by Mauli Chopra
“Never take what you cannot give back or destroy what you cannot create.”Bryant McGill
As an immigrant who came to the U.S. primarily on the basis of acquiring a better education, it has taken me ten years to finally gain something valuable. I’m in my final year of high school and I’m taking a science credit called AP Environmental Science (APES), a class offered by CollegeBoard.
I call myself an environmentalist now but the truth is that I’ve never been fond of the scientific aspect of life until the beginning of last year. As a young child, I’d shy away from mud and beetles, my family never went on camping trips or on hikes, I’d take a plastic water bottle with me to school every day, and I ate more meat than fruits.
So, what changed? Oh, absolutely everything.
I cannot call myself a writer and hate nature– my inspiration lies in the natural world, one where human despair does not haunt me. I became vegetarian, my wardrobe became all thrifted or borrowed, I bought 2 permanent water bottles, switched to cosmetic products that are sustainably made and recycled, and I even have a tattoo of mother earth.
Despite it all, I continue to make mistakes and am continuously learning more and more about what it means to be self-sustainable and responsible for my carbon footprint.
There should be no labels in regard to caring about planet Earth. It’s not hippie, an aesthetic, a trend, or just a class. We often willingly give ourselves up to capitalism, but when it comes to giving up old habits and comforts in order to hold society responsible for pollution, we’re nowhere to be found.
Earth Day originates from Wisconsin, USA, tracking back to the founder Gaylord Nelson. He was a U.S. Senator who was concerned about anthropogenic activities and their impact on the environment. He organized the first Earth Day as a way to raise awareness about arising environmental issues and to encourage Americans to take action to protect the planet. In 1970, Gaylord’s creation of this rally slowly started expanding into national legislation for the country’s environmental health. April 22nd is now a global celebration with multiple countries across the globe joining in to support our planet and integrate sustainability as a value within their communities.
What I’ve come to realize is that my lifestyle will never be enough to save the planet. As children we are naive and brilliant superheroes who wish to save the world, often not realizing that we are who we’re supposed to be saving the world from. Unfortunately, as long as the human species continues to exist, there will always be the destruction of the natural ecosystems of the world. Our carbon footprint begins the second we’re born and continues throughout our lifetime.
If we must kill, we might as well murder sustainably. There is an old folklore about indigenous natives using every aspect of wildlife, never letting anything go to waste. Although it’s a bit more difficult to be eco-friendly nowadays, it is still possible. Small changes made by a lot of people make a difference.
I’m only seventeen but all I know is that earth day is every day for me. My APES class introduced me to a scientific world hidden behind political propaganda and religious bigotry. My science teacher, Mr. Reynolds, has not only approached the class curriculum with scientific-based information but humanity. Education is the first step in fixing the planet. If we are ignorant then change will not sprout from the brains that are not watered with information. Only when we are on the brink of destruction, the precipice, do we prosper and try to fix things. Mr. Reynolds has spent the entire school year preparing his students for the AP Exam in May, and while most students focused on retaining information, I focused on pursuing a path of change with the information I was granted.
Intelligent educators who focus on science when addressing politics, the environment, ethics, and life are rare nowadays due to misinformation being trusted more than the subject of science itself. Without Mr. Reynolds, I would have continued to be pessimistic about the future of our planet, but with everything he’s taught me, I know that change is possible because we as humans continuously evolve. We are caretakers of our planet, we must exist in harmony with the Earth, not conquer it.
The world is so beautiful, nature is so freeing, and wildlife is so inspiring. The human species is the cruelest despite labeling ourselves the most intelligent. I do not crave a significant other, good grades, or wealth. I am ravenous to walk the forest with bare feet, to feel the ocean’s waves engulf me in a blue hug, to breathe in cold air standing on my tiptoes on a mountain, to roll down a hill with grass in my hair. I want to be alive and human. Too often we lose ourselves in the human-made society and isolate ourselves from the very ground that we will return to when we die. Fall in love with mother nature– she is the greatest lover you’ll ever have and, in return, you’ll learn to love yourself as a human being.
Earth Day is every day. You don’t need to be a scientist or an environmentalist to make an impact on the world, you just have to be a good human being. There are no differences when it comes to the one connection we all share: Planet Earth.
23 things YOU can do to celebrate Earth Day EVERY DAY!
- Unsubscribe from junk emails and junk physical mail.
- Storing junk emails consumes electricity and water which emits greenhouse gasses and the carbon impact increases with every unnecessary production of an email or mail.
- Start thrifting your wardrobe.
- It’s time to ditch fast fashion and excessive online shopping! Instead of buying new photo frames, trinkets, or clothes, you can save money (and the planet) by thrifting. Overconsumption of clothes, cosmetic products, and materials in general is not sustainable. Reduction of waste is better than production of pollution.
- Cut out single-use plastic.
- Single-use grocery bags can be replaced with big tote bags and plastic water bottles can be replaced with a sturdy permanent bottle. The breakdown of these items takes years and the small particles often pollute the oceans and our waters, affecting living organisms. Buy glass bottles and degradable products and ensure your way of carrying them is eco-friendly as well!
- Reflect on your diet.
- Cut meat out of your diet and start consuming it less during the week. Although it is better to go fully vegetarian, a majority of us cannot sustain our lifestyles on it. Try only consuming meat four days a week or three days, or including it only in one meal during the day.
- Shop local and seasonal.
- Buying local produce from the farmer’s market and supporting small businesses ensures less air pollution because the transportation of these items did not release carbon monoxide and you can ask questions about whether it was produced sustainably. In-season fruits and flowers require less energy to grow and transport, which means they have a smaller carbon footprint. Plus, they’re usually fresher and taste better.
