6 Things You Can Do To Help The Environment


Caroline Breedon, Junior Editor-In-Chief

1. Use Reusable Grocery Bags

Americans use about 100 billion plastic bags a year, most of these end up in landfills and the ocean. Hungry sea turtles often mistake floating plastic bags as jellyfish, filling their stomachs with toxic debris. Not only do plastic bags affect sea turtles, they often affect other sea life as well. Fish eat thousands of tons of plastic each year, transferring the plastic in their stomachs to those higher up the food chain. It takes over 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, meaning the bags never fully break down but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the air we breathe.

2. Print as Little as Necessary

We’ve all had that teacher that makes us print out a ridiculous amount of paper. What that teacher may not know is the environmental impacts of using too much paper. In the past 4 decades, paper use has risen by 400%. This contributes to deforestation, which contributes to climate change, soil erosion, flooding, and a loss of habitats for animals. Pulp and paper industries produce nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and carbon dioxide. These oxides contribute to climate change and acid rain. These paper industries also pollute our waters with alcohol and chlorates. What can you do to help? Start making an effort to type things up instead of printing them out, and in a virtual world, that shouldn’t be too hard. You can also recycle your paper to be used again!

3. Recycle

Recycling is such a simple thing that many people don’t do. Recycling reduces the need for mining, quarrying, logging, and refining materials which all create water and air pollution. Recycling also helps reduce greenhouse emissions, which helps stop climate change and keeps waste out of landfills. In the U.S., recycling provides 757,000 jobs and produces $36 billion in wages each year. How can you recycle correctly? Call your garbage disposal service and ask! Many services recycle for free.

4. Use Reusable Beverage Containers

Plastic debris is found almost everywhere. It clogs our drains and sewers in cities, it litters national parks, and is even starting to pile up on Mount. Everest. Microplastics and plastics can not only be ingested in animals (see plastic bags), but in people as well. When you drink, take a bite of food, or even breathe, chances are, you’re ingesting microplastic. It’s likely that these microplastics can expose us to chemicals found in plastics known to be harmful. A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund and conducted by researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia estimated that people consume about 5 grams of plastic a week. Consider buying a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones. Most school grounds and public areas have water fountains to fill up your bottle throughout the day.

5. Save Electricity

When you consume less power, you reduce the amount of toxic fumes being released into the atmosphere by power plants. Using less power also conserves the earth’s natural resources and protects ecosystems from destruction. One option to save energy is using energy efficient light bulbs, which last longer and will even save you a bit of money. Make sure to turn off lights and appliances when you’re not using them.

6. Save Water

Ninety-seven percent of all water on the earth is salt water, which is not suitable for drinking. Only 3% of water on Earth is fresh water, and only 0.5% is available for drinking. The other 2.5% of fresh water is locked in ice caps, glaciers, the atmosphere, soil, or under the earth’s surface, or is too polluted for consumption. With growing population rates it makes sense that we preserve and conserve this resource. How can you conserve water? Turn off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth. Don’t turn on your shower until you are ready to get in, and limit your water use when you wash dishes.