The Importance of Sustainability

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags, 500 billion plastic water bottles, 1.5 billion phone cases, and 25 billion styrofoam products each year. These products, majority of the time, are not recycled. In 2018 17 million tons of America’s textile waste went straight to landfills , according to The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And these products have the potential to be reused or recycled but that doesn’t guarantee they will be.
Regardless of these unfortunate circumstances there are groups of incredible people that are on the road to change; Doherty High School’s very own Environmental club is one of these groups. The club as a whole feels as if sustainability is important because it puts everyone in a healthy mindset. One student even suggested that for us as citizens we should take small steps rather than jumping into sustainability with no past knowledge. This includes investing in a recycling bin and recycling things already at home.

Many people feel as if recycling is a useless skill because of thebecause the belief that it all goes to landfills, but this is nowhere near true. Sometimes recyclables are sold to markets for profit. And 9% of America’s recyclables are actually recycled, which still leaves 91% of products that are left to go to waste rather than given a second chance. The issue with recycling is that people don’t know where to start, investing in a recycling bin is common but what else is there to do? “Of course recycling, which we already do. Watch the amount of plastic we use– Invest into reusables bottles and thermals” Says Angelique Seay, one of Doherty’s US history teachers and the instructor for the environmental club. Watching the amount of plastic products we use is very important but as far as keeping track of that at school there lies a problem “However that [plastic bottles] is what the district uses, it comes down to money. Are we gonna pay more for compostable trays,forks,knives,etc?.” Investing in reusable utilities and other things at school will be helpful, but is it in our budget?

Recycling at Doherty is a large task as a lot of students and staff are just unaware of what’s recyclable; Mrs. Seay talks about what the environmental club is doing to keep Doherty a clean environment “We recycle twice a week– I’m just waiting for other clubs to step up.” The club is based around the environment for sure, but they can’t be the only group of caring individuals who are willing enough to keep our school clean. With the responsibility shifted on one group of students, it can be challenging sometimes.

Another way to practice sustainability is Thrifting, which is ait’s a form of sustainable fashion. Where does textile waste even come from? Well a very high percentage comes from big name brand companies who toss and shred clothing items and it’s very common among teens to give clothes a second chance whether they need to or not. Mrs. Seay says “I went with a friend to the arc, the clothes that she got for like 6 dollars a piece, they were amazing named brands well taken care of.” Thrifting is inexpensive and from experience and my peers today make it a date or a hobby to go out to thrift stores, Saving money is also very important “Am i gonna spend 40 dollars on a sweater that was probably made in a sweatshop somewhere– granted it may end up in the arc or good will but i’m giving it a second chance.”

In October 2021 Washington banned single-use plastic bags, according to the Department of Ecology State of Washington the reason being because plastic bags are such a large amount of the state’s pollution. Instead of plastic bags stores offer paper bags, reusable plastic bags, for 8 cents and compostable bags for an optional fee. “Not using plastic bags, getting recyclable ones [tote bags].” This ban is in hopes to reduce contamination in the recycling and compost system, building consistency in policy and enforcement across the state. Because plastic bags take up so much of our landfills, one state in the US mass banning them is severely helpful, but is Washington the only state doing this?

Not knowing where to start when wanting to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle is hard so I came up with a list of sustainable options and steps for those who want to start. Instead of plastic bags switching to paper bags is better, some brands would be BeeGreen Reusable grocery bags, EcoBags Organic Totes, and Girlfriend Backpack.

So what’s the point? Why is sustainability important? “Well Global warming, maybe even a happy mother nature– all we do as Americans is take and exploit the earth. It’s time to give back.” Says Mrs. Seay. The world is in a dangerous spot right now, and it’s been that way for years and not enough people are willing to switch to viable alternatives. So How do we get people to feel more responsible and thoughtful for the environment? Making sure everyone is involved, our generation is very impactful, making trends out of things that actually help the earth. As most of us saw over time, causing an uproar on social media could actually help. As people who call this planet our home the least we could do is take better care of it.