Just Listen For A Second: Do Little Things Help the Environment?
November 13, 2018
Little actions; big results
“I didn’t do it!” Sure, it may be a childish statement, but we all use it: the ease of attributing blame to other individuals rather than taking responsibility for our own misfortunes is addicting.
And in the case of climate change, it’s entirely convenient to assign the blame to large corporations who still burn fossil fuels. While it is true that these corporations have contributed largely to the current condition of the environment, and they should certainly be held accountable for their detrimental impacts, it is unreasonable to argue that people’s everyday actions have had no effect.
By no means should the rest of the population be exempt from doing its part to combat climate change—every little thing a person does adds up, resulting in a substantial difference.
This can include investing in reusable water bottles or sandwich bags, reducing the time spent idling in a car by skipping the drive-thru, thrift shopping, using public transportation, or simply remembering to turn off the lights when leaving a room. In fact, some cities—like Seattle, with its ban on plastic utensils and straws; or Issaquah, with its ban on plastic shopping bags—are currently taking steps to reduce plastic waste.
These banned items may seem so miniscule that their absence won’t make a substantial difference; but according to a study by Freedonia Group, an international business research company, the United States used 390 million straws per day in 2017. Limiting the amount of any plastic disposable items would result in a clear change, and its impact will only be greater as more people and cities participate.
Of course, these little things are not going to save the earth individually, but they are almost more impactful and important in another aspect: increasing awareness in the general population. When people are actively making changes in their everyday lives to solve a problem, they become more passionate about the issue and conscious of their actions. This awareness can simply not be achieved by forcing corporations to pay for all the damage.
With a combination of household changes and a revolution of the fossil fuel industry, discernible change will result—and it doesn’t have to involve blaming others. If there is any hope in stopping the advancement of climate change, it will occur through the involvement of all parties, making little changes to advance toward a greater solution.
One leaf won’t save the Earth
Whenever my family went to the park when I was younger, I would always get the insatiable urge to pick a leaf off of whatever plant we happened to be walking by. I’d pick off a leaf, then spend the next 10 minutes tearing it into fun shapes. However, my mom used to scold me, telling me not to hurt the plants. I would reply that it was just one leaf.
“But what if everyone took one leaf, Jake? Then the plant would die.”
Here’s the thing, though: not everyone takes a leaf.
Taking one leaf—or even 20—doesn’t kill the plant. What kills the plant are the gardeners who cut it down.
Sometimes little bits of harm are acceptable because it is not worth the time or effort to fix them. Instead of telling kids who take a leaf not to, the way to ensure the plant’s survival is to keep the gardeners away.
This same principle can be applied to environmental protection efforts today. We hear talk about what you as an individual can do to help. Perhaps you’ve heard how recycling this piece of paper and composting that piece can make a difference. However, the depressing fact is that the individual can do very little in his day to day life to stop the negative path we are headed down. This responsibility is left to large corporations.
Greenhouse gasses are an example. A 2016 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 22 percent of greenhouse gasses are produced by industry and 28 percent by electricity.
Both these sectors, representing 50 percent of emissions in the U.S., produce emissions primarily through fossil fuels and coal and are both out of reach for the average American citizen. While people could boycott goods from companies or try to switch their homes to solar power, those efforts provide an unreasonable amount of inconvenience and cost for the consumer. It is up to the companies to improve their methods.
However, the same study shows 28 percent of emissions come from transportation. This means you can have an impact by carpooling or taking the bus. But only about half that percentage is passenger cars. The other half is corporate trains, planes, trucks and ships that are again beyond reach.
So our focus should not be on the inconvenient changes a person can make in their life to have a small impact on the environment, but rather on how we force large corporations to be environmentally responsible. The individual should vote for environmentally friendly candidates, or run for office himself.