- Being self-sustainable reduces your reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You save money in the long run by reducing your energy bills and other expenses. It can help reduce your carbon footprint by providing a source of fresh, local produce, and it can also help improve soil health and biodiversity. It’s also a great way to connect with nature and get some exercise. Greenhouses and roof-top green roofs are also awesome choices for sustainability.
- Write letters to government officials.
- Start in your municipal area before pursuing state officials then federal. Legislation for the environment is limited and constantly being reduced, politicians often do not value science or protection of the environment, so protesting and voicing your concerns MATTERS! The first federal U.S. legislation for the environment was sparked by protests and petitions and America’s actions matter because other countries often look up to us for guidance in international environmental treaties.
- Vote, vote, vote, vote!
- Research every candidate and their values on sustainability, and then vote for leaders who will prioritize environmental issues and take action to protect the planet. By voting for candidates who support environmental protection, we can help ensure that our government takes steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect natural habitats, and promote sustainable practices. Additionally, voting can help create a sense of accountability among elected officials, as they know they will be held responsible for their actions by their constituents.
- Read and research.
- Don’t only read this article but expand beyond! Educated humans tend to make more sustainable choices.
- Connect with nature.
- Nature deficit disorder is when the human body starts to experience negative impacts from spending too little time in nature. By spending more time in nature we can help promote physical and mental health and develop a greater appreciation for the natural world which in return helps promote sustainability.
- Start composting your food scraps and yard trimmings.
- Although paper is the biggest source of municipal solid waste in America, food scraps and yard trimmings are a close second. Composting helps reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfills. Organic material often decomposes in landfills and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It also supports healthy plant growth and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and additionally it can help reduce water use by improving soil moisture retention.
- Recycle, Reuse, Reduce.
- Many municipal communities have a recycling program, if yours doesn’t, advocate for it! Reusing and reducing is better than recycling. Upcycle old items into new useful ones, there are many things you can reinvent for your household. Also, ask yourself questions like “If I buy this today, will this be useful for the majority of my life” and “Is this really worth the money and earth’s resources?”
- Purchase eco-friendly sunscreen.
- Sunscreen is one of the leading causes for coral bleaching. Sunscreen contains chemicals that can harm marine life, such as Coral reefs. These chemicals get into the ocean through wastewater or by washing off of swimmers’ skin. Once in the ocean, they can accumulate in the tissues of marine organisms and cause damage to their health and reproductive systems. Some coral/ocean-friendly sunscreen brands include the phrase “Reef-friendly,” so look for those!
- Disposal of the deceased.
- Gravesites often take up landscapes that disrupt wildlife. Full-paced decomposition cannot take place when the body is within a coffin; think about how many resources go into making coffins and gravestones each year. Cremation causes incomplete combustion in the initial stages and the ashes create water pollution if thrown into waterways. Religious and cultural preferences are valid and must be respected but always keep an open mind to alternatives. If more humans start to take sustainable ways to body disposal such as terramation then it becomes more inexpensive and accessible to all.
- Listen to the younger generation.
- There will always be older generations, younger generations, and upcoming generations. We were all young once but we were all young during different eras of Earth’s arising problems. The problem starts with overpopulation but it can end if we listen to the concerns of kids who hope to turn it into sustainable actions.
- Cut back on water waste.
- Shower for shorter periods of time, turn off the tap when scrubbing soap onto wet dishes and when brushing your teeth.
- Green Market Jobs/Volunteering.
- Volunteering for environmental organizations such as those that focus on conservation or environmental education can help promote awareness of environmental issues and encourage positive environmental behaviors. Green jobs such as those in renewable energy, recycling, and sustainable agriculture can help create a more sustainable economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By working together to solve environmental challenges we can develop new solutions and create a more sustainable future for all living things.
- Plant native plants.
- Prioritize native species when gardening. Depending on where you live, it’s beneficial to research before you plant or release anything into the natural environment. It helps support local ecosystems and biodiversity. Native plants are adapted to the local climate, soil, and other environmental conditions, which makes them more resilient and better able to support local wildlife. Plus, they often require less water and fertilizer than non-native plants, which can help conserve resources and reduce negative environmental impacts.
- Clean up trash (don’t litter!)
- This helps prevent pollution and protect wildlife. Trash can release harmful chemicals, and pollutants into the environment which can contaminate soil, water and air. It can also pose a physical threat to wildlife, as animals can become entangled in trash or mistake it for food.
- Leave it better than you found it.
- My music directors engrained this motto into us and I am glad to know it. When hiking, remember to brush off the bottom of your shoes before and after hiking to prevent the spread of invasive species and pathogens. When camping, remember to leave behind zero trace, human disturbance has negative effects on natural cycles of ecosystems. The average human lifespan is 80 years old, how can you make a difference to leave the planet better than you found it?
- Support companies and products that are sustainably made.
- Beware of greenwashing. Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies to make their products or services appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. This can involve making false or exaggerated claims about the environmental benefits of a product, or using value or misleading language to suggest that our product is more eco-friendly when it is not. Researching the products you own and the company’s values allow you to make alternative and more eco-friendly choices. A good rule to go by is that if it’s harmful to the planet then it’s harmful to you!
- Fix your house.
- Leaks, limited insulation, and small faulty problems are a waste. Fixing these things in your house it can help conserve water which is a valuable resource. It can also help reduce energy use by keeping your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Conserving natural resources and reducing negative environmental impacts associated with energy production starts with fixing the home that you live in.
- Donate to Earth organizations.
- Some organizations to get involved in are Greenpeace, Clean Air Task Force, The Ocean Cleanup, Environmental Defense Fund, The World Wildlife Fund, and Nature Conservancy.