Graphic by Elizabeth Wong.

Earth Day is a great day to celebrate the beauty of nature and our world. 

In it’s 51st year as a holiday, Earth Day is arguably more important than ever. Our climate emergency has become an incredibly serious threat to the longevity of Earth, the safety of the human race and all other species on the planet.  

Here are a few things that you can do as college students to help protect and preserve the natural beauty of our world. The biggest idea is to reduce your own carbon footprint, or a representation of your total pollution, from cars, littering and waste production.   

Plastic waste is the most destructive to our environment. Plastic particles are extremely hard to break down. Even when plastic finally breaks down, there are still many remnants known as microplastics that float around in rivers and oceans. Microplastics slowly make their way up the food chain, into the food we eat and contaminate our bodies.  

COVID-19 restrictions have exhausted this problem to even greater extents. Meals from dining halls are packaged in single-use plastic containers and bags in order to follow protocols, while single-use masks can be seen scattered across campus, along with water bottles and other pollutants.    

What can you do? Instead of picking up a plastic bag for every meal, consider using the reusable bag that the University offered to all on-campus students at the beginning of the semester. While there is still a lot of pollution associated with these bags, it isn’t nearly as harmful to the environment as a standard plastic bag.

Obviously, face masks are an important part of daily life in the age of COVID-19, so keep wearing them to stop the spread. Instead of the single-use masks that fall apart easily and can quickly become hazards for wildlife, wear a reusable mask that can be properly cleaned and sanitized before wearing again. Reusable masks can be found nearly everywhere, including the Campus Store. 

Try to stay away from plastic bottles as well, as they are big sources of contamination. Metal water bottles are a great option to keep your drink cold, while not producing more plastic waste. This observation does come with a drawback, however. One metal water bottle produces almost 14 times more greenhouse gasses, known to cause global warming, compared to a single plastic water bottle, according to a New York Times article. 

Over time, though, metal water bottles are the more environmentally conscious option. This can be said for metal straws as well. Their individual pollution is much more than a plastic straw, but over time, metal straws are the better option. 

Another great habit to get into is to simply pick up trash whenever you may see it. In celebration of Earth Day, the University has shared the idea of “plogging,” or picking up trash while running or jogging. It may seem silly, but by putting waste in the proper receptacles, you are possibly preventing future harm to certain species of wildlife. 

The problems associated with excessive littering and global warming don’t just pose risks to humans. Entire ecosystems can be destroyed by our actions, which has a very influential effect on our lives in turn. 

Hopefully you recognize the importance of Earth Day and how much more prominent this issue has become over the past few years. With that being said, go out, enjoy the beauty of Earth and do your best to preserve it!