has time to set and fully do its’ job. During those ten minutes, I leave the water running and throw an impromptu concert for my family, who can hear me from the kitchen upstairs.
After my shower, I get dressed. I walk upstairs to find my mom making scrambled eggs. Her eggs are the only eggs I will eat. She makes them just the way I like them; not too runny, not too dry, and with the perfect ratio of cheese to egg. I look at the calendar and sigh. They’re making sloppy joes at school today, and I hate sloppy joes. I quick pack myself a home lunch. I throw a peanut butter jelly sandwich in a plastic bag and grab an ice-cold Aquafina water bottle from the fridge. My mom yells at me, signifying that the bus is upfront. Time for school.
People often believe the misconception that water will always be available for our use. It is constantly going through the water cycle that we learned about in the second grade, and never leaves our atmosphere. We’re using the same water that the dinosaurs used roughly 240,000 years ago. During the ten minutes that Mandy waited to rinse out her hair, roughly 20 gallons of water were wasted. Assuming Mandy had the water running for approximately fifteen minutes, she used about thirty gallons of water. That amount of water is enough drinking water to last someone about fifteen days. Mandy also used almost entirely plastic materials to pack her lunch. The bag that she put her sandwich in could easily be replaced by a reusable container. Mandy’s family could save both money and the environment by deciding not to purchase disposable water bottles and instead use reusable ones. Yes, water never leaves our atmosphere, but more and more of it is becoming toxic, impure, or unavailable for use every single day. The manufacturing of one water bottle alone can use upwards of three times the amount of water in the bottle itself, and often that water becomes unusable due to the chemicals and toxins it is exposed to during the production process. Changing these little factors of your life will not turn your world upside down, and if everyone made these changes, our world would be a better place.
I sigh. It’s going to be a long couple of days. My parents both left this morning for the airport, leaving me with my younger sister, Harper, to babysit. It’s seven o’clock in the morning, so my sister shouldn’t be up for a few more hours. I decide to drive to the nearest Starbucks to order a Grande Caramel Frappuccino. The barista hands me the clear cup with the green logo that brings me so much happiness. By the time I get home, my sister is awake and watching television. By the look of her, I knew she had been watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel because she is wrapped up in about ten blankets and has fuzzy socks on. I quick pour us both a bowl of cereal and sit down next to her. We watch movies until about eleven. Harper decides that she wants mac n’ cheese for lunch. We don’t have any, so I drive to the store to buy a couple of boxes. The cashier rings them up and puts them in a plastic bag for me to bring home. I had left my car running, so it was nice and warm by the time I left to drive home, but I couldn’t say the same for our house. When I got back, I noticed our front door hadn’t been shut all the way, so our house was freezing. Despite the cold and having to crank up the heat, my sister and I had a pleasant and uneventful remainder of the day.
It is predicted that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish in terms of weight. Each day, 13,000-15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean. Two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion. By going to Starbucks and purchasing a drink, Karli used both a disposable plastic cup and a disposable plastic straw. After Karli disposes of these items, she has no control over whether it ends up in some innocent creatures’ mouth in the ocean, or if it ends up on some beach, where it will likely be picked up by some birds. Plastic objects serve as a real threat to wildlife and can cause even bigger issues when put into the right conditions. When certain plastic objects reach the ocean, instead of biodegrading, they will turn into microplastics. To qualify as a microplastic, the object must be less than five millimeters in length. Birds and other aquatic life can mistake these microplastics for food. The survival of certain species depends on us as humans working to research ways to decrease the number of microplastic making its way into the ocean. The year 2020 is less than two months away, which likely means that in your lifetime, the weight of plastic in the ocean will be greater than the weight of fish. You are going to be alive when this happens, and your future children will exist in the world when it happens. It is not only necessary, but also vital, that we start acting now, because sooner or later, it will be too late.
Later that day, Karli drives back into town to buy some lunch for her and her sister. She could have decreased the time she was in her car and therefore decreased the amount of gas being emitted into the air by combining her coffee trip and grocery trip into one. During this grocery trip, she also chose to transport her food in plastic bags, when she could have easily carried the objects by hand. When shopping, try to avoid using bags in general, because even though paper bags are biodegradable, they use much more energy to create than a plastic bag. The best option would be to bring your own reusable bags from home. When Karli returned home, she realized that she had left the door open, causing her to turn up the heat extra high for the remainder of the day. Most heating systems use fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable resources, and therefore serve as an addition to global warming, air pollution, acid rain, and other environmental concerns. The solution to this is simple, take extra care into making sure that you close the door when you leave the house. Not only are you helping your environment, but also lowering some expensive house bills.
Making these small changes will help to save the planet, but there is more that you as an individual can do. Little things go a long way, such as going out of your way to plant a few trees or spending a few days every year picking up trash at your local beach. Join or create clubs in your school district that work towards making your community more environmentally friendly or donate to organizations and projects that dedicate themselves to positively impacting our planet. Implement recycling or composting in your home, or work to raise awareness on specific issues that you feel passionate about. Any action, big or small, behind the scenes or in front of large groups of people, will eventually lead to a brighter future for generations to come. Be that one person that starts the domino effect of people inspiring each other to save the planet. We only get one Earth, so we need to protect it.
Ellen Macarthur Foundation. "New Plastics Economy Report Offers Blueprint to Design a Circular Future for Plastics." Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 19 Jan. 2016, www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/new-plastics-economy-report-offers-blueprint- to-design-a-circular-future-for-plastics. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
Lonely Whale. "Understanding Plastic Pollution." For a Strawless Ocean, Lonely Whale, www.strawlessocean.org/faq. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "What Are Microplastics." National Ocean Service, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
Renter, Elizabeth. "How Much Water Is Used to Make a Bottle of Water." Natural Society, Mike Barret, 15 Nov. 2013, naturalsociety.com/study-analyzes-wastefulness-bottled-water/. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.