Recycling is not Everything
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
I cannot recall when I asked a friend or relative what sustainability is for them, and the answer is not recycling. I agree that it is part of being sustainable, but it is not all of it. According to Shan Weber, the manager of sustainability at Princeton University, the reason behind this is the result of an enduring message that the 1970’s environmental movement sent (Lemonick). Recycling helps us manage our resources more efficiently to enjoy a healthier environment, but it is just one element. Sadly, recycling alone would not help achieve our sustainable goals. If we are looking forward to helping conserve our planet, we should also consider our energy consumption and transportation. These two elements’ demands are on the rise. If we do not use these resources efficiently, no matter how much we recycle, we would not be living a sustainable life.
When it comes to energy consumption, there is a lot that needs to be done. The International Energy Agency stated that only 23.8 percent of the world’s energy comes from renewable resources (Zebini and Featherstone). So how could we start being more environmentally friendly? We could start reducing shower time by 1 minute daily. This action would save money and considerably reduce the number of gas emissions to our environment. Another action to take could be replacing five incandescent lights with LED lights. Again, this suggestion will save money on bills plus the extra additive of being eco-friendlier. One more suggestion I have is to unplug some electrical devices while not using them (should I mention again that this will save you money again?). These suggestions are just three of many more easy fix actions that could help achieve our sustainable goals.
Regarding sustainable transportation, Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue defines it as the capacity to support our societies’ mobility needs the least damaging to the environment as possible without impairing future generations’ mobility needs (Rodrigue). When living in a state like Texas, where everything is bigger, it is clear that one cannot escape automobile dependence. How can we help our planet in this regard if we still need to function in a culture where time is of the essence? If having the luxury to live nearby work or school, one could drive less. Walking, biking, carpooling, and taking public transportation would be alternatives for this suggestion. If one still needs to drive frequently, do it wisely. Maintaining one’s car up to date with regular tune-ups and going easy on the gas pedal and brakes should help be more eco-friendly. Other suggestions are not to idle one’s car and to use efficient lawn and gardening equipment. These actions send a considerable amount of pollutants to our eco-system (the United States Environmental Protection Agency).
As the Dalai Lama once said, our collective and individual responsibility is to preserve and tend to the world we all live in (Xavier University). This responsibility does not require us to sacrifice much, but it will undoubtedly help us conserve our planet for many future generations to come.
Jesuit Resource - Earth Day, Xavier University, www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/quote-archive1/earth-dayenvironmentsustainability.
Lemonick, Michael D. “Top 10 Myths about Sustainability.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2009, www.scientificamerican.com/article/top-10-myths-about-sustainability/.
Rodrigue, Jean-Paul. “4.4 – Transportation, Sustainability and Decarbonization.” The Geography of Transport Systems, Dept. of Global Studies & Geography, Hofstra University, 9 Oct. 2020, transportgeography.org/?page_id=5725.
What You Can Do to Reduce Pollution from Vehicles and Engines. 10 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/what-you-can-do-reduce-pollution-vehicles-and-engines.
Zebini, Daniele, and Liza Featherstone. “How to Reduce Energy Consumption.” Believe Earth, Believe Earth, 3 Jan. 2019, believe.earth/en/how-to-reduce-energy-consumption/.