The Green Man Says

by Austin Hollis
Columnist

It’s a new year, and it’s already shaping up to be an important one for sustainability issues. Between the new administration, Power Shift in Washington and the summit in Copenhagen this December, we have the chance to make some real progress in a lot of arenas—clean and renewable energy, peak oil, climate change…the list goes on and on. Like all life on the planet, these environmental issues are absolutely interconnected.

The short of it is this: our current way of living is not sustainable. Our entire system is based on mindless consumption and planned obsolescence, preferring us to go out and buy new rather than making do with what we have. As if that’s not bad enough, it seems that the majority of these consumed goods are made of—or packaged in—plastic. (Plastic, in case you thought otherwise, doesn’t just spring out of the ground or grow on a plastic tree. That’s latex. Nope, plastic is a byproduct of petroleum, a.k.a. oil, a fossil fuel.)

So what’s the big fuss about fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) are made of fossilized plants and animals (think plankton, not dinosaurs) and take a long time to form. For example, most of the coal being mined in Kentucky today is about 360 million years old; in other words, it outdates the earliest dinosaurs by about 110 million years. Yeah, fossil fuels are definitely not renewable.

And on top of it all, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, one of the “greenhouse gases” which are responsible for trapping energy from the sun beneath the Earth’s atmosphere, which raises the temperature for everyone.

And yet here we are, using these fuels like there’s no end in sight, as if more were being made every day, and never thinking about the environmental consequences.

So, you might ask, what can we do about it?

In a word: CHANGE.

However, for most people, that’s easier said than done. A major sea-change isn’t just going to happen-we have to work our way towards it.

That’s where this column comes in.

Throughout the semester, I’ll be sharing helpful tips that we can all use, hopefully helping to make campus (and our lives) more “green”/sustainable/eco-friendly/carbon-neutral/environmentally-conscious/whatever you want to call it.

Change is hard; it always is. But change can begin by focusing on the little things.

And if we don’t start making some changes soon, there won’t be much of the Earth left to save.

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