While studying about sustainability, it’s always important to get a deeper understanding of how you are actually hurting or helping the environment. While knowing this, I’ve definitely been more aware about the things that I am doing on a daily basis and how I might impact the world around me. There’s a well-known quote by Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across waters to create many ripples”. In a world revolving around sustainability, and not just religion, I think this quote is very impactful as it relates immensely towards saving our environment and helping to create a better place to live, or even a place to live for those down the line.
Taking this test, I was able to get an idea as to how much I consume on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. I first started to get an idea of how much we are harming the earth when I took an environmental science class early on in my career at University of Detroit-Mercy, but I never really took this to heart at the time. My consumption habits were pretty poor, and I never had a care about my personal impact on the environment. It wasn’t until I started to see some of the detrimental impacts I was reading about the massive fires in California, which by the way are tearing through North of Sacramento and the Los Angeles areas. This hits home for me personally as my close cousin is currently battling these massive fires.
Over 70 people have died between these two fires and millions of dollars worth of buildings have been completely destroyed. On top of this, we’re having a massive battle with global warming. I’ve never really cared to have any interest in these topics in the past because they never impacted me personally- it changes when your loved ones and those you care about have to deal with this. I’ve seen videos from my cousin about the fires, who has been out in California battling them for the last couple years since he became a firefighter, and I’ve wanted to change my perception of the world and my impact within it.
So how can I help with global warming and all of that? Well, for starters, I have done a ton of commuting in the past, but I always tried to carpool whenever I had to drive anywhere. I would also use mass transit platforms like the Metro or the Marc train. While I’ve been in college, it has been a bit more difficult since we all have different class schedules around sports and different things we are doing on a daily basis. I’ve always tried to limit the amount of energy that we use in our house since it’s not renewable and 100% green, so this actually has two benefits for us: It saves us money on utilities, as well as saving energy usage. If everyone had this type of attitude it would save enormous amounts of energy that we’d use on a daily basis.
The societal impact of sustainability and how we impact the world is one that I think is the most important. In my opinion, it is each and every one of our responsibilities to not only be accountable for ourselves, but also for one another. This is how I think that I’ve started to change my practices within my own life with how I eat, and has actually impacted many of my friends that I’m around - enabling for organic growth of these beliefs.
One of my close friends has become extremely passionate for food and how we eat, and this passion has actually impacted me indirectly. She helped to convince me to eat more local food, and fresh food like things you would find in a typical salad. This includes big leafy greens like spinach and kale. Not knowing this right away, but eating this style of food is far healthier and economically sound. It’s far cheaper to create this type of produce, and takes far less water, compared to beef or poultry, costing us less money in the end. This isn’t to say that beef and poultry are horrible because they can bring essential nutrients not found in a vegetarian/vegan diet, but they’re far less efficient for the world.
I’ve taken this personal accountability into my own life by eating far more greens, even committing to a whole day every week to eat no meat! I’ve brought this accountability into my own life by trying to speak to some of my close friends and roommates about their eating habits to become more sustainable. My hope is that this can create more growth and spread from one person to another, and so on!
Average Number of Earths
After completing the ecological footprint calculator, I found out that if everyone lived similar to myself, we would need a total of 2 ½ earths. So what is the pro in this situation? Well, if I was being compared to my counterparts in the US, I’m far below the average to where my peers would average about “5 earths”. Well, let's look at the reality in this scenario. I would need 2 ½ earths to be able to sustain with my current style of living! That’s insane. This means I need to change immediately, and be a part of the solution and not the problem- which I currently am.
In addition to this, I also found another comparison to get an idea of how I am hurting the environment. My personal “Earth Overshoot Day” is the 18th of May, while the world’s is August 18th. Nothing about this previous sentence is positive whatsoever. Not only is my sustainability level awful compared to the rest of the world, but our world is set on a path to essentially destroy what we’ve built. It’s kind of ironic to say that I’ve been practicing more efficient sustainable practices recently while these numbers are still so poor. This means I need to continue to focus on what I am doing on a daily basis to improve my numbers so I can be accountable for myself as well as for the rest of humanity.
It’s never easy to see how you’re basically killing the environment, and at the tail end of the footprint calculator, I’m able to see the amount of “global hectare” I give off in emissions each year. A global hectare is “biologically productive hectare with world average biological productivity for a given year” (Glossary). This is essentially a number that represents my ecological footprint. After the calculation, I was given 4.5, which means it would require about 11.25 acres of land, which is required to produce everything that I consume. If we looked at everyone throughout the world, we would need everyone to be limited to an ecological footprint of just 1.7 gha (global hectares). The scary fact is that our world economy is constantly growing, and doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. This means that the previous number may need to be even more limited than we think.
When looking at the different types of consumption, I was fairly efficient with the amount of food I eat- the gha was only 0.5. This was no surprise since I eat very healthy and typically only eat local food. The scary number for me was for mobility. This was by far the highest number I received in terms of my consumption. Unfortunately for me, this is probably due to the vehicle I drive. I never had a choice in what type of car I drove, and whether it would be energy efficient, or fuel-efficient. I was just happy to have a car to drive! I know that the next car I end up driving or purchasing will be far more fuel-efficient than the one I currently own. It will most likely be a hybrid or 100% electric vehicle.
With all of these massive issues at hand, both for me personally and our globe as a whole, we need solutions, and we need to implement them right away. One of the topics I recently touched on was our population. Our world’s population is continuing to grow, but we need to address this! “If every second family has on average one child less, there will be one billion fewer of us in the world than the 9.7 billion that the UN expects by 2050 – and four billion fewer by the end of the century. (Population)”. This is actually a tactic that has already been brought into the world, most notably with China. They enacted a rule called the “One-Child Policy”, although it has ended. The big questionis, will we see something along these lines over the coming years or decades as the world population continues to grow? What will happen to our human rights if this does occur?
In my personal opinion, one of the most enticing opportunities that we can look to tackle in the coming years is how we make cities more green and environmental friendly. Large cities are only going to continue to grow, so we need to make them smarter by connecting IoT devices and get a better understanding of manage our resources within those areas. Many countries around the world are starting to build completely renewable cities, but it’s not possible to do this with many cities that are already inhabited and built up. Therefore, we need to start to look into speaking with our city leaders and those who manage many of these policies to look to focus on more sustainable practices.
It is ultimately our duty, not only as individuals, but as a global force to immediately change how we are interacting with the environment around us. We have started to do far more research on sustainability and what we might do to the earth over the coming years. We can’t rely on those who are older than us to make this change; we have to that this responsibility amongst our generation to make this a stronger initiative. My generation has become far more passionate about these sustainable practices, but it’s obvious that we’re not doing enough. It’s kind of shocking how much we have to put forth an effort to actually ensure we are not going over the amount of gha to actually do our part. Many people won’t go along with this initiative either, so we will need to do more than what is asked of us.
Cities. (n.d.). Retrieved from Earth Overshoot Day website: http://www.overshootday.org/take-action/cities/
Ecological Footprint Explorer. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/
Glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Global Footprint Network website: https://www.footprintnetwork.org/resources/glossary/
Population. (n.d.). Retrieved from Earth Overshoot Day website: http://www.overshootday.org/take-action/population/