At the beginning of the year, a friend of mine challenged me to pay attention to how much plastic I use and throw away on a daily basis.
So now, after realizing the impact so much waste can have on the future of our earth and doing some more research on my own about different things, I'm in the process of adapting my lifestyle to implement more sustainable practices. When I run out of disposable plastic things (like trash bags, for example), I'm replacing them with a biodegradable or reusable option. It's a slow start, but it's something and I'm learning the best way for me personally to be more sustainable as I go.
I know this isn't new information. We should be taking care of the earth for ourselves and for future generations. There are plenty of other articles about why this is important, or some of the social impact involved, so I'm not going to spend time on these ideas. I'm going to talk about what can happen when we look to the government for solutions to environmental issues.
It's simple. We shouldn't need to.
We shouldn't need to wait for the government to force us into change to develop sustainable practices.
We all live on this earth, so we should want to take care of it simply for that reason. If we allow the government to regulate how we are supposed to be sustainable, they will be infringing on some of our freedoms.
The Bill of Rights lays out our freedoms, and Amendment X states that any powers not given to the federal government are given to the people or the states. Thus, since the federal government has not yet completely mandated sustainable practices in the everyday lives of its citizens, it is up to those citizens to decide for themselves how they will introduce sustainable practices into their everyday lives. We have the power to mandate this for ourselves, and our right to do so is protected.
Change is more effective when it happens on our own terms.
When we implement change on our own terms, we are more prepared. We have the necessary time and resources it takes to research and anticipates this change. When we are given the freedom to implement change, we will be better equipped in the long run instead of playing catch up, potentially even years later.
And if we are given the time and freedom to prepare for the change to more sustainable practices, we will be able to act in the best way for each area, business, or individual. Sustainable living has many overarching concepts but can look different in practice for different people.
A single college student's day to day life is different than that of a family with four children and two incomes. The college student will produce less waste, but will also have less financial ability to commit to a 100% sustainable lifestyle. The family will have more resources, but also more waste. While the college student can start with a Corkcicle water bottle and remembering to recycle, the family may still be using plastic pacifiers or sippy cups but be able to start with reusable grocery bags or a vegetable garden. Eventually, each will be able to live a mostly sustainable lifestyle, but the process will look different. If the government implements a plastic ban or a waste limit, it may be difficult for some people to adapt quickly, even if they'd get there eventually on their own.
But while individual lifestyle changes are good, the real change will begin when businesses begin to implement sustainable practices. We have the power to start this change before the government has to get closely involved. Realize the need for change and bring it up at your workplace or school. If you're in a position to implement some changes yourself, do that. If you're not, voice your concerns and petition for sustainable workplace practices. Encourage your co-workers to bring reusable coffee cups, water bottles, or silverware instead of single-use plastic. Use your sustainable behaviors and knowledge to invoke change in others.
How much government involvement is really okay? Where do we draw the line?
We have to draw the line somewhere, or our protected freedoms will get smaller as the years go on.
So do your own research too. Start now so you're not playing catch up when elections come around and these issues are brought into campaigns. Form your own opinion about the level of government involvement you're okay within your day to day life.
Maybe you're like me and see the value of changing without prompting, separate from the government. Or maybe you want all the environmental federal regulations—and if that's your opinion, that's okay as long as you can defend it. Maybe you're a balance and think it's a state level issue. Whatever you think, just be sure to do your research.
Get educated, stay informed, and start implementing change to live more sustainably now.
Because if we all start to change on our own, we won't need federal regulations anyways.