TEEN: Why You Should Develop More Sustainable Habits

Earth will be okay, but we won’t.


Indigo Graves, Co-Editor-In-Cheif

With the drastic changes in weather patterns, melting of icebergs, and increase of temperatures, we are coming to the end of being able to just make choices based on comfort. Our habits that have evolved out of laziness in coordination with the influence of materialism and consumerism are destroying the planet and our own psyche. Humans have not only the capability, but the duty to alter our habits -even in small ways like recycling- in order to reverse the damage we have created. Since the 1980’s the average temperature has increased two degrees fahrenheit, with a rate of 0.32 degrees fahrenheit per decade, which is twice as fast as the rate of increase in the 80’s. Although two degrees doesn’t seem like much, the effects are more than evident with the increase of extreme weather events, the endangerment of animal species, and the raising of water levels.

By nature, humans would rather ignore the problem than acknowledge that it will affect them even though it is preventable, or in this case, solvable. The problem is  overwhelming. It seems like such a big problem that an ordinary person would be helpless is reversing the damage. What people don’t realize is that to make a difference, the process has to start with little steps. 

Every person has free will and the ability to make conscious choices everyday to positively impact the environment and their own future. By starting with making choices based on need more than want, and choosing sustainable habits, we start the path on saving our climate. 

“Plastic packaging was developed to address a sustainability issue, to support the longevity of products. But today the overwhelming amount of plastic products surpasses our ability to manage the environmental harm of discarded plastic.” The habits of consumerism and the widespread influence of materialism through pop culture, the world has become obsessed with stuff. Things. Junk. Americans are pumping out trash at an average rate of 1361.4 pounds per year, a total of about 245 million tons combined. “..today the overwhelming amount of plastic products surpasses our ability to manage the environmental harm of discarded plastic. Visible in our rivers and beaches, plastic items have now become a symbol of pollution and environmental harm caused by humans.” Agricultural and industrial habits are causing the release of over 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. These industries are always choosing the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to mass produce things like food -one third of which which is never eastern- and in the process pollute water, destroy ecosystems, and release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

The evolution of media influence into materialism is not only impacting the climate, but also individuals’ mental state. Human obsession with material objects is causing detrimental confusion between want and need. Humans are basing their happiness on material objects more and more, affecting our decision making skills by constantly comparing products, and constantly feeling dissatisfied or in need of more. By making things “easier”, the human race is destroying the planet, and in turn destroying their resources, and themselves. 

In reality, the planet will be fine. It might be out of rhythm for a couple of thousand years, but eventually it will come back. Planet Earth has gone through five major ice ages, meteor strikes, and two major heat waves. Earth will be okay, but we won’t. With our unsustainable habits, we are writing our own fate. 

Although recycling is simple in practice, many Americans express that the main reason they do not participate in recycling is because of their confusion and lack of education on the recycling system from misinformation and labeling. As mentioned in research done about recycling habits and the lack of knowledge about the practice, instead of going out of their way to learn how to recycle they simply chose not to. In a quote from this research, interviewed persons expressed that confusion was the main obstacle between them and recycling, “It’s not clear at the minute and there are a lot of symbols and crazy instructions and things, that people feel ok about buying this because it can be recycled but the fact is that it can’t easily be recycled, so I think there needs to be an awful lot more clarity in the market on some packaging”. 

The effects that humans have had on the environment are severe, but luckily not irreversible. In order to start changing to more sustainable habits, people are going to have to take personal responsibility, but in order to do this, they need to be educated. With introduction of climate awareness and encouragement by teachers, politicians, and media, people can be quickly informed on how to make a difference. 

Recycling plastic, paper and metals can make such a big difference in the amount of waste that is being put out into the environment, and that is only the first step. 

“…we need to focus our environmental laws and regulations on better ways to prevent pollution before it occurs, so that we can spend less effort and money on cleaning it up after it’s in the environment.” Large companies and agricultural producers need to be pressured into making more sustainable choices, and political power should be used for lawmaking and policies in order to plan ahead on economic issues, such as costs of waste control, caused by our current habits. 

On a larger scale some companies and even cities are taking initiative in the fight against climate change. In a piece by Ulrick Kohl about the struggles that Copenhagen is facing by trying to become the first carbon neutral capital in the world, Kohl explains that “Corporatism (or neo‐ corporatism) is often used to refer to policy regimes where strategic decision‐making is dominated by tripartite power networks consisting of the state and the main interest organizations of capital and labor.” in order to show the hold that corporate power has on everyday life. 

In conclusion, we have the duty and capabilities to change our ways in order to save the planet that we call home and protect the resources we need to sustain human life. Taking baby steps toward sustainability in our everyday lives along with pressure for higher ups to make changes in lawmaking and corporate policies can ultimately guarantee a prosperous future for the human race and generations to come. 

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