by Briana VanBuskirk
We’re stuck in a cycle that fosters the creation, use, and discarding of materials without any consideration for the environment, animal rights, or human rights. Why is this? It’s no secret that financial gain is the core problem. At some point in our lives, we’ve felt guilty for giving into the consumer lifestyles that provide us with easy, cheap access to a ton of stuff. We know it’s not environmentally conscious to buy single-use plastic products and excessive amounts of clothes, but we do it because we live in a society that normalizes materialism.
We’re stuck in a cycle that [disregards] the environment, animal rights, or human rights.
It’s not our fault that we have this wasteful system. There’s no need to blame ourselves or anyone in particular. All we can do is change our ways, get involved, and strive for environmentally-conscious policies. Not everyone has time to stop their lives and dedicate themselves to starting a recycling business or become a farmer.
In the Community
Communities can ban plastic bags, provide incentivized recycling options, add composting pickup to garbage routes, start community gardens (that use the compost), and create awareness through local news and media. The community and local government can also encourage local business to do things like charge patrons extra at local coffee shops for the cost of cups and lids to motivate patrons to bring their cups or help local restaurants to ditch plastic straws and Styrofoam to-go containers.
Schools are vital to promoting environmental awareness for future generations. In addition to providing elective courses about the environment, students should be exposed to gardening while at school. At the very least, schools should make a big deal out of Earth Day. On Earth Day, schools could plant a tree for the graduating class, collect recyclables for a district up-cycle art piece, have an assembly with a guest speaker or activity, or host a fund-raiser.
Our actions put pressure on the economic system. Shop locally and shop strategically; don’t buy single-use plastics and shop eco-friendly to decrease demands for wasteful products. Better yet, reduce your consumption. Make sure you’re recycling everything and gardening if possible. Educate yourself. Many people don’t concern themselves with the environment, even though many of these concerns (such as pollution and chemical exposure) pose serious health effects on humans. The National Cancer Institute acknowledges that our risk of developing cancer increases when carcinogenic substances enter our food, water, and air, which they do. There is a link to cancer in the chemicals found in detergents, shampoos, and plastics, in addition to being toxic to the environment. Is that enough to make us care? Make sure that the area you live or work in is eco-friendly and not harming your health.
Supermarkets— Not Just Health Food Stores
Reconsider the functionality of supermarkets. Eliminate our food that comes in packaging. There could also be dispenser-based options for things like cereal, snacks, and drinks; charging for the amount dispensed, customers bring in a container and fill it. This would cut down on product cost by eliminating the price of the packaging. It is a win-win.
As an Entire Society
I believe that our social system is the most flawed system of all. The way our economy runs, the way our political system functions, and the way we live our lives have resulted in dead zones in the oceans, oil spills, coral bleaching, sea levels rising, and the clear-cutting of our precious rainforests, among other things. We need to think about what we need and what we do not need. We need to think about the future generations. We need to always be conscious of the impacts of what we do. Our ultimate goal is to sustain people, our communities, the interconnected web of life on earth, and the planetary systems that sustain us all.
by Briana VanBuskirk
Briana is a Moravian College graduate, class of 2013, with degrees in both English and graphic design. She graduated from East Stroudsburg University in 2016 with a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology.
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)