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litteropinion-01
Credit: Anna Lisa Lowenstein

It’s no secret that we all need to do our part to protect our environment. And yet, we are not doing enough here at Penn.

Penn students, unfortunately, do not lead the most environmentally sustainable lives. We use disposable items all day, eating meal after meal with plastic utensils. We don’t recycle when it’s not convenient. We buy plastic bottles of water from Pret and use plastic bags for our groceries. I only know a handful of people here who are vegetarian or vegan. And yes, unfortunately, party culture contributes to this problem as well. Those red solo cups are not exactly sustainable, and are rarely recycled. It does add up eventually.

But we know this. We know we could do better. We could turn the lights off when we leave more religiously, skip a few elevator rides, take SEPTA instead of Uber. We could live incredibly sustainable lives. But we don’t.

We are too distracted by other things. Who has time to make lunch when running from class to class or interview to interview? Who wants to deal with the inconvenience of running back to their house to grab a reusable bag? We are all busy, stressed students worrying about our futures, not about whether that plastic container we just threw away will end up in the ocean.

Still, we have an obligation to our planet. We do not have the excuse of ignorance. As students at an Ivy League university, we know better than most just how catastrophic the results of inaction will be. Human use of plastic is ravaging the planet, and greenhouse gas emissions are propelling us into a climate catastrophe. Inconvenience is no longer an acceptable excuse.

But we don’t have to be perfect. I must admit, I am not vegetarian or vegan, even though I know that giving up animal products would reduce my carbon footprint. However, I make efforts to reduce my consumption of meat. If everyone did this, the combined impact would be significant. 

I have tried personally to be as sustainable as possible. I try to recycle as much as I can, use reusable bags, cut back on my waste. And yet, I fail. There are countless times where I have rushed out to CVS to pick something up, only to realize I forgot my bag and admittedly did not think it was worth the inconvenience to run back and get it. Still, more often than not I have avoided using unnecessary plastic, and I can almost guarantee it adds up to a significant amount.

Again, if everyone took the time to make small changes in the way they live their lives, it would have a huge impact. 

We don’t all need to go out and change our lives in extreme ways. It is the little things that count, and most importantly, the shift in our awareness. Environmental mindfulness is the path to a more sustainable world for us all. So let’s start making some small changes for the sake of our planet.

TYLER LARKWORTHY is an Engineering junior from McLean, Va. studying Computer Science. His email address is tlarkwor@seas.upenn.edu. 

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