Earlier this year, as the Midwest was plunged into its coldest weather on record, on the other side of the planet, wildfires raged in Australia’s record-breaking heat. This is weather in the age of extremes. It’s clear that an answer to climate change is needed at a policy level. While acts like the Green New Deal that propose economic stimulus programs aiming to address climate change are being met with the tired mantra of “we can’t afford to do it,” a louder voice is finally starting to answer in response: we can’t afford not to. Outside of politics, individuals can make small changes in their personal lives that will support a healthier planet and environment.
College News takes a look at the impact of a few industries on the environment and what we can do about it.
Fashion’s influence on the environment
Fashion’s harsh impact on our environment cannot be denied, and its negative effect is further amplified by consumers prioritizing price over ethics. When is the last time you were at a fast fashion retailer and considered what your purchase would mean to the environment?
You probably thought about the price, the trend, the places you would wear it and maybe considered the cost-per-wear.
But did you consider the amount of water used to manufacture that garment? The emissions created from transporting that garment from overseas? The chemicals and dyes used to give that garment its color How many pieces just like yours that will end up in a landfill in a matter of months?
The next time you’re indulging in some retail therapy, take a moment to consider the full life that item has lived before it found itself in your hands.
What can you do?
Participating in the second-hand clothing economy is likely the easiest way to reduce your footprint. If sifting through Goodwill bins isn’t quite your thing, there are many curated second-hand retailers where you can shop online and in person for gently used, on-trend pieces.Whatever you do, keep your clothes out of the trash.
According to the EPA over 16 million tons of textile waste were generated in the US in 2014 alone. Over 10 million tons of that ended up in landfills. If pre-loved clothing just isn’t your jam, you can become a conscious consumer of new clothing as well. Take a couple of minutes to research your favorite brands and take a look at their stance on sustainability.
Many brand are making the move towards sustainable manufacturing practices.
Technology may seem eco-friendly—it saves time, paper, energy and transportation; however, with most of us updating our gadgets as soon as they are released, more tech waste than ever is being generated.
According to The Balance Small Business, only 15 to 30 percent of tech waste is recycled. Twenty to 50 million tons of tech waste is generated worldwide every year, which amounts to over five percent of the municipal waste stream. Seventy percent of hazardous waste is deposited in landfills. And tech waste is expected to increase by eight percent each year.
What can you do?
Whenever you upgrade your technology, recycle your out-of-date tech. Many office supply stores and community centers host recycling drives for used tech. If your tech is still functional, it’s worth trying to trade in when you are buying your new tech or take to a reseller platform to sell your gadget directly to its new home.
If you look around, you’ll see waste everywhere in the environment. According to Rubicon Global, the average household in the United States produces over four pounds per day of trash and over 56 tons per year. Forty percent of the world’s total waste is produced in the United States despite the country only making up five percent of the world’s population. Six hundred and forty pounds of solid waste is produced by the average college student annually. Ninety thousand pounds of waste will be left behind by the average American for future generations.
What can you do?
The easiest way to create a change within our environment is by creating less waste in our daily lives and responsibly disposing of the waste we do create. In addition, we can try to help clean up the waste created by others. Next time you see a piece of trash on the ground, do your part for the planet and dispose of it responsibly. Every piece of trash kept out of the environment adds up to reduce our negligent waste on this planet.
This article was originally published in the spring edition of College News.
See also: It’s World Bee Day and We’re a-Buzz