As the world gets warmer, weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent, sea levels are rising, prolonged droughts are putting pressure on crops and many plant and animal species are quickly becoming extinct. Global climate change impacts everyone, and it’s time for students to learn about what they can do to battle this.
“It’s important to think about what we can do individually as well as what we can do as a group, a force, because climate change can be so overwhelming and understood to be such a grand challenge,” said Miriam Gay-Antaki, an assistant professor in geography and environmental studies at the University of New Mexico. “It might make us think that we can’t do anything about it individually, but our individual decisions do matter.”
Gay-Antaki suggested students ask for alternatives in terms of UNM throwing away food in the dining halls and student housing, offering that it could be donated instead.
“Try to be engaged in any environmental efforts around campus,” Gay-Antaki said.
Gay-Antaki also said the environment would become healthier if people ate less meat.
“We know that not eating meat is a big way to make a change. We’re not asking people to stop eating meat, but reducing overall meat intake is going to make a big difference,” Gay-Antaki said. “Switching to a vegetarian meal once a week can definitely make a big difference.”
Recycling is also a crucial way that students can help the environment. According to Stanford University, “the more we recycle, the less garbage winds up in our landfills and incineration plants.”
UNM Recycling ensures ready access to recycling for everybody on campus. There are over 1,400 regularly scheduled collection points found in 174 buildings, as well as other campus’ public spaces, according to UNM’s recycling page.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are many reasons why recycling helps the environment.
The practice “reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators… conserves natural resources such as timber… saves energy… (and) prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials.”
Reusing and recycling paper that can be used again, such as course notes, can help prevent more trash in the environment, according to the EPA.
Remembering to reduce water usage is another way to contribute to environmental sustainability efforts. According to the EPA, 10% of North American homes waste around 90 gallons of water on a daily basis.
In addition, the EPA notes that cars are harmful to the environment because of the noxious emissions they release. Car pollution, in fact, is one of the major causes of global warming, as the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to one-fifth of the U.S.’ total pollution, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Every day, we all connect with the fact that we all depend on the earth and we’re all a part of the earth’s system,” Melinda Morgan, the director of the sustainability studies program at UNM, said.
Energy efficiency is also something to note, meaning “using less energy to get the same job done,” according to the EPA. This causes less pollution and lower energy bills.
Energy-efficient light bulbs last longer than standard bulbs, which means less waste. Also turn off lights and air conditioning or heating when it’s not necessary.
“Environmental justice brings to light how climate change will be differentiated and unequal, it’s impactful to the poor, and women, and the pandemic has shown us the same thing,” Gay-Antaki said. “Being aware of others and helping each other will definitely be beneficial.”
UNM’s sustainability studies program is focused on efforts to help the environment, such as the above listed.
“Our program is very centered on community based projects — community involvement is among the themes of importance that we emphasize,” Morgan said. “Getting more involved is a great way to help the environment.”
Lauren McDonald is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @old_mcdonald25