The Perks of Being Green

Written by Caitlyn Buckley
Megaphone Staff Writer

I am someone who tends to buy into fads that make me feel good about myself and my contributions to society. I jumped on the volunteering bandwagon in high school because it let me feel like I was actually accomplishing something that was good for someone besides me. Besides that, it seemed like everyone and their dog spent several hours a week volunteering, whether for noble reasons or just for their resumes. Another trend that allows people to feel like they’re helping the world has been gaining popularity lately: being “green.”

Many people are curious if it does much good when people try to conserve on a personal level, especially with the Campus Energy Challenge going on. It can seem like one person’s efforts do very little to impact the world. That is even the justification that some people use for why they choose not to recycle or turn off the lights – that one person’s efforts don’t make any difference. As can be evidenced by the mission behind the Campus Energy Challenge (to reduce campus-wide consumption by 5 percent by individual efforts), individuals can have an impact on the environment through their efforts to be green just as much as they can by efforts in the opposite direction.

Recycling may seem as though it does little good, especially when people discover that there can sometimes be negative environmental consequences for the recycling process. Yes, the process of recycling sometimes has a waste product at the end. It is also true that it can be costly energy-wise to recycle.

Still, the benefits outweigh these possible negative consequences. It is very costly to transport waste and to keep landfills from becoming biohazards. It is also expensive and troublesome to mine metals, cut down trees, and to produce the products needed. Recycled aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy costs and creates 95 percent less air pollution than refining new aluminum. Recycled cardboard only costs 24 percent of what it takes to produce new cardboard. Glass, paper, plastics and steel all also save significant amounts of energy and reduce the potential air pollution. It is less dangerous to the environment and less costly to recycle than it is to produce new goods, so those are not valid reasons to keep people from recycling.

Reducing consumption is probably the most difficult aspect of a green lifestyle. We live in a culture that values material wealth and material goods. Because we are expected to want more, people oftentimes choose to consume more than is necessary.

This consumption can include consumption of electricity when there is plenty of natural light, consumption of water when a shorter shower would work just as well, and consumption of excess food when what we need to be satisfied is not nearly as much.

We’ve all heard about “carbon footprints” and how important they are to reduce. They’re also easy to reduce and really do have a huge impact. The percentage of green power used will, on average, reduce carbon emissions by an equal percentage. The average person in America will generate between 833 and 1,667 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions per month. 32 percent of emissions in the United States are generated from the common person, coming especially from their cars and homes. By taking a shorter shower, trying to eat more organic produce when affordable, turning off the lights and unplugging appliances that aren’t in use, people really can have an impact on the world.

Going green is a current fad, but for many it is becoming a permanent lifestyle. While detractors argue that it is useless to try to be green, differences can be made even on a personal level.
This is something that really can make a difference in the lives of people around the world. It’s hard to comprehend that such small changes in a life could really matter or make an impact, but science is showing more each day that a difference is made when people try to live green. It doesn’t require a big sacrifice, and it still makes a difference, even when you’re “green” on a college student’s budget. You don’t have to buy solar panels for your house or stop driving your car to make a difference. A small step is all it takes.

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