Want to become more sustainable? Well here is a good place to start! "Your Plan, Your Planet" is a cool interactive program brought to us by Google and their partners with California Academy of Sciences. Each section takes around 30 minutes or less to analyze your current practices and learn ways simple changes can make a difference in your carbon footprint. The program is separated into four categories; water, food, stuff and energy. Each one starts with you assessing your current practices and recognizing the impact you make each day by small decisions. For example, did you know a 15 minute shower everyday uses around 13,688 gallons of water per year? That is roughly two school busses worth! Little changes like shaving off a minute of your shower routine or replacing your shower head with a low flow shower head can make a big difference over time. After seeing where you are at you learn about different habits you can start to impact the environment in a positive way. It may seem easy or inconsequential, but making small changes in habits can make all the difference.
Access Your Plan, Your Planet here: https://yourplanyourplanet.sustainability.google/
Lets go through the categories:
Starting with water, which is a limited resource that all living things need to live. In the United States it can seem like we have an unlimited supply of clean water, but not everyone in our nation does. Over 96% of water on our planet is salt water. This leaves less than 4% as fresh water, which over 68% is stored in ice sheets and glaciers and 30% is underground (percentages from USGS website). With droughts across the west coast of the United States our water consumption is something we need to keep in mind more than ever before. In this section you will learn about how much water you are actually using and ways to reduce that water usage and maybe even save some money on your water bill in the process!
Next we move to food, another necessity for all humans to live. In the United States we have access to food in a way that other countries do not. Just drive down the highway and you see fast food or gas stations at every turnoff, or enter a grocery store where we can get nearly anything we need or could ever want. Even though we have access to all this food we still have 1 in 9 Americans in food insecure households (Feeding America). This means they might not know where their next meal will come from. With the impacts of Covid-19 food insecurity may be a more pressing issue in the United States than before. As we address these issues we also need to keep in mind the impacts of our food consumption on others and the environment. Every meal we through out is not just a waste of food, but also carbon emissions and water used to produce that meal. This portion of Your Plan, Your Planet covers simple ways you can make your food last longer and make you more aware of your food waste.
Our next category is stuff. This includes everything from toys to fashion. In a world of fast fashion we see around one garbage truck of clothing (2,625 kg or roughly 6,000 pounds) tossed into or burned a landfill every second. This is a result of lower quality garments that are discarded after every seven to eight wears. How do we address these issues? Your Plan, Your Planet does a great job at addressing simple ways we can take care of our stuff to prevent it from ending up in a landfill. This could be as easy as donating to Goodwill or just a different mindset toward buying clothing. Hopefully like me, you learn about becoming a conscious consumer in our circular economy.
Last but not least, Your Plan, Your Planet approaches the topic of energy. If you are like me, when you hear the word sustainability your mind goes to sustainable energy sources. Instead of looking at energy from a community or state wide lens this module goes over ways you can conserve energy and even save money in your home. This could be as simple as unplugging a TV or installing LED or CFL light bulbs, which use 75% less energy and lasts eight times longer. With American households' using the power produced by 50 power plants to just run electronics that we are not using it makes sense to unplug your TV, gaming console or washing machine. It is the simple things that add up to make a difference.
I hope you use this resource as a way to analyze your habits in relation to water, food, stuff and energy and maybe pick up some tips along the way. I challenge you to take on every pledge offered to you to do your part in taking care of our planet. This program is about establishing a plan that will work for you to make an impact. Keep in mind that every small step you take is a step to a better world. You don't have to make huge life style changes to be more sustainable, it is the little things. I want to end with two quotes. The first is "If not us, who? If not now, when?" from President JFK. It is calling Americans and the country as a whole to action. With changing climates and extreme weather the impact of humans on our environment is no longer a debate, but approaching an accepted fact. It is our roles as citizens to take action and reduce our negative impacts on the world and make it a better place than the one we were born into. My second quote to think about is from Dr. Seuss, and I am sure a majority of you have heard it, but "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not!". Even though we hear this quote a lot in relation to sustainability it is important to address its meaning. It take one person starting something or doing something to get the ball rolling to make a big impact and a difference in our world. The little steps may seem small and insignificant, but by doing them you are making a positive difference in our world and I would like to thank you for making that change! Have an amazing day and stay positive!
https://yourplanyourplanet.sustainability.google/ (Your Plan, Your Planet)
-facts that were not directly referenced were obtained through completing the Your Plan, Your Planet program.
https://www.feedingamerica.org/ (Feeding America)
About the Author:
My name is Erica Dodge and am the Education and Outreach Coordinator at Clear Creek Amana Community School District. I am working on a Master's Degree in Secondary Science Education at the University of Iowa. I hope to spread awareness about sustainability and environmental issues to my community and future students.