Environmentalism is about more than just banning straws

Graphic by Kash Patel

If you have purchased a drink on campus lately, you might have noticed that the plastic straw you are used to has all but been replaced by its paper counterpart. This change has followed recent discussions about ways to be more environmentally-friendly in our daily lives. 

This is fantastic. It is showing that more people are becoming aware of the dangers facing our environment. 

However, it can be easy to think that everything can be fixed with a paper straw, but the problem is much bigger. 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report announced that the the world only has approximately 12 more years to cut carbon emissions in order to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising above 1.5 Celsius, and bringing catastrophic results with it.  

In light of this report, many articles have been published urging consumers to do their part in tackling climate change.

 People are encouraged to use their own mug when getting coffee, to keep showers short, turn the lights off when they’re not in the room, reduce their meat and dairy consumption, and other small, easy tasks that people can do to help the environment without even thinking about it. 

I believe that is part of the problem: if you do want to help the environment, you have to think about it. 

I’ve always been concerned about the environment. My friends are used to me getting on their nerves by forcing them to sort their recycling instead of just throwing everything in the garbage. 

I understand the well meaning behind these acts and can appreciate that people are making an effort to lessen their impact on the environment. They play an important role in keeping our Earth clean, so keep doing them. 

So, the next time you’re out to eat, remember that you won’t destroy the environment by using a plastic straw. However, we just might if we never think about anything beyond that.

But this isn’t enough. People cannot only ask for a straw-free lid and believe that they are saving the planet. Climate change cannot be stopped only by individuals passing on disposable coffee cups or turning off the tap when they brush their teeth. 

Sure, that will be helpful in terms of keeping plastic out of the ocean and conserving fresh water, but the issue runs much deeper. 

According to the Carbon Majors Report, 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 have been caused by only 100 companies. 

Corporations must act if there is any hope to avoid the fatal effects of climate change. That doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do, however. Individual consumers have the ability to influence the actions of corporations. 

We can choose not to purchase something unless we actually need it, and purchasing what we do need second hand, if possible. 

If not, supporting companies that are taking a stand against climate change, even if it means spending a little more money, will have an impact. 

This is an opportunity for you to vote with your dollars, and endorse corporations that actually care about our planet. 

To truly make a difference, we as consumers have to change our lifestyle. Despite what some people might want you to believe, it is not people from developing countries or those living in poverty that are the problem. 

It is the over-consumption by wealthy individuals from countries like Canada that abuse our resources (and often place the blame on others). 

So, the next time you’re out to eat, remember that you won’t destroy the environment by using a plastic straw. However, we just might if we never think about anything beyond that. 

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