With Earth Day 50 just around the corner, an effort toward creating a more environmentally friendly future and a more sustainable lifestyle should be on the minds of all students, faculty and staff. Many students were excited to celebrate the anniversary of Earth Day on campus this semester, but due to COVID-19, programming and events were forced online.
Even with space separating Albion College and community members, some Earth Day activities have still been taking place. In addition, some students have their own plans to celebrate the upcoming holiday.
“Growing up, I used to celebrate Earth Day by cutting electricity out of my day for an hour. Now, I try to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle every day, not just on Earth day—less single use plastic, smart water/electricity consumption, etc,” said Megan Arntz, a senior from Jackson, Mich, via email.
Many students who participated in Earth Day events in previous years were planning on attending those scheduled for Earth Day 50. This year, Earth Day students’ celebrations involve managing energy and resources efficiently and not taking more than is needed.
“When I was in elementary and middle school, we always celebrated Earth Day by going outdoors and picking up trash, planting trees, etc,” said Kayla Redmond, a sophomore from Albion, Mich. “However, when I moved on to high school, we didn’t really have those opportunities. Since then, I have not taken much initiative to do things on my own, but I would definitely like to.”
These efforts can still take place despite the COVID-19 shutdowns. In fact, shutdowns might even help benefit the circumstances of the world during this time. With fewer places to go, people are heading outside for some fresh air, a walk around the block or down a trail. A new effort to turn off the lights, take a walk or plant a tree might be simple plans, but impactful ones for Earth Day.
“I plan on clearing out all of the old dead trees in the woods on my property, so that room for new trees can start growing,” said Lige McKinney, a senior from North Adams, Mich.
While some students are getting active, some are still learning what Earth Day is all about. Many students were planning on attending Earth Day events for the first time this semester, however they now have to hold off until the fall when movies, talks, and trail walks will be rescheduled.
To get an idea of how much students knew about their daily impacts on the environment we asked a few questions. One question focused on what being sustainable meant to them, and how they would define it.
“The term sustainability means that the current generation uses resources with the intent to provide or leave enough for the coming generation,” said Nicole McCann, a senior from Adrian, Mich.
In other words, we should leave the world, and more specifically the environment, in a better condition than we found it. So, each generation should respect the resources that are available to them and consider the lives of future generations.
“Sustainability becomes ever more important as the population increases and our fossil fuels decrease,” said Marlo Scholten, a junior from Hudsonville, Mich. “This is not only a matter of the life and death of humanity, but the life and death of our planet. Sustainable resources, energy, agriculture and all other forms, need to be at the forefront of our future.”
As Scholten describes, humanity isn’t the only life at risk when it comes to making sustainable decisions. While humans have control over the resources and energy used, they also have control over how much should be conserved.
“Sustainability, to me, is a way of interacting with our environment and ecosystems which is beneficial to both humanity and the environment,” said Allyson White, a junior from New Buffalo, Mich. “It is socially and economically viable as well as beneficial to the planet and utilizes a mindset of humanity in cooperation with the environment rather than in competition with it.
Overall, sustainability is utilizing resources that can self-replenish without negative effects on the Earth. It is creating a process that can be maintained for long periods of time while adhering to nature.
“Sustainability means preserving this earth,” said Courtney Lamrouex, a senior from Saginaw, Mich.
Are you living a sustainable lifestyle?
A large part of Earth Day is spreading awareness that there is only one planet and a limited amount of resources for humans and the rest of the ecosystem to survive on. We need to learn how to conserve resources and our environment, if not for ourselves, then for the generations to come.
So, while you sit inside working or studying from home, take a few minutes to find out your impact on the Earth. You may not be able to get out and about this Earth Day, but the least you could do is learn something new.
Visit the Ecological Footprint Calculator to find out how many planets we would all need if every individual lived like you. Keep in mind, your average travel may have gone down over the past few weeks, reducing air pollution from your gas guzzling car, but what about the amount of trash you have been producing at home? Think about all the plastic and boxes, even the food, that ends up getting thrown out. It doesn’t just disappear. In fact, even some of those items you think to be recyclable may have you fooled.
Once you know a bit more about your own impacts on the Earth, it will be much easier to understand issues, including climate change and wildlife conservation. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that there is only one Earth, one planet, that we all share. In more simple terms to fit the time being, or as many of us have seen from Cottonelle commercials, “#ShareASquare,” or in the case of Earth Day, “#ShareAPlanet”.
For those interested in sharing their experiences, no matter how simple and small, the Albion College Environmental Club and Center for Sustainability and the Environment is encouraging the use of “#earthday” and “#myalbion” on social media.