Powerful Essays
Evironmentalism: The Next Step Broad Social Change Through Personal Commitment Introduction In the last thirty years, America has witnessed an environmental revolution. New laws like the 1963 Clean Air Act and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act forged new ground in political environmentalism. Social phenomena like Earth Day, organized by Dennis Hayes in 1970, and the beginning of large-scale recycling, marked by Oregon's 1972 Bottle Bill, have help change the way Americans think about the environment. As we approach the third millennium, however, we must reconsider our place on the planet and reflect on our efforts and progress towards a sustainable society. As global warming becomes a scientific reality, natural disasters make monthly appearances in the headlines, and communities continue to find their ground-water contaminated by industrial and nuclear waste, we must ask ourselves: are we doing enough? The environmental movement in the past has largely been a social and political phenomenon. While many of us recycle (yet still only 35 percent of us) and take dead batteries to our town's Hazardous Waste Day, most Americans have not made the environment a personal issue. Very few of us have taken the kind of personal life-changing steps that are necessary to create an environmentally sustainable society. It is simply naive to believe that America's present rates of consumption, waste production, and environmental contamination are sustainable. The kind of social change required can only happen when we as individuals embrace the effort in our everyday lives. Only then will corporate America and the government realize that they too must change to maintain their customer base and public support. This kind of personal commitment to change would also create a new social ethic based on the environment under which people and companies who do not care for the earth would be held socially and financially responsible. In six parts, this article will re-examine our place in the environmental movement and investigate exactly what changes we can make in our personal lives to bring about positive change. These areas are transportation, energy, recycling and waste management, toxins and pollution, food, and water. Some of the changes discussed will require sacrifice. But, more important, these changes will often simplify our lives, bring our families and communities closer ...

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...incing letter to your boss (if you're not the boss) might convince him or her that the amount of money saved in paper will eventually pay for the printer. When you go to the grocery store, bring your own bags instead of using paper or plastic. Consumers often wonder which of the two is better; the answer is: neither. When shopping for smaller items, tell the clerk not to give you a bag (frequently their default action) if you can simply carry the item in your hand. Buy durable, quality items that will last and lend themselves to repair when broken. When things do break, remember that fixing is almost always cheaper than replacing, and you'll have the satisfaction of minimizing your garbage output. When you no longer need something, give it away instead of throwing it away. Organizations like The Salvation Army will gladly accept almost any used household item. Remember that Benjamin Franklin's maxim, "A penny saved is a penny earned," goes for the environment, too. Every time we reuse something, we've saved another like it from having to be made. Every time we recycle something, we've saved energy, pollution, and the materials from being mined from our natural resources.
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