By Ella Van Niel

Scrolling through instagram on Earth Day, I saw a lot of posts about the importance of recycling, turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, and picking up trash. While these efforts to stop climate change are necessary, they are not enough. Climate change is not something that might happen in the distant future– it’s affecting people now. Minorities and underprivileged people are more vulnerable to climate change and have fewer resources to escape it or prevent it. For example, developing island countries are more likely to be affected by erratic weather, people of color in the USA are more likely to be exposed to pollution, and daily life for indigenous people around the world has been made more difficult due to global warming. Because climate change is so closely tied to social justice, we have to do more than the bare minimum. Here are some strategies:

Buy a used car

I know that everyone dreams of getting a brand new car for their 16th birthday, but the reality is that a new Mercedes or Tesla is much worse for the environment than, say, a used Honda. For example, a 2004 Honda Civic gets 30 miles per gallon, while a 2020 Mercedes G-wagon gets only 14. Also, manufacturing electric engines emits more carbon than engines for a regular car. Driving a used car may not be as cool as a new one, but it’s necessary if we’re going to stop climate change. They’re much cheaper too!

Buy used clothes

Now that thrift shopping is trendy, it’s the perfect time to start buying used clothes. The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to the oil industry. Also, fast-fashion companies like Forever 21 use sweatshop labor that exploits employees and natural resources like water. By shopping at stores like Avalon Exchange, Goodwill, and Valueworld instead of the mall you will save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Eat fewer meat/dairy products

Although eating vegan cuts your carbon footprint by 50%, you don’t have to be completely vegan or vegetarian to benefit the environment. If every American ate one less serving of chicken a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road in terms of CO2 emissions. Given the statistics, liking bacon is not an excuse for refusing to eat more plant-based meals.

Talk to your parents about getting solar panels

Solar energy is about 25 times better for the environment than coal, and more than 10 times better than natural gas. Solar panels are expensive to install, but they are a good long-term investment because they greatly reduce or even cancel out your electricity costs each month. I have solar panels at my house, and during the summer we generate much more electricity than we need; by selling it back to the electric company we completely cover the price of our electricity in the winter. 

Take public transportation or carpool

Taking the bus or the rapid is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint– taking the bus produces one fifth of the carbon dioxide produced by driving alone in your car. And Greater Cleveland’s public transportation system has over 50 bus lines and 3 rapid lines, including the Green Line that has a stop two minutes away from HB. Public transportation is not just for people who can’t afford a car–it’s essential if we’re going to stop climate change.

Posted by:hbinretrospect

Reporting not for school, but for life.

One thought on “Recycling Is Not Enough

  1. Thanks for this article, Ella! I love the connections you are making between climate justice and social justice. They absolutely go hand-in-hand.

    I would add one other major item to your action list: Get politically active! Even if you aren’t yet voting age, you can be involved politically. The leaders we choose in our government have a huge impact on the policies that get put into place, which ultimately shape the way our whole economic and social system functions. Do your homework, and work to support candidates and policies that will push forward climate solutions on a broad scale!

    Thanks for bringing this conversation into Retrospect!

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