I want to talk about something that isn’t generally thought of or talked about in an average daily life. I want to talk about waste. Trash. Dump.
These words all have multiple meanings, and all definitions apply here. We are wasting our earth from the food we waste. We trash our oceans with tiny microplastics leftover from our plastic trash. Businesses have historically been dumping by-products into natural habitats and now they pile it high in a dump.
Here’s some facts about the growing problem of America’s throwaway culture and the effects:
- We are throwing away 40% of all our food. This food then goes into landfills, where it becomes methane gas, where it contributes to the third largest source of methane in the US. Methane, like carbon dioxide, absorbs the sun’s heat and warms the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a greenhouse gas and contributes to global climate change.
- Trash is ending up in our oceans. Plastic is the biggest threat, as it does not biodegrade but only gets smaller and becomes microplastics. Scientists believe it can cause malnutrition for marine life such as beached whales, after an examination of their stomach contents revealed overwhelming amounts of plastic. There are multiple “trash islands” in the ocean, such as the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where plastic and debris literally choke the ecosystem and create dead zones.
- Before 1972, the ocean had become a dumping ground for all types of waste, including industrial byproduct like chemical, medical, and radioactive wastes and high amounts of sewage. Luckily, the EPA has regulated ocean dumping since that time, but years of unregulated dumping have left some ocean zones with low levels of oxygen. Surprisingly, some materials are still allowed to be dumped into the ocean, according to the EPA: dredging materials, fish wastes, and anyone/company who obtains a special “ocean dumping permit”. Interestingly, environmental dredging is used to remove underwater soil or sand from polluted parts of a harbor or river, so to be dumping this back into the ocean seems to be counter intuitive.
Here’s some ways we, as the consumers, can take charge and change these effects, along with links to resources:
- Compost at your home to reduce food waste being put into landfills. Having worms do the composting is a great garage-friendly project that kids will surely love!
- Reduce dependency on plastics. One great way to get started? Start bringing your own reusable shopping totes for groceries and errands! They’re usually bigger and more comfortable to carry than traditional plastic shoppers, plus they won’t end up in whale stomachs. And once your resuable bags get holey, send them off to ChicoBags through their zero waste program and let them have a new life helping others in need.
- Support local efforts through volunteership. Nonprofit organizations always need help with organizing, fundraising, events, or even special skills. You can even organize your own events, like a local beach cleanup or community composting initiative.
- Write to lawmakers and tell them how much the environment means to you and how they need to pass bills that protect it. Remember, these people represent you, a citizen, and (should) want to hear from you!
- Choose not to purchase from known polluters. Instead, shop small and locally for everything that you can.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Give your things new life and only buy what you need. Reuse everything that you can.
Lastly, we need to empower people to find solutions to these tough issues. It won’t be solved in a day or year, but if we rally together and educate ourselves we may be able to reduce the damage we’ve done. Educating and involving kids in these issues not only empowers the future generation, but could give us the next great invention for reducing, cleaning, and eliminating harmful effects of waste on this wonderful Earth.