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July 13, 2013

On the Go: Use the 3 Rs to help save the Earth

The Daily Star

---- — A few weeks ago I was at the beach with my sister. She saw some trash and picked it up. Once she started, she couldn’t stop. Soon her hands were full of wrappers and other bits. She found a trash can and threw the pieces away. 

I realized how trivial her actions seemed. She picked trash up off the beach, only for it to go pollute the earth somewhere else. As a species, we need to start making and creating the opportunity to make better choices so we don’t end up regretting them later.

Trash is disgusting. It hurts the Earth and ruins the landscape. Yet trash is constantly being created. This trash is then picked up by the garbage truck and hauled away. At this point, it is blissfully “out of sight, out of mind.”  When you’re at the beach or on a hike, you’re told to pick up after yourself and to leave nothing but footprints. If you go for a walk around your neighborhood, you should pick up litter and put it in the garbage. None of these practices, however, deal with the real issue. It’s great that we want to clean up the trash but what if instead we insisted less trash be made? Wouldn’t that be more to the point?

Picking up litter and putting garbage in the trash seem like great ways to help the environment. In reality, they are only helping the local environment from which they are removed. Then they go on to pollute a different area. Maybe they go into a nice landfill or go for a swim in the ocean. Picking up litter doesn’t help the global environment at all. People think, “As long as the trash is not in my backyard, everything’s OK.” 

Telling people to pick up litter is like treating the symptom and not the disease. The disease is the massive amounts of waste we generate. To treat the disease, we need to create less waste — not just move waste around.

Each piece of nature is connected. What humans do directly impacts the rest of the Earth. My trash isn’t an isolated issue and neither is yours. It’s a part of a global issue that needs to be addressed so we don’t end up living like the movie “Wall-E.”  

The Earth is a nonrenewable resource, and it’s also our home. We need to treat it with the respect it deserves so that our children will be able to thrive and call it home as we do now. 

When I was little, my mom used to tell me to always leave things better than how you found them. If every person tried to leave the Earth a little better than it was when he or she was born, we would have a very different future than the one we’re destined for now.

Making better choices for the Earth isn’t too difficult. I remember being taught the three Rs in elementary school: “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”  Using the three Rs is a great way to help the Earth. The Earth’s health can seem daunting, but each little action matters. Every time you recycle a can of soda or choose to use a canvas bag over plastic, you are actively showing the Earth you care.

If people realized that their yard is a part of a global environment, maybe we could see some change. We need to find ways to deal with the copious amounts of trash we already have and ways to curb its production. A “Not In My Back Yard” mind-set doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run. Every choice made in regards to the Earth should be made to help. 

People are told that you’ve only got one body, so you better treat it right. As a species, we’ve only got one Earth, so we better treat it right.

Katherine Ahearn is a rising junior at Unatego Junior-Senior High School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at