By: Vivian Shillingsburg
Reading the title of this article, you are probably thinking that this is going to be another one of those annoying “You’re doing everything wrong” types of environment articles that will tell you to change your whole lifestyle and to stop eating and doing everything you enjoy. This is not going to be one of them. This article is just going to give you a push in the right direction, inform you about what is really happening, and how to make an impact without any major sacrifices.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to go vegan or vegetarian to make an impact. If you love meat, you don’t have to stop eating it completely. Purchasing meat from local farms does have a big impact. Their meat is fresher than mass-produced meat,0 and it doesn’t have any added preservatives or unhealthy processed parts of an animal. Buying locally also conserves fuel. Instead of hauling the meat to a slaughterhouse, then to a processing plant, then to a grocery store that is more than likely across the country, the farmer can simply drive the meat to a farmers market or local grocery store where you can buy the meat and support the farmer, his family, and local businesses and farms. Family farms also use less carbon monoxide, pesticides, and other environmentally harmful chemicals. Using less machines and processing plants has a positive impact on the environment. This also applies to fruits and vegetables. It is less expensive to buy fresh foods at farmers’ markets than it is to buy them at a grocery store.
Nearly everyone has seen the picture of the turtle with a straw in its nostrils or down its throat, so many have bought a metal straw. While, yes, it is helpful, it isn’t the main problem. Sea animals don’t know the difference between plastic and food. A lot of sea animals eat things like jellyfish, squid, shrimp, and other things that can easily look like plastic. Plastic doesn’t just affect sea animals, it also affects land animals. Birds mistake things like wrappers, six-pack rings, and ribbon as nesting material. Animals like deer and bear mistake it as food or their prey might have a steady diet of plastic, which would kill them and their hungry predator.
Plastic doesn’t just harm animals; it also harms us. To make plastic, you have to burn fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels sends greenhouse gases into the air, which burns holes into the atmosphere and causes acid rain. Greenhouse gases are also released when you throw your plastic away and it ends up in a landfill. That one little piece of plastic could take at least 30 years to decompose, and all the while, it’s releasing these gases into the soil, which goes to our groundwater, which means that we are drinking plastic. Scary, right? The average human consumes 50,000 plastic particles a year, and these plastic products never go away. It takes a plastic bag 20 to 30 years to decompose, so you might want to put your sandwich in a reusable container next time you make your lunch. It takes plastic bottles at least 450 years to decompose, so instead of grabbing a plastic water bottle every day as you’re leaving your house for school, fill up a reusable water bottle the night before. Those plastic forks in the cafeteria can take 1,000 years to decompose, so just pack a fork from home next time your meal requires one. And next time you have a party, refrain from buying balloons, especially mylar balloons because they never go away. These small actions could have an enormous impact on the environment.
As I said at the beginning of this article, you don’t have to make giant lifestyle changes to make a huge and positive impact. If you can challenge yourself to do one of these things every week, and make a habit out of it, you won’t even notice the change. These small, simple, tasks can really have a big effect, and it will feel really good to do it. I challenge you to try at least one of these the next chance you get. It will make a world of difference.