13 ways CG students can help the environment right now

Every Earth Day, you hear the same thing: we need to reduce our carbon footprint. But how can teens do that in a world that constantly pushes us to buy stuff? Here are a few simple ways you can help the environment beyond the metal straws. 

1. Don’t buy fast fashion

The average American throws away 81 lbs. of clothing a year. This adds up very fast, and the vast majority of these clothes can be repaired or used for something else. Personally, I sew any holes in my clothes that come from wear and I googled how to identify where a hole may come up in clothing to fix them before they become a problem. It is a very quick and cost-effective way to keep your clothes for a much longer amount of time, and it helps the environment a lot. If, for some reason, you can’t fix the item, you can always use it for something else, like making other clothing or bags or scraps to use to fix other clothes. When you buy less clothes, that reduces the demand to make more, thus reducing the carbon released from making them. It also reduces the amount of people who are exploited by companies to make your $5 shirt.

2. Unplug electronics when fully charged

When you have your phone or computer plugged in at 100%, they still suck energy up. That is called vampire energy, which in the US alone costs around $19 billion a year. 

3. Drive less

This can be very hard, especially living in Illinois and in our area, where there is little public transportation. However, reducing how much you drive and increasing the amount you bike or walk is healthier for you and helps the environment. You can also do this by doing all your errands at one time. Instead of going to place A on Monday and place B on Tuesday, just do it all on one day. 

4. Plant your own food and buy locally grown foods

By doing this, you reduce the carbon produced when produce is transported. It also helps support local farmers.

5. Dry your clothes on a clothing line or in your bathroom

Line-drying is so much better for the environment. Drying one load of laundry uses five times more energy than washing it. In most countries, people line-dry their clothes. In fact, in Italy around 95 percent of people don’t even own dryers.

6. Eat less meat 

This helps a lot, especially when you eat less red meat. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to get one pound of beef, and when the number of cows using the water grows, the worse water scarcity becomes. if you switch to only eating poultry, you create a fifth of the emissions than if you eat red meat like beef. Some great sources of protein and iron are lentils, tofu, beans, spinach, baked potatoes and dark chocolate. People may say that vegetarian food like Morning Star brand tastes bad, but from someone who lives with two vegetarians, I’d have to say that Morning Star food is pretty good.

7. Reuse

Unfortunately, much of the material we put in our recycling bins never actually gets recycled and ends up in landfills. So, when you are going to throw something away or even recycle it, think, “Can I use this for something else?” Be creative or look for ideas online. You can use plastic liter bottles when starting seeds and the tabs from soda cans to maximize your closet space (see picture).

8. Donate

Donate stuff you don’t want. Or, if you go on your parents’ Facebook account, you can go to “Cary yard sale” and sell it there or “Barrington yard sale” or any yard sale place in our area and make money from it.

9. Question your purchases

Ask yourself, “How many times will I wear this? Am I just buying this for the sake of buying?” This will reduce the amount of junk you have in your room and will help you spend less.

10. Wash clothes in cold water

When you wash clothes in cold water, the detergent works better and it saves around 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

11. Research

Know what you are talking about. Learn about environmental issues online, talk to local representatives about your concerns, or attend protests like the ones Greta Thunberg has coordinated called School Strike for Climate. You can go to 350.org to learn more about what you can do and protests in your area.

12. Hold companies accountable for their actions

When companies say they are going to do something good for the environment, such as switch to electric power or reduce pollution, but they don’t make any changes, stop giving them your business. Write an email or make a call to tell them why they lost your business. Without that economic pressure, they’re less likely to help the environment.

13. Learn from the pandemic

If you look at how the Earth was before the pandemic to how it is now you will see a huge change in the environment. In venice, for example, fish and swans have come back and the water has cleared up. In India the Himalayan Mountains are visible for the first time in more than 30 years. We won’t stay in lockdown forever, and if we go back to the way it was before the pandemic, we will continue to harm our environment. If we continue things like not driving as much and walking more, we can maybe keep the Earth safe and healthy for future generations.