|What can people do to make our planet cleaner?|
|Question Date: 2021-01-27|
Dear Dasha, I am so glad you care about cleaning up our planet! I also care very much about that, and it's why I ended up choosing a career in science and renewable energy technology.
There are many ways that the planet is suffering from human activities. One big problem is plastic trash pollution. Despite a lot of plastic products being allowed to go in the recycle bin, only 9% of the plastic in the world actually gets recycled! Much of the plastic we try to recycle ends up in landfills that are filling up, gets burned and releases harmful gases into the atmosphere or sometimes goes directly into the ocean where it poisons a lot of marine life.
As an individual, I encourage you to stop buying single-use plastic whenever you can (or let your parents know this is important). For example, when there is an option you can buy peanut butter in a glass jar instead of a plastic one. Then you can either reuse the glass jar, or recycle it, because glass recycling is a lot more reliable than plastic recycling. In the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", these words are in the order of importance! Another way, perhaps even more urgent, we need to clean up the planet is to stop releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and protect and restore forests and wetlands that can help remove carbon from the atmosphere. Commute by walking or biking whenever you can, and bussing and carpooling when that is not an available option.
You can also organize a class trip or family trip to go volunteer at UCSB's North Campus Open Space preserve, or another habitat restoration project, which can make a big difference for natural carbon capture.
Different food industries also produce different amounts of pollution: if everyone chose to eat less meat and dairy products (replace beef with chicken, or even tofu/beans), the world would see a significant reduction in carbon pollution. Finally - many of these problems cannot be solved with only the actions of environmentally conscious individuals.
Politicians and the owners of large corporations have a disproportionate responsibility to stop the pollution they cause, by increasing pollution limits and increasing energy efficiency standards. Even if you are not yet old enough to vote for politicians who also care about this, you are old enough to get involved in politics. It's your future after all! Do some reading about what Greta Thunberg has managed to do for the youth climate movement, beginning at age 15! With your personal choices, and ability to convince others to follow you, you can make a huge difference! Thanks again for caring! Best,
There are lots of things that people can do to make the planet cleaner. One that you are probably doing right now because of the pandemic is to go fewer places in cars. In regular times, this does not have to mean staying home. You can combine trips if you need to go multiple places, carpool, or take public transportation. Right now and any time, you can walk or ride a bike if you are going somewhere close by.
Another thing to think about, especially if you are not going to stores to buy the things you need, is how you order them. Having things shipped from closer locations and arranging for all of your packages to be delivered on the same day reduces how much delivery people have to drive to transport your items.
Additionally, when you are buying things, it is good to buy items that you can use multiple times (or reuse the stuff you already have and don't buy more!). This reduces the pollution caused by making the products and results in less going to landfills (or becoming litter).
It is also helpful to think about what the things you buy are made out of. Plastic takes a very long time to break down, and sometimes animals eat it by mistake. If you can find things that are not made of (or packaged in) plastic, then that is a good choice. Also, try looking for items made with recycled material.
Just because you put something in the recycling bin doesn't mean it is recycled. Things are only recycled when they are turned into other things, and buying recycled items helps make sure that materials are actually recycled.
There are many personal choices we can make that help to make the planet cleaner. One very important choice is to think about plastic packaging that is used for food or other things you buy from the store. A lot of plastic packaging is used once and thrown away, and then takes a very long time to degrade and piles up in landfills, or even worse, the ocean.
Choosing to use recyclable packaging made of cardboard or metal, or using reusable packaging that can last a long time helps to reduce the amount of plastic trash and keep the planet cleaner.
In many cases, plastic packaging is unavoidable - it is very useful and it is difficult to go completely without it! Fortunately, there is some very interesting science being done on creating plastics that can degrade faster when thrown away, or be recycled so they can be used again and again. The goal is to be able to break down old plastics into simple chemicals then can be used to make new products, so that the trash we throw away no longer piles up, pollutes the Earth or damages fish and wildlife.
In the meantime, it is important to think about where things go when they get thrown away, and try to avoid single-use bags, wrappings, cups and plates, or even disposable decorations.
There are many ways that we can each make our planet cleaner. It all starts with small actions we each take to help: reduce, reuse and recycle.
By reducing what we buy, reusing everything we can, and recycling, we can reduce our waste and help keep our environment cleaner. I have made a little list of ways to do this, but I challenge you to think of some other ways too:
-Use a smaller dollop of shampoo (reduce)
-Do not leaving the water running when we brush our teeth (reduce)
-Take a walk around the neighborhood and pick up litter (reduce)
-if we get plastic bags at the store, take them back to use again next time (reuse and reduce)
-find ways to use dinner leftovers so we don't waste food (reduce waste)
-be mindful about buying clothes that last or can be repaired (patched) (reduce and reuse)
try a clothing swap with your friends instead of buying new ones (reuse)
-check out what items can be recycled in your neighborhood
-Always try to reuse items before recycling
There are too many to list. The most important is probably to have fewer children, so that future generations will create less pollution to begin with.
I like this list:
8 Ways to Keep the Earth Clean
Bring a bag. ...
Invest in a reusable water bottle. ...
Bring your own reusable cup. ...
Refuse single-use items. ...
Avoid products with microbeads. ...
Shop in bulk. ...
Make sure your waste goes to the right place. ...
8 ways to keep the Earth clean.
Here are more ideas:
Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Earth
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Cut down on what you throw away. ...
Volunteer. Volunteer for cleanups in your community. ...
Conserve water. ...
Choose sustainable. ...
Shop wisely. ...
Use long-lasting light bulbs. ...
Plant a tree.
Protecting our planet starts with you
When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher helped start Art From Scrap in Santa Barbara, where people bring stuff they don't need, and other people use it to make art and other fun things. Now Art From Scrap has fun online art classes on Wednesday afternoons.
Here's their February calendar
Art From Scrap calendar
The classes use stuff you probably already have at home.
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