Improving the Environment as Individuals

By Jason Dayton

We have witnessed the removal of all references to Climate Change within an hour after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, replaced by an “America First Energy Plan”. We have heard the rhetoric of current politicians in office who aim to gut the Endangered Species Act. We are aware that the current administration is looking to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, dating back to 1952 and 1969 when the highly polluted Ohio Cuyahoga River caught on fire and burned for days. We are witnessing the first of many actions to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power in protecting the environment. Our consumption of energy, plastics, and other natural resources continues to increase along with carbon-dioxide levels and plastics persisting in the environment. However, too many are quick to direct blame at different political parties at the federal and state levels, rather than accept responsibility for each of our own actions.

This made me think of a chapter in the book “Environmental Problems/Behavioral Solutions” by Cone and Hayes (1980) where they discuss how advancements in physical technology/science have provided the start of multiple opportunities to live more sustainably (e.g. clean energy); however, as a whole, humanity’s development of behavioral technology (i.e. knowing how to properly apply this knowledge to protect the environment) and even interests in the environment have lagged behind these physical advancements. In our society, there appears to be this disconnect between nature and the individual. You can even witness this walking outside between classes; majority of the people you will see will either be wearing headphones or looking at their phones rather than noticing the flowers blooming early, hearing the first signs of spring from the birds, or seeing the vultures soaring above South Residential Housing.

People may argue that Climate Change is a real issue, but few will make small lifestyle adjustments to ameliorate the conditions of our planet. Even something as routine as disposable K-Cups have important consequences on both the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems; for example, last year alone, a majority of the 9 billion K-Cups sold by Keurig alone probably ended up in landfills. This is not to mention the other 19 billion pounds of plastic that is dumped in the world’s oceans in 2015. Spending the extra dollar to purchase the new recyclable K-Cups or plastic K-Cup style containers which you can fill with your own coffee will not necessarily save the planet, but every little bit counts. Other small helpful acts could include remembering to shut off the lights in your dorm room if you will not be there for at least 15 minutes, unplugging your laptop/phone charger from the outlet, being smart with your pipette tip usage in the lab, and even using reusable or paper plates rather than cheaper Styrofoam.

Ultimately, working together to influence political policies is incredibly important. Yet, there are other changes that each of us can make to our routine’s that can point the state of the planet in a positive direction.

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