Is it your responsibility to be sustainable?
Sustainability is defined in three ways: being able to be used without being destroyed, using systems that do not destroy natural resources, and the ability to go on and last for a long time. The human race has not had a good track record of being sustainable. The Earth’s natural resources are dwindling as people continue to use them up and damage the environment without considering alternatives and forms of preservation. This being said, if people want to continue the way they’re living right now, it is everyone’s responsibility to be sustainable. Also, in order to preserve the Earth in the hopes of giving future generations the same quality of life we have now, measures need to be taken by everyone to maintain sustainability, such as preserving water, recycling as much as possible, and even cutting back on meat. Although it is easy to think that you personally do not have to make life changes because others are making them, nothing will change with that mindset. It is everyone’s responsibility to do whatever they can to be sustainable, and to preserve the Earth, and life as we know it.
Yes, it is our personal responsibility to be sustainable. Personally, when I go grocery shopping, I bring reusable bags as an effort to reduce plastic waste. If I forget those bags and I do have to get plastic bags, I reuse the plastic bags in my house in small trash bins. I also try to take short showers if I’m not washing my hair. People often don’t make the effort to be sustainable because they don’t think their effort will make a difference. There are almost 8 billion people on this Earth, and if people live life thinking their liter will not affect the Earth, they are wrong. If we all tried to be more sustainable, it would be then that a difference could be made. It’s not that hard to recycle, shorten your showers, and try to reduce your plastic waste. We live on this planet, so it is our responsibility to keep it healthy.
I believe that since we all the know the impacts of climate change and wastefulness, it is our responsibility to lead more sustainable lifestyles. This can include not buying as much fast fashion, using reusable packaging, and taking shorter showers. Making decisions like these is hardly inconvenient and it is something we are all capable of to make the world a better place to live in. As college students with access to multiple resources, as well as being surrounded by examples of sustainable living every day, all of us should take these into account in our personal life. I appreciate the fact that now, more than ever, we have options for sustainable clothing, makeup, and other things we use on a daily basis. With all of these options, there is no excuse to not incorporate at least one of them in your daily life. Try using up the products you already have instead of buying into our consumerist culture. Be the change you want to see in the world!
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a responsibility, but it is in one’s best interest to be sustainable. Climate change, without a doubt, is a big problem. Scientists working with the United Nations predict that the effects of extreme climate change will be irreversible if we do not drastically reduce our emissions by the year 2030. Many cities, states and countries around the world have taken measures to try and make a difference. Paris and Madrid have been looking to ban all but electric cars in their city centers, California has taken strong stances against plastic products to the point that San Francisco may ban all plastic water bottles. Seattle is looking to be carbon neutral by the year 2030, and Arizona rejected Proposition 127, which would have made Arizona run on 50% renewable energy by 2030. As Arizonans, we are not the most eco-friendly. We are currently on track to have only 15% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2025. For a state that has the ability to harness much of the sun’s power, we are quite obstinate to change. The rhetoric against climate change in Arizona (as well as the rhetoric against anything that stands against GOP beliefs) is more often than not reductio ad Californiam, an example of this being “Don’t California my Arizona”. Republican leaders against Proposition 127 used reductio ad Californiam as a pillar in arguing against the proposition. GOP leaders stated that Prop 127 did not reflect Arizona’s beliefs and they much better represented California’s beliefs. Being sustainable is a choice, much like brushing your teeth is a choice. You should do it because it is wise, as you do not want an area that is unhealthy and reeking of rotten garbage.
It is absolutely up to every person to try to live as sustainably as possible, be it from lessening our water waste, recycling as much as possible, or buying fuel efficient cars that leave less pollution in the air. But personal waste and pollution pales in comparison to the output of large corporations and industries far beyond our individual control. What is the point of shortening our time spent in the shower if large agricultural companies will flood the Sonoran desert with hundreds of tons of water to grow cotton? If we can not get all of the pieces of our society together on the same page of sustainability, then it may all be for nothing. Even further, pushing personal sustainability over industrial-scale sustainability may hurt the poorest who can hardly afford to make such changes in their life, such as more efficient cars, buying products that were made using less pollution, and investing in expensive new technologies to limit pollutants.
We may have all heard the response to any fashionable and contemporary behavior of the time: “It’s the current year! Of course, it is our responsibility!”. While I have absolutely no problem with this thinking, it becomes troublesome when living sustainably is insisted by the loudest voices and picked up by politicians eager for virtuous legislation on their Wikipedia pages. Living sustainably is a uniquely western mentality that has been encouraged by the institutions, governments and advocates of exclusively wealthy countries that remind us to recycle, be mindful of our impact, plant a tree, be a role model for poor countries. Unfortunately, what I think some advocates fail to realize is that their target audience do not even live in the same hemisphere responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s ocean, air and land pollution. A report on marine pollution, “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean” (2015), revealed that the European Union ranked 18th, beating out North Korea (19th) and the United States (20th) in terms of % share of estimated plastic marine debris. Taking the top spots, China and the rest of Southeast Asia. The report concluded, “Improving waste management infrastructure in developing countries is paramount and require[s] substantial resources and time”. Instead of lecturing Americans or Europeans about living sustainably, I think a more worthwhile approach would be to extend the virtue to countries that lack the very notion of it.
We all know that our actions of recycling our plastic cup, or opting not to use a straw, or skipping that burger will not save the world. However, it’s incorrect to conclude that therefore, those actions are meaningless. We not only have a responsibility to be sustainable, but our actions contribute to the solution. Our own actions reach far beyond ourselves. One person’s commitment to using reusable cups, or going meatless on Mondays can inspire and spread to friends, which will, in turn, spread even further. Shifts at our humble level spread throughout the economy. Nothing huge can change if industry doesn’t; fortunately, industry responds directly to the people’s wishes. For example, Americans for several years, have been showing a stronger preference for natural and healthy food. In response, according to Restaurant Business, Panera Bread removed artificial flavors and colors in 2017, Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell) have dramatically reduced their artificial flavors and colors with plans for a complete ban by 2020, and the Cheesecake Factory began sourcing antibiotic-free poultry, eggs, pork and beef (along with hundreds of other examples). Now, Americans did not all at once decide to want healthy foods. It started with a few people wanting to change their behavior. People around them caught on. And restaurants saw they could serve these people better if they offered better options. The same cycle will work for sustainability. Many have started, but more need to follow. And as Malcolm X famously said, "If not me, then who?
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