Eckert: Save the planet: every action counts

It’s no longer a question of whether or not the climate has been affected by humans, with the primary causes of this change being our excessive pollution and abuse of the environment. The recent natural disasters are just a taste of what is to come in the next few decades if we don’t change something.

Many college students don’t notice how their actions affect the environment, even though we are one of the first generations to live our entire lives with measurable anthropogenic climate change—from weather patterns to record temperatures. Ever since I started observing nature, I’ve noticed that the trees and flowering shrubbery in front of my parents’ house have been blooming a few days earlier every spring. These plants now bloom around two weeks earlier than when I was young. This is a small alteration in the plants, but these small changes turn into large scale changes that can cause catastrophic problems.

Imagine this in a large scale orchard. The apple trees now bloom two weeks earlier in the spring and there’s a late frost. The late frost wouldn’t have affected the trees 20 years ago, but now they’re blooming much earlier. A large majority of those budding flowers will freeze and never produce fruit. Many orchards now have irrigation or other technology to counteract the late frost, but irrigation uses a lot of water and is expensive to install and operate. Losing a year’s crop in a large orchard may not cause food shortages, and will only create financial hardships for a small group of owners and workers, but as more and more orchards are affected the world runs out of apples.

A solution to these climate effects is to make small changes in our own lives. Most college students that live in residence halls or university owned/operated housing (78 percent for the 2016 school year at Case Western Reserve University) don’t think about their water and electricity usage, because they never see the utility bill. It is just as important to conserve water and electricity at school as it is at home. Every time lights get left on, they still use electricity. All the water that goes down the drain still has to be treated. Fans and other appliances need to be turned off and unplugged.

In all of the first-year and second-year residence halls without air conditioning, be sure to close and secure windows in the winter to prevent the heating units from getting overworked. The heat systems may not seem to do much, but when it’s below zero degrees Fahrenheit they prevent the pipes from freezing and cracking.

CWRU provides students with many green programs and resources on campus that aren’t found at other schools. The Tinkham Veale University Center is a great example, as it has a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses the Earth’s natural ground temperature to provide for the building. Our recycling stations and solar trash compactors on campus are also relatively unique, especially in the quantity that they appear. The CWRU University Farm is another great asset that provides a variety of sustainability-focused programs throughout the year.

The little steps that we take each day towards building a sustainable society end up having significant effects, just like how the seemingly minor problems in our environment lead to large scale changes. I encourage everyone to be as proactive as possible because this issue is not going to go away by itself.