Updated: Mar 11
By Mary Grlic
Image via NRDC
Our Earth is deteriorating right before our very eyes. It is clear that human interactions with the environment have drastically impacted the planet: temperatures are rising, animals are in danger, landfills pollute surrounding water and cities, among many other issues. The question is: is there anything we could do about it, or do we just let it? Answer: anything helps.
A little goes a long way when it comes to climate change. The smallest actions can be taken by anyone to reduce their ecological footprint and create a safer environment for all of Earth’s inhabitants. One way to reduce our eco-footprint is by using less single-use plastic. States and corporations are beginning to take initiatives to help the environment by limiting the distribution of single-use plastic. Seattle became the first city to ban plastic straws in 2018, with cities in California, New Jersey, and Florida soon following. Starbucks now provides customers with a “strawless lid” for most iced beverages, besides those with a whipped topping that may require a straw. Also, New York state started to reduce plastic bag usage as early as March 2020. As of October 19, 2020, any "person required to collect tax" could no longer distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless they are such that were indicated in the Bag Waste Reduction Law.
As a New Yorker, I always hear chatter about the plastic bag ban: many people don’t understand why it’s necessary if we still use plastic. “Why can’t I use a plastic bag if my trash bags are plastic?” What’s the point of eliminating the plastic straw if cups are still plastic?” While the only way to truly save the environment is to get rid of plastic altogether, people like this often overlook how a little can truly go a long way. Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled, and it takes 500 years for plastic bags to degrade in landfills where most of them end up. By enforcing a law to ban providing single-use plastic bags to the public, the New York State government hopes to better these statistics. “But people will still use plastic trash bags, drink from water bottles, etc.” This is true: big corporations will still manufacture plastic consumer goods, and in turn, people will purchase them and continue to use plastic. In fact, large corporations probably have the biggest impact on climate change. Whether it be factories that create massive carbon emissions, establishments that manufacture single-use plastic, or fast fashion companies, large corporations have a huge impact on both the pollutants they produce and what people purchase. If these huge companies did not produce as much emissions or products that greatly affect climate change, people would not be susceptible to using such environmentally unfriendly items. Unless every company and person is entirely eco-friendly, it is important to recognize there is no perfect solution to the climate crisis. Eliminating one form of plastic waste in certain industries or areas of the world can dramatically reduce the amount of plastic found in oceans and landfills.
There is no perfect solution to fixing climate change, at least for now. All we can do is achieve our personal best, and if everyone strives to make small changes to better the planet, we can unite to globally slow down climate change. So next time you turn on a light or go to discard plastic, make a conscious decision to be progressive and help the environment. Even if you waste electricity, continue to eat animal products, use plastic, or buy fast fashion, your conscious efforts to help the environment are also useful. Without any effort, the world would be in an even worse position. It is more important to strive for progress, not perfection when it comes to saving our planet. And remember, your help, no matter how big or how small, can truly make an impact.
Written by writer Mary Grlic