This past week, President Trump began the formal process of pulling out of the Paris Accords, climate activist Greta Thunburg spoke at the youth climate strike in downtown L.A. and more than 11,000 scientists around the globe declared a science emergency. The future of our planet is at the forefront of the global agenda, and for good reasons. We need to be doing everything in our power to change the trajectory of the planet, and we are running out of time to be lazy.
As the future leaders of our dying planet, it is in our hands to change how we treat it. While big policy changes are a foundational part of the global revolution, individualized small changes are an efficient and reasonable way to work towards change. Taking climate change on at a personal level is something every person needs to be doing, and as college students we have more opportunities than most to significantly change our consumption and waste habits.
One of the most important factors of significantly changing our overconsumption, carbon emissions and wastefulness is disconnecting from the harmful conveniences we have grown accustomed to. Conveniences like single serve plastic and air conditioning play different roles in climate change, and they are easily combatted with small changes in our lifestyles.
In our food system, we are accustomed to conveniently packaged food. While packaging has benefits like preserving food and portioning, much of it is unnecessary. While less attractive to the average shopper, buying food – especially snacks like nuts and grains – in bulk is a much more sustainable option. Nearly every store has a bulk food aisle where shopper can purchase food and provide their own packaging for the food. This creates an opportunity for shoppers to use sustainable, reusable food storage methods other than plastic bags. This small shift from pre-packaged to self-packaged is incredibly accessible, and has the possibility to reduce the amount of plastic being produced and thrown away.
More radically, we need to become more comfortable with using less indoor climate control. During temperate times of the year, turn off AC or heat. Air conditioning uses roughly 6% of the country's energy and releases about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to the Department of Energy. Being comfortable without indoor climate control is a skill that can be practiced through the college experience. Most dorms lack an HVAC system, and while some days are a bit hot or a bit cold for comfort, not using AC puts us on the right side of the energy issue.
While pushing for grand sweeping changes in our country is essential for changing the trajectory of the climate crises, we as students have many opportunities to challenge the conveniences of modern life that are harmful for the environment. Small changes to our lifestyle and accepting the initial discomfort of actively changing our habits are just as important.
This is the opinion of Alyssa Story, a freshman film, television and media studies major from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.