I recycle my cardboard boxes. I bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. I use reusable water bottles. Odds are, you also take the time and energy to make environmentally conscious habits. I applaud you for those choices. However, with Australia burning, the Amazon shrinking, and glaciers melting, it’s time for us to collectively agree that our small plastic saving gestures are not enough. Individual action is falling short of saving our planet. It is time for corporations, local governments, and federal governments to make sweeping policy changes. Here are four things that you can do to help our environment with a large-scale impact.
1. Contact your senators/representatives: As Americans we have the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In other words, we have the right to tell our elected officials when we are pissed off and when we want change! Up until recently, I was guilty of not knowing who my representative is. If you are like me, you can find your representative here: www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Contacting your representative is easy, write a letter, fill out a petition form on their website, or give them a call. Below is an example of a letter to your senator:
My name is Luke Skywalker, and I am a concerned constituent who resides at 74 Desert Dr. Outerskirts, Tatooine. I also work within your district, as I am employed as a Research Assistant at Tatooine’s Medical Research Hospital (TMRH).
I am writing today to convey my support for upholding environmental protection legislation. The current administration has consistently chosen actions which favor interests of big businesses over the needs of our planet. I find the rollbacks of Obama’s environmental protection laws unethical and the predicted adjustments to the National Environmental Policy Act unacceptable. Please fight for the strengthening our environmental protection laws. In doing so, you will be helping your current constituents as well as advocating for the interest of our future.
2. Petition your state and local government: Waiting for the federal government to implement policy can be frustrating. State and local governments may have a quicker turnaround for environmentally friendly legislation. Did you know that in Vermont it is illegal to throw away food scraps into a landfill? Did you know Connecticut has a plastic bag tax which influenced the major grocery store chain, Stop and shop, to ban plastic grocery bags? Did you know that Oregon, the bad-ass green state that it is, passed a bill that upholds Obama’s environmental protection laws in response to Trumps rollbacks? State governments have serious power that is sometimes overlooked.
Similar to the federal government, your state government should have online contact forms for your state Senators and representatives.
3. Volunteer for and donate to environmental advocacy groups: Big business is capable of lobbying the government for their interests and so are we! Numerous special interests groups exist specifically for climate change policy. Sierra Club (https://www.sierraclub.org/) is a grassroots advocacy group that fights for our right to a clean planet. Sierra Club has chapters all around the country, so get involved!
4. Speak up!
As a member of the academic and/or scientific community, remember that your opinion as an educated and critical thinker holds weight. We have twitter, social media, and Facebook for a reason, and it isn’t to post pictures of latte art (although that's cool too).
Educate your friends and family about climate change. Ask them to write to their senators. Talk to them about how awesome The Green New Deal is. Get more people involved in the climate change conversation.