Environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Many of us learn this quick and easy phrase in early elementary school science classes and somewhat silly energy conservation presentations. They taught us this so young in an attempt to limit the usage and waste of materials that our Earth is quickly running out of. Even though the presentations we had to watch when we were younger might have been very made-up, their message was vitally important, and the order of this catchphrase is too. 

We first try to reduce the number of materials we are consuming, especially the amount of packaging used in the goods we purchase. Then, we reuse these goods as much as possible or repurpose them by donating or passing them down. Lastly, we recycle these materials to be used in the production of new goods.

But because this fact is not kept in mind, many people choose ‘Recycle’ first, as it has become the ‘easiest’ to take part in. And some don’t even do that. Some excuse themselves for not recycling with the statement that “recycling doesn’t work anyway.” Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that though 75% of waste is recyclable, less than 34% of it actually is recycled. If the only personal inhibition to recycling is an inconvenience, then theoretically, the percentage of waste recycled should be way up.

Another devastating statistic is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas. The patch is a more than 600,000 square mile patch of garbage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the west coast of the US. The patch was discovered in 1997 and is believed to contain plastics that are 50 years old. This is just one of many examples of our collective ignorance that is contributing to the destruction of our home. 

Nowadays, many use the excuse that large corporations are the ones that can make the difference needed in our crippling environment. And yes, large corporations can do the most to save our planet, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to minimize our waste should completely halt.

The only disadvantage of being environmentally aware and taking action based upon that is a personal inconvenience, and our individual time is not more important than the Earth’s time. The effects of our actions should be carefully thought through because every action has an intended or unintended consequence on our environment.

Learn what you can and cannot recycle. Take time to think about the goods you are buying and if they could be replaced with more waste-efficient alternatives. Environmental waste should not be somebody else’s problem; it’s everyone’s responsibility.

Illustration by Alisha Verma