By Caroline Johnston
As climate change continues to be a growing problem in our world, it is more important than ever for people to recognize Earth Day and treat it as a reason to rethink the unsustainable lifestyles that many of us lead. It is far too common for people to post pictures from their favorite vacations on Instagram with the caption, “save the planet,” and then proceed to take no responsibility for the environmental degradation that surrounds them. This year, I hope that people not only post about Earth Day on their social media but actually do their part to help save the planet as well.
Towards the beginning of the pandemic, many people thought that COVID-19 would be great for the environment since everybody was staying at home. Sadly, this is not the case. Along with quarantine came huge amounts of packaging waste from all the groceries and other products that people were ordering online rather than picking up from their local store. These single-use plastic packages contribute to the 8 million tons of plastic waste released into the ocean every year and take hundreds of years to break down, according to National Geographic. Millions of animals are killed by plastics yearly, including both land and aquatic species. Another harmful environmental impact from COVID-19 was a large decrease in public transit and carpooling. Instead of hundreds of people traveling together on BART, everyone resorted to driving alone in their own cars to get places, heightening air pollution levels.
Due to the pandemic, it is not safe for any large climate activism events, such as protests, to occur in person, so once again, Earth Day is going virtual. The theme for this year’s Earth Week is “Restore Our Earth.” There will be three days of climate action spanning from April 20 to April 22. On the first day, Earth Uprising, a global youth-led climate activism organization, will hold a 4-hour climate summit consisting of panels, speeches, discussions and messages from some of the most prominent youth climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor and Licypriya Kangujam. That evening, the Hip-Hop Caucus, a non-profit that uses hip-hop culture to encourage youth participation in democracy, will present a virtual summit focused on the intersectionality of climate and other social issues, such as racism and poverty. On day two, Education International, a global organization of education unions, will host a virtual summit about climate education. Then, on the 22nd, earthday.org will host its second Earth Day Live event, consisting of workshops, discussions, performances and more. These events, taking place leading up to President Biden’s global climate summit held on Earth Day, aim to give some final encouragement for the cause of climate justice before the summit takes place. More information about these events and how to sign up can be found on their website, earthday.org.
Although it is important to take environmentally conscious actions every day of the year, sometimes Earth Day serves as the perfect reminder for people to look out for our planet. There are so many ways to live a more sustainable life, so if everyone could adopt a couple more sustainable practices, the Earth would be a lot better off. One big way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. A report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations stated that 14.5% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions came from the livestock industry. Beef production makes up 41% of that 14.5%. In addition to impacting carbon emissions, the livestock industry also requires insane amounts of water; it takes about 2,000 liters of water to produce one burger. You can significantly reduce your carbon footprint as well as your water consumption by not eating meat one day a week.
Another action you can take to be more environmentally friendly is to cut down on your use of single-use plastics. Whether this entails bringing your own reusable bag to the grocery store or using reusable Tupperware to pack your food in, every time you cut out a piece of one-use plastic, you are making a difference in your overall contribution to plastic pollution. Senior Emma Mendelssohn said her favorite sustainability tip is, “Be cognizant of what you’re doing when you’re out and about, whether it’s switching from single-use to reusable containers or utensils or even just bringing your own bags grocery shopping.” Some more ways to reduce your plastic consumption include: bringing a reusable water bottle with you, opting towards purchasing drinks in cans and shopping locally to avoid the plastic packaging that many items come in when you order them online.
One of the best ways to reduce your negative impact on the environment is to shop more sustainably. Far too often, people overlook their unsustainable shopping habits as they fill their closets with products from the fast-fashion industry. Clothing takes a lot of water to produce; it takes about 700 gallons of water to produce a single t-shirt and about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. Textile dyeing is one of the biggest causes of water pollution, which harms many aquatic species. Clothing also releases greenhouse gases when it sits in the landfill and decomposes. A great alternative to supporting fast fashion is shopping second-hand since it is very affordable and more sustainable. There are also a plethora of brands who make clothing out of recycled materials. Sophomore Justine Weingartner, who is in the Community Outreach Committee in Leadership, said, “I hope to do a clothing swap event where people can bring some clothes they no longer want and can pick up something new,” in regards to her plans for taking action this Earth Day. Weingartner said her best tip for living more sustainably is “to consume less overall. Many people get caught up in these sustainable brands and options but the best thing to do is make use of what you already have by repairing/repurposing items and buying second hand when needed. Avoid buying impulsively, even with big sales, and give yourself some time to consider if you really need the specific item.”
Although Earth Day is a day for celebrating our beautiful planet, it is crucial that we also take action to protect it before it is too late.