Earth Day (135417)

If you’re not conscientious of the waste you produce, and the ways that your carbon footprint impacts our planet, you should be.

There are roughly 7.5 billion people on this earth, and yet 3.5 million tons of trash is produced globally annually. In the United States alone—the country leading this waste race—the average person produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day. In short, there is more trash than there are humans on this earth. And by 2050, there will be more trash in our oceans than fish. In 30 short years, the Earth will be drowning in garbage.

So what does this mean for you, your kids or your grandkids? It means the diminishing of the necessities needed to sustain human life: food, water and oxygen.

Take bees, for example, these small yet mighty insects are responsible for pollinating the Earth’s lush greenery and also nutritious sources of food like almond trees. However, due to climate change, and the collapse of biodiverse ecosystems, these bees are endangered, along with the plants that humans depend on for food. Similarly, due to climate change, our freshwater sources are drying up, increasing the threat of water scarcity worldwide. Lastly, our coral reefs are being bleached due to rising water temperatures and harmful chemicals caused by things like sunscreen or pesticide run-off. Coral reefs produce 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and thus, by harming these sea organisms, we risk depleting our main source of oxygen on this planet.

If none of this alarms you, it should. The dystopian Earth that you see in your favorite movies, painted with gas masks and polluted air, is not too far off from what could be the future of our Earth. The air you breathe, the water bottle and almonds you buy from your local grocery store are all conveniences. Little gifts the Earth has given us that we have taken for granted and abused with the actions we’ve taken as humans. Now we are forced to backtrack and carry out a complete overhaul of our actions. The Earth doesn’t want to be in this relationship anymore, and this time it really is you.

There are several steps you can take to minimize your impact on this Earth and be a part of the change that is necessary to restore our Earth to its former beauty.

One possible solution is living a minimalist lifestyle and eliminating the consumerist and excessive lifestyle that many developed countries were founded on. Donate the clothes you don’t need, and don’t replace them. Buy products that are long-lasting and made of sustainable materials, as opposed to buying ones made from plastic that are intended to be thrown away after one use. Keep in mind that the majority of the things you buy from the grocery or retail store will end up in landfills, a huge source of most of the Earth’s waste. Instead, shop sustainably and intentionally. If you only buy things you need and shop with longevity in mind, you will adhere to the minimalist lifestyle and consequently produce significantly less waste.

Another possible solution is going completely plastic-free, which sounds more intimidating than it is. Most products made from plastic are, ironically, not able to be recycled due to the harmful chemicals in them. Thus, by eliminating plastic from your life you will instead buy products made sustainably, or that can biodegrade naturally should they end up in a landfill. So instead of opting for products with plastic packaging, search for ones made from aluminum, paper or cardboard, and bamboo. And if you can’t get around going plastic-free for all of your daily products, try to repurpose plastic packaging, and giving it a new purpose in your home. And when you go grocery shopping, bring your own non-plastic bag! If you’re still using plastic bags in 2019, what are you doing?

At this point, take a deep breath. Maybe two. Trying to process the current state of our planet—as well as how your actions might have contributed to it—can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. But there is hope. Take each day one at a time, living each moment as intentionally as possible. The more you think about your decisions, the more the Earth will thank you.