Why we all need to care about Earth in tangible ways

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

Riley Potter, Staff Writer

We live in a beautiful world filled to the brim with God’s amazing creation. From the reaches of the majestic Channel Islands to the tops of the Santa Ynez Mountains, our home here at Westmont is just another testament to God’s creative grandeur. Oftentimes, however, the climate crisis facing our world seems too much to bear and we don’t think we can do anything as individuals. The fact undoubtedly remains that we are called as Christians to be stewards of creation, loving and caring for this earth we inhabit. This stewardship ranges from big-picture problems, such as investing in renewable energy and reducing CO2 emissions, to being responsible individual consumers.

What does this have to do with college students? Life as a college student is stressful and there are so many things we have to juggle, but taking care of the earth needs to be on every one of our agendas. Sustainability is the idea that we can, and must, coexist with Earth without compromising the chance for future generations to thrive. It’s essentially a balancing act – obtaining the resources necessary for our society to function while also treating the planet with the respect and dignity it deserves.

Oftentimes, people think that living sustainably is an all-or-nothing proposition, but we need to get away from that idea. In reality, we need millions of people to practice sustainable living imperfectly instead of only a handful of people doing it perfectly. I’m gonna give it to you straight. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Already, the Arctic is melting and sea levels are rising at an alarming rate. Air pollution affects the countless communities across the world, and that’s just to name a few of the problems our planet faces.
The challenges facing our generation can feel paralyzing, but we have to remember that every single person wields power, even if it’s only a little bit. Power over where we buy from, what we buy, who we vote for, what we wear, and the conversations we have. Our actions have the potential to make waves, if only we are willing to step into intentional actions that will benefit the Earth.

Where to start? We all grew up hearing the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Personally, I never seriously considered the sequence in which we recited those actions, but the fact is that the order in which they appear is important.
Reducing comes first and is actually the most important component. The less we buy, the less we have to get rid of later on. The key to sustainability and a zero-waste lifestyle is simply buying fewer things. An easy way to reduce your waste as a college student here at Westmont is by bringing your own silverware/bambooware to the DC. You can even steal some utensils from home and bring them with you. One single person who eats three meals per day, every day, will use approximately 630 sets of plastic cutlery in a school year. Multiply that by the approximately 1000 students on campus, and the total amount of single-use plastic used for meals alone should concern you.

Something else to reduce: your meat consumption! Going vegan or vegetarian may seem too difficult at this point in time, especially with limited DC options, but cutting meat out of your diet for even one day a week is a start. I have stopped eating beef entirely due to the horrific pollution and deforestation that occurs within that industry.

Each student who uses reusuable utensils is making a tangible difference. (Sofia Pela)

Another good place to start is being aware of your water and energy consumption. Always turn off your light when you leave your room and try washing your clothes with cold water. Another way to reduce consumption, specifically of plastic, is to use a reusable water bottle or to transition to bar shampoo, conditioner and body wash. It’s also super easy to bring your own bag to the DC and to grocery stores so you don’t have to take the plastic ones they provide. Ultimately, before purchasing something, think if you really need it. If yes, try to borrow it from a friend or purchase it secondhand before buying it brand new.

This point leads me to the second word: reuse. This one has been picking up steam lately as we young adults have hopped onto the thrifting trend. The wonderful thing is that you can find so many things at thrift stores besides that cute chunky sweater or those adorable high-waisted mom jeans. Most secondhand stores have appliances and furniture sections and an extensive selection of dishes and cups. While thrifting, I found a mason jar mug, a plate and sunglasses: three things I had been needing but found secondhand, and for a fraction of the price! Secondhand stores are a great place to go when moving into an apartment; they will save you so much money and it’s better for the earth. You can reuse items in your own life too. Ziploc bags are truly good for more than one use and old jars can be converted into storage for leftovers. Once you are done with your clothes, furniture or books, donate them somewhere so our secondhand stores will continue to be well-stocked.

Finally, recycling: the one that is the most ubiquitous, but honestly not the most helpful. Recycling efforts reduce litter, but do not effectively address the source of plastic pollution. Sadly, most people do not recycle correctly and can do more harm than good. This doesn’t mean you should abandon recycling, but rather learn how to recycle correctly, by making sure all plastic is properly cleaned before it is recycled. Recycling is necessary and is a better alternative to trashing all plastic, but it shouldn’t be our primary means of attacking plastic consumption.

These are only a few of the many ways to move towards an increasingly sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Outside of individual habits, it is important to engage with those in your spheres of influence – churches, friends, professors, city councils – and encourage them to adopt one or two of those aforementioned habits. This world is too beautiful to squander. If we do nothing, we are simply part of the problem and are not living into our calling to love Earth as children of God.

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