Sustainability starts with small changes

By Connor Mabon – Asst. Opinions Editor

“Big things tend to have small beginnings.”

Though these are actor Michael Fassbender’s words from the movie “Prometheus”, I find the statement to be quite profound. From something as abstract as a single microbe developing into the world around us, to individual initiatives at sustainability becoming collective, community-wide efforts, Fassbender’s words hold true.

I’ve found, in general observations, an assumption that the only time to be responsible with our carbon footprint is if we drive Subarus with decals advocating the active lifestyle, eat trail mix, and listen to folk music while sipping on an obscurely named beer. I’d like to counter this assumption simply because this eco-friendly group’s interest in sustainability is a noble cause.

The constant reports of the world’s energy use being too vast and out of control, along with ever-present climate changes, may make it seem like it’s too late to be sustainable and too much of a monumental task. But how are goals accomplished? One task at a time. How can we make the world’s population more sustainable? Mindful habits born from individual efforts.

Sustainability is just another word for responsibility and is seen in the efficient use of utilities and the reduction of waste meant for the landfill. I won’t bog down readers with statistics, but it’s important to put our energy waste into perspective.

According to the California Energy Commission, an old showerhead – and let’s face it, houses in the Ghetto probably don’t have the most up-to-date energy systems – uses roughly 20-30 gallons of water in a 10-minute shower. Brushing our teeth as the water runs wastes two gallons per minute. Turning off the water every time we soap up, or are brushing our teeth, can save money on utility bills and will cut water use in half. If the majority implements sustainable water usage it will help alleviate the pressures on our dwindling fresh water supply.

Another area of energy abuse happens in our light fixtures and electrical outlets. Because we’re detached from what actually powers our electricity, we don’t give much thought to the implications of turning on light switches. During daylight hours, doesn’t it make sense to open the blinds and use the sun to illuminate our homes? Unplugging cords to stereos and laptop chargers when they’re no longer being used also saves energy because, though the appliance may be off, energy is still flowing through the cord when it’s plugged in.

Food waste and general trash material is another complex web trapping us in a vicious mess. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one person produces roughly 4.4 pounds of trash a day. Most of what defines our garbage is plastics of various forms and food scraps. Plastics can take decades, even hundreds of years, to decompose in a landfill. Try to buy glass-based products, which are more likely to be recycled and turned in to new products.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away roughly $2,000 worth of food. A solution would be to buy less or eat the food you bought within a week or so of purchasing. When you eat, do your best to finish everything that’s on your plate, which has the potential to cut that 4.4 pounds worth of trash in half.

Initiating these small, individual efforts to be more responsible with energy use and waste production can snowball into an avalanche of positive change. Even if the world seems to be spinning out of control, we can change its course with more mindful, sustainable living.

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