On Earth Day, “going green” is a phrase as polarizing as it is vague.
Since we don’t have a clear consensus on what it entails – is it enough to reuse your shopping bags, or should you grow all your own food, too – it’s easy for us to cling to whatever fuzzy definitions float our way, such as the ones that tie elitism to environmentalