“Going Green”? Are We Really Helping?

By: Sara Muharremi  |  March 22, 2020

By Sara Muharremi, Staff Writer

2020 has hit our planet with a series of challenges, but one that is ever persistent is the global environmental crisis. Water and air pollution are at an all-time high, sea levels are rising, harmful industrial chemical emissions are constant, and animals are losing their homes and going extinct, yet these are only a handful of the dooming issues that have taken place throughout the last few decades.

These crises plead for our attention, and most of the improvements call for us to be conscientious in our daily lives. Millennials have played a large role in driving daily life to a more “green” and “eco-friendly” lifestyle. In a way, it’s almost become trendy and cool to be environmentally conscious. But how environmentally helpful are we really? Large amounts of money go into marketing something as environmentally friendly, but what people may not know is that often it takes more resources to make a product “eco-friendly,” than something which may not be. These additional resources may be wasteful if you’re not fully committed to going green and if not used properly. 

Let’s take reusable bags for example. Recently there has been a ban regarding plastic shopping bags because plastic doesn’t break down easily, making it environmentally-unfriendly. Using reusable bags, however, may not be the best answer either. Another study from the UK government found that cotton and canvas bags have the biggest carbon footprint due to the amount of resources they require in order to be produced and distributed. Unless they’re being re-used for almost 11.5 years, the environmental benefit would be negligible. 

Even recycling beer and soda cans can be an issue if they aren’t disposed of correctly. Some may think that crushing cans makes the most sense when recycling them because they will take up less space and therefore have a higher success rate with regards to recycling. That is, unfortunately, wrong. Most sorting facilities use automated processes and machines, which means that if a can is crushed the processor might wrongfully sort it as paper. 

Almond milk is another common fad for a dairy-alternative. Cows, their burps, and their flatulence are one of the big reasons for methane emissions. A liter of skim milk creates far more carbon than a liter of almond milk — which is a positive for almond milk. However, almond plantations in California, which produce 80% of the world’s almonds, are causing many environmental damages while also hiking-up water costs. To make one liter of milk will use over six liters of water. The best solution, for those who still want a dairy alternative, would be oat milk! 

Social media plays a  large and crucial role when it comes to spreading messages to improve our world. The environment is, however, facing a serious issue and it needs to be handled with equal seriousness. This includes not just recycling, but recycling properly. Additionally, if you’re substituting something harmful with something you think is better for the environment, make sure you’re fully aware of all the environmental consequences of that alternative, and see if there are better alternatives. The footprints that humans have left on Earth have been deeply imprinted and we need to make the right choices to ensure a continued future on our planet. 

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