Dare to be a Force of Nature

What on Earth are you going to do for Earth Day?

It%27s+important+to+take+the+environment+into+consideration+24%2F7.

PortaPak

It's important to take the environment into consideration 24/7.

Mya Figueroa and Berenice Lazaro

In today’s society people often lose sight of what really matters. We spend so much time looking down at our phones that we forget to look up and admire the trees or the beautiful sky. In honor of Earth Day (April 22), it’s important that we take a step back and note the damages that have been inflicted on the world over time, for if we don’t, the earth could die before we do.

Earth Day came about in 1970.  Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, came up with the idea after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement that was taking place, Nelson decided to put his idea for Earth Day to the test. He believed it would push environmental protection onto the national political agenda.  Much to Nelson’s surprise, the first Earth Day was effective at raising awareness about environmental issues and transforming public attitudes.

Over the years, Earth Day has been celebrated; however, many people have lost sight of its importance, or they have forgotten the day entirely.“Unappreciated is not the world that I would use to describe Earth Day,” said Mrs. Amy Rambo, an AP Environmental Science (APES) teacher at Round Lake High School. “I think ‘unknown’ is a better word. Most people are surprised to find out that there is an Earth Day or briefly recall seeing a billboard about it.”  That’s an unsettling observation, especially when it seems the media delivers more and more stories of tragedies for our ecosystem every day. So for Earth Day 2017, let’s celebrate, but then keep it going by doing quick, easy things all year round. Some RLHS teachers have weighed in with advice on how to make being eco-friendly easy.

Recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We’ve been reciting those words since we were little kids, and throwing paper into a special bin or box seems simple, but students in Rambo’s APES class have learned a thing or two about recycling. Just recently the students learned that it’s important to take the caps off plastic bottles before tossing them in the recycling bin. When plastic bottles are recycled, they are melted to make a new bottle. However, the plastic cap on the bottles is made from a different type of plastic. If people leave their caps on their bottles, then they can’t be recycled properly. Therefore, when recycling companies receive plastic bottles with the cap still on them, they have no choice but to throw the entire bottle and cap away in the trash, despite a person’s effort to recycle in the first place.

Another heads up about recycling: You can recycle more than just your basic bottles, cans, and cardboard boxes through the general waste pickup services. “[My wife and I] recycle everything that is recyclable, but we also collect batteries, plastic bags, electronics, and print cartridges that are not recyclable by traditional means and take them to a designated recycling drop off point,” said Mr. Bryan Rolfsen, an AP science teacher at RLHS. To find other local waste services or recycling centers where you can recycle non-traditional items, you can visit iwanttoberecycled.org.

Conserve Our Precious Resources

Reducing how much electricity, water, and gas we use may seem impossible, but some slight changes can make a huge difference for Mother Earth, and it is so worth it. After all, said Rolfsen, “If we continue to pollute our water sources with the byproducts of coal and other industries, we will literally poison our life source.” In any home, saving water is very simple. Turning off the water when not in use while brushing your teeth or dishes by hand are little things. Watering lawns earlier in the morning allows water to sink into the ground and uses less water than during hotter times in the day. Repair leaky faucets and toilets as soon as possible. As stated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, fixing something as small as a leaky toilet could save 200 gallons of water.

We can also work on minimizing our emissions of fossil fuel.  “If we continue to pollute our air with fossil fuel emissions, we will contribute to climate change,” said Rolfsen. Saving energy, especially in the summer, can be very beneficial. Turning off lights in a room that’s not being occupied or switching light bulbs that are old for more environmentally-friendly lights can also help save money. During the summer there’s more light and time in the day, so take advantage of natural light before turning over to artificial light. Try to walk for short distances. “ I ride to work several times a week during the nicer months and run errands on my bicycle,” said Rolfsen.

Be a Smart Consumer

Hand washing dishes and riding your bike are just some ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. “Carbon footprint is an indicator that tells someone the amount of greenhouse gases they emit when using fossil fuels throughout the course of their day,” said Rambo.  “The amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has a direct correlation to the change in global temperature.  If people are aware of their carbon footprint, they could take action to reduce carbon emissions.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 40 percent  of the average American’s carbon footprint is due to their direct energy use. The other 60 percent does not have a direct correlation; it comes from everything people buy and use. Manufacturing products produces an average 4-8 pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of manufactured product, putting a definite increase on the world’s carbon footprint.

Not only does manufacturing products drastically increase the initial carbon footprint, but so does eating meat.Vegetarians save at least 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year compared to meat eaters.  Just increasing the number of vegetarian-like meals a person eats (such as eating vegetables) by one or two weeks can put a decrease in their carbon footprint. Even eating chicken in the place of red meat can make a difference, for poultry is less greenhouse gas intensive than beef. Altering our lifestyle for just one day makes all the difference in the world.

So let’s start recognizing Earth Day again―and continue recognizing and honoring Mother Earth all year long. Just think of the repercussions if we don’t stop to appreciate the world around us: the more we continue to pollute and poison our Earth, the less pollination we will have from natural animals and insects. And no pollination means less food. Without clean water, people would spend loads of money for purified water. Without forests, jungles, or greenery, carbon dioxide levels would rise higher than they already are.  Small acts toward change make a huge impact and with all that’s at stake,  the change is without a doubt necessary.