I stepped off the 2 train at 96th street, patiently waiting to transfer to the 1 uptown. Listening to “Old Time Rock & Roll” by Bob Seger, I nonchalantly bopped my head to the music. I mainly wear headphones to 1) avoid talking to people when I’m not in the mood 2) when I want to feel like I’m in a movie. As I stood there dancing and listening to the jam of Seger’s electric guitar, I heard what sounded like a plastic lid hit the floor. I keep the volume of my headphones low enough to still be conscious of what’s going on around me. I looked to my left and saw a teenager about 50 feet away standing beyond the yellow line –– clearly not paranoid that anybody could just ambush him from behind and push him onto the tracks ––– finishing his McDonald’s large soda. He chucked the lid onto the tracks and tilted his head back to get the last bits of ice.
I stared at him.
Wearing a grey hoodie, blue jeans, Vans skateboarding shoes, and black bold-framed glasses, he tapped the bottom of his cup letting the ice cubes slide into his mouth. The cup followed the lid. Clunk, clunk, clunk, the cup echoed as it ricocheted between the wooden floor and the metal rail below.
I was boiling. One, because “Old Time Rock & Roll” had ended and I didn’t realize, and two, because there was a trash can directly behind him. I immediately thought, “He is supposed to be part of the movement.” He’s young and he’s treating the world like his trash can. I was boiling because I also worried that this is how he must envision his future.
“What difference is one cup going to make? Since there’s already trash down there, who cares if I add to it?” It’s this kind of thinking that contributes to the problem.
Earlier in September, millions of people all over the world participated in the Climate Strike, protesting and demanding those in power to actively address climate change. A majority of those protesters were young people fighting for the future of their planet –– fighting for what would be left when those in power were no longer in power.
Littering is the first green lesson everyone learns about in elementary school, so you’d think it would stick. I continued to stare at him even as the train pulled in. He was standing eerily close to the oncoming carts and all I could think about was the cup and lid underneath the train filled with hundreds of New York City commuters. It was an accurate representation of what this planet has come to. We forget that we stand on waste. What we flush and throw away might vanish out of our sight, but it all ends up somewhere. Now that you’re thinking about it, multiply that by over seven billion people.
Before college, I had never given much thought about the amount of waste one can produce in their lifetime. But it’s the small things that can lead to a bigger difference.
So if you are looking to go green in your life, here are some tips to get you started:
Don’t litter! Put your trash in the trash. (This includes gum! It’s not biodegradable.)
Recycle. It may seem like a confusing task at first, but it’s helpful to read the signs that are posted and find out how your building handles recycling. Some places allow for single-stream (where you can combine your cardboard, glass, and plastic materials all in one) or dual-stream (where you are required to separate your glass and plastic from your cardboard and paper). Always remember to wash out your containers before you recycle them.
Use reusable grocery bags instead of your store’s plastic bags. They’re eco-friendly, hold more of your groceries, and come in various designs.
Switch to a reusable water bottle.
Change your lightbulbs to energy-efficient ones. Your wallet will thank you later.
Don’t run the water while brushing your teeth or washing dishes.
Ditch the plastic produce bags. You know those bags you grab when you’re picking out your apples at the store? Bring your own reusable, washable, and eco-friendly produce bags to the store with your grocery bags.
Take shorter showers. Fifteen minutes is way too long.
Change your feminine sanitary products to more reusable or eco-friendly options (if you can). According to the Huffington Post, a woman throws away up to 300 pounds of sanitary products in her lifetime. Although transitioning to organic tampons, pads or menstrual cups may be more cost heavy, it’s better for your body (fewer to no harsh chemicals) and the environment.
Carry your own travel mug, silverware, and metal straws. Avoid the plastic when you’re going to work, getting takeout or even grabbing a coffee. As a way to promote going green and reducing plastic use, my previous internship gave us a silverware travel knapsack, which included two metal straws and a straw cleaner, a collapsible travel mug, and a travel thermal mug. It’s actually an easier task than you think.
Buy locally. It’s always great to support local businesses, promote agriculture and cut down on fossil fuels.
Remember that this is the only planet you’ll get.
If you have more ideas for going green, comment them below!