Earth Day: small things you can do to help the environment

Eva Brattain

Chances are you’ve heard of climate change and global warming, whether you took a sustainability class or if you came across a photo of a starving polar bear on Instagram. Earth Day, on April 22, is a day dedicated to supporting our environment.

While saving the environment has to be a collective effort, actions you take to help the environment make a big difference, whether you are an active climate change activist or if you turn off the water when you brush your teeth. If each person contributes even just a little bit more, all of that adds fast. Consider the following tips on reducing your environmental footprint.

Keep climate change in mind when you vote.

You can help reduce the future damage to our planet by considering climate in many different aspects in your life, including politics. Christo Buizert, an Assistant Professor at OSU who specializes in paleoclimate, ice cores, firn processes and abrupt climate change, gave numerous examples of things everyone can do to help our environment. “Climate change must be addressed at all levels of government (federal to local). So find out what position the candidates have on climate change and the environment, and go vote!”

Reduce your carbon emissions.

Other than considering climate change when you vote, Buizert recommends that “you can carpool with friends and colleagues, and bus, bike or walk instead of taking the car.” He continued, “One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon emissions is to eat less meat and especially less beef.”

The production and consumption of red meats such as beef emits huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas amplifying the greenhouse effect significantly, into the atmosphere and warming our planet. Simply cutting down the amount of beef you consume can impact the climate of the entire planet.

Buizert also suggests people calculate their own carbon emissions to see determine what in their life contributes to these emissions the most, informing people of ways each person can make small lifestyle changes to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Consume less.

Sackett Hall’s student ecological representative, Lily Butler, had a lot to say about how each person can contribute to helping our planet thrive. “Consume less,” she exclaims. “You’ve heard of reduce, reuse, recycle. It starts with reduce. Think about what you already have and use that first. Use your old shopping bags before you buy a new one. Reusable mugs are the easiest things students can do because you save so much money in the long run.” When you bring your own cup to many of the on-campus cafes, you get a discount. Not only do you decrease the amount of plastic coffee cups that go to waste, but you also save money!

Should you recycle that dirty bottle? If you’re not sure, don’t risk it. Butler says, “the worst part is recycling things that should go in the trash because that contaminates loads. If you don’t know if something should be recycled, you need to throw it out. It’s worse to put it in the recycling and be wrong than it is to put it in the trash.”

The amount of waste products humans pump to landfills may be out of sight for now, but we will eventually run out of space for landfills. According to Butler, Corvallis’ local landfill only has 45 years left at the rate we’re filling it. We need landfills for medical waste and chemicals and other contaminants we don’t want lying in the streets, but so many things are being thrown away and taking up the space in landfills.

Consider this:

First, do you need to buy a certain new thing? If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Saves both the planet and your money.

Second, rather than throwing your old things away, is there a way you can repair or reuse it? If not, make sure you recycle it correctly which means washing out any and all containers!

Third, is there anything you can use this item for anymore? Only throw it away as a last resort.

Oregon’s climate is already changing.

According to the “4th Oregon Climate Assessment Report” by P.W. Mote, J. Abatzoglou, K.D. Dello, K. Hegewisch, and D.E. Rupp, “Oregon is already experiencing statewide impacts of a changing climate. In August 2018, Portland and the Willamette Valley experienced some of the worst air quality on the planet owing to smoke from wildfires near and far.”

The more wasteful we are, the more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere and the warmer the planet becomes. This has already begun to show in Oregon’s climate. Whether or not we keep the damage to a minimum, that’s up to you.

To celebrate Earth Day, challenge yourself to choose one thing you can change about your lifestyle that would benefit the environment. Apply this lifestyle change to your life for the rest of the week and see the impact you can make.