The Earth’s natural systems provide an environment for living beings on Earth. However, overtime, the human population has grown at a very fast pace, especially over the past hundred years. Human societies, up until recently, have not been very environmentally conscious due to a lack of understanding and technology regarding sustainable living and treating the Earth respectfully. Human society, at out large current size, is at a global overshoot—this means that we are using more resources than we have, and eventually our environment will run out of means to sustain the human population. We calculate how to reduce overshoot by either linear or exponential change, depending on the rate at which governments could potentially set goals to reduce our extravagant and careless use of resources. Global learning needs to occur, and for this to happen it is important that humans work as a team to live more sustainably—this means that all humans need to recognize that there are significant issues with our environment and the way that we are living. Governments need to be the leaders that they are supposed to be, and implement policies to work towards this goal, and also to implement mandatory learning about our environmental crisis. There are clear relationships between our human activities and destroying the Earth’s natural system, and the biggest issue that I see is our amount of waste and our lack of properly dealing with our waste.
One aspect of sustainability and our global impact I focused on and have been thinking about throughout this class is the importance of education. I believe that so many of our goals to reduce waste, increase economic sustainability, etc., are realistic, but only after we get more people involved. I think that one reason many people do not think about or want to acknowledge their global carbon footprint, for example, is because it seems very difficult to change effectively. However, if everyone were educated on small things, such as what types of plastics are recyclable and which are not, for example, a big difference can be made. I believe that most people would be more willing to make positive changes if they were more aware of the great impact those changes could make. One example could be if someone is renovating their house and considering which toilet/ faucet/ shower head to buy. If they are informed about how efficient flushing greatly impacts our water footprint, they might be more willing to buy a toilet that uses less water per flush. If this water-saving toilet uses 2 gallons per flush and a not-as-efficient one uses 6 gallons per flush, even for a household of one person that saves around 24 gallons of water a day. I think many fo the goals outlined on the 17-goal list will become more feasible once we get everyone on the same page about how we can easily change our individual impacts on the world.
For this paper, I focused on the use of clean and affordable energy sources as one of the global goals in the Mathematics, Sustainability, and Global Learning unit. I found this an incredibly useful topic to focus in on due to the fact that it is such a needed topic for people to know more about and for them to utilize in their every day lives.
Throughout this course, we have talked a great deal about the importance of utilizing renewable resources to create the energy we need for our everyday lives. However, the reason I am now choosing to focus in on the “awareness” aspect of the paper is because I feel as though this is not fully known to so much of our planet. The United States has one of the larger carbon footprints when compared to other countries, showing that we are in overshoot and are not living a sustainable lifestyles. With this in mind, it is impossible to imagine that our planet will be able to survive if we keep up these actions. For this reason, I think awareness of alternative, and clean energy sources is an incredibly needed tactic in order to help save our planet and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, in which we utilize other forms of energy.
Global awareness through engagement can be achieved through a continuous effort by everyone on the planet. Our current generation has the largest ecological footprint in history and it comes directly from the developed countries who are harming the lesser developed countries. Together if the developed countries could work with those who are lesser developed to find more sustainable resources then we could begin to erase the tremendous hole in our ozone layer. By 2030, if developed countries can increase awareness through a continued engagement in developed countries to modernize infrastructure through sustainable industrialization then the developing countries will raise GDP and raise the industry’s share of employment.
Awareness is the most important trait to have because through communication we can make a difference whether it’s through word of mouth or through first-hand examples of sustainable actions. One in three people lives without sanitation which causes unnecessary disease and even death. Along with poor sanitation, access to nutritious foods should be expanded upon as well, in developing countries hunger is the leading cause of death. Again, unequal access and inefficient handling can leave millions of people battling malnourishment and hunger. One of the major examples of global perspective can be shown in ways that we can achieve this through the elimination of inequalities and discrimination. People should treat others how they would want to be treated because we are all created equal. The human race accounts for only a small portion of Earth’s history and it would not be fair to destroy it for future generations.
For the green grant, I would like to see the school further initiate their solution that helps reduce the amount of water waste from toilets and sinks. There are already more sustainable flushing systems and motion-sensored sinks in some of the bathrooms on campus, but I think it should be a universal theme in every building, in all facilities. These sustainable practices are highly beneficial in saving water.
In terms of the dual flushing toilets, they “take water-efficiency one step further: using 1.6 gallons for solid waste and only .8 gallons for liquid waste.” As opposed to using 1 1/2 gallons of water per flush, everywhere that has implemented this system gets to dave almost an entire gallon per flush.
Additionally, “millions of gallons of water are wasted every year through faucets that are left running for too long or not closed properly after use…It is believed that installing motion sensor faucets can save as much as 30% to 50% on overall water use.”
It would be nice to see Union implement these ideas further into campus, as a lot can be achieved by sticking to these sustainable practices.
I think one area of campus where I see a lot of waste and not a lot of sustainability is the bookstore. On campus, the bookstore gives away a massive quantity of plastic bags, which are often discarded quickly after use. This practice is extremely not sustainable, and contributes to a lot of pollution. As we have seen in math of sustainability, using an excess of plastic is incredibly harmful to our environment–this includes our oceans, our groundwater, our wildlife, as well as many other aspects of life. Another issue with this practice is that there doesn’t seem to be a good way to recycle these plastic bags on campus; I often see them being placed in trash bins. As a green proposal, I think that Union would be wise in starting an initiative to give students reusable bags, and to encourage students to use these by charging a small fee for the plastic bags, similar to how some grocery stores do.
My green fee proposal concerns reducing the amount of paper used on campus. Paper makes up 27% of municipal solid waste in the U.S., more than any other material that Americans throw away. College campuses are clearly a place of mass consumption of paper due to the amount of assignments printed, tests, and note taking. In order to reduce this, I would suggest that all professors ban printing of assignments and use online submissions for grading instead. Another suggestion is requiring online note taking rather than writing them out in a majority of classes besides upper level math or engineering etc. Finally, we should only purchase paper that is made from recycled materials. For example, there is already a few notebooks in the bookstore made from these recycled materials. Although this idea can be tricky for reasons such as better memory retention of written out notes, or classes that cannot type equations, I think that it can help with certain classes. Together, the individual paper-saving efforts made across departments can help to reduce Union College’s waste and carbon footprint, building momentum towards becoming a more sustainable campus.
To make Union more sustainable, I propose that Union College should expand dining options on campus.
I, for one, frequently visit local eateries for meals when instead I could choose to stay on campus. No, its not sustainable for me to do so, nor is it eco-friendly. But occasionally my stomach overrules the voice in my head. I get tired of the same, bland dining hall food, or of the same 12 options shared between Reamer and Rathskeller.
I think its also obvious that, compared to other schools, Union lacks a variety of dining options.
RPI, in addition to its dining hall, has a Moe’s and an on-campus pizzeria.
Cornell, according to a recent study, has nearly 30 different on-campus eateries, and ranks 5th-in the nation in terms of colleges with the best food.
Take a poll of Union students. I think the vast majority would agree that Union could stand to add some dining variety to on-campus life.
Having to seek a change of pace for a meal off-campus shouldn’t be necessary. And it sure isn’t sustainable.