Be Intentional in Your Personal Sustainability
Sustainability is a current buzz word, but it seems little is being done to protect our planet. I always remember a line in the Goo Goo Dolls song Iris: “When everything’s made to be broken” and think that is the farthest action from sustainability we can take.
Building things to break or become obsolete — planned obsolescence — is now the cornerstone of our economy. My mom had a dryer that lasted 45 years, an air conditioner that lasted 37 years, a 53-year-old refrigerator and a 40-year-old freezer that are still running. I can say I have never had any appliance last that long, most have never lasted more than five to 10 years.
We obviously have the capability to build things that last longer, but we choose not to because companies do not make profits if people are not continually consuming. Sadly, our purchases ultimately end up in a landfill.
The Frontier Group reported on Feb. 12, 2018 that the U.S. produces more than 30% of the planet’s total waste, though we only comprise 4% of the world’s population. A Columbia University study estimated that Americans threw out 7 pounds of materials per person every day in 2018, up from 2.68 pounds in 1960.
Our trash may be growing, but our planet isn’t.
Food waste is another huge issue. According to feedingamerica.org, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the United States, equating to 130 billion meals with a value of more than $408 billion. Nearly 40% of all food in the United States is wasted, more than any other country in the world.
Our current system throws food out at homes and restaurants. Crops are left in the field because of low crop prices or too much inventory. Problems during the manufacturing and transportation of food and food not being up to retailers’ standards prompt food destruction. About 30% of food in American grocery stores is thrown away.
Sadly, these statistics continue to be moving in the wrong direction. Instead of becoming more sustainable, we are contributing more to our landfills.
As the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day approaches on April 22, it is important for us to pause and think about what each of us can do to make a difference. We all have a part to play to improve our planet. Recycling; not overbuying food; lobbying companies to cut down on packaging and plastics; using refillable bottles and reusable bags; bringing your own metal straw or just drink out of the glass; shopping farmers markets and produce stands; conserving water; walk, bike or take public transport; reduce, reuse and recycle; compost; switch to LED lights; install energy efficient windows and insulation; replace a/c air filters regularly; use a programmable thermostat; and plant a tree or two.
Small steps could make a big difference if everyone practiced them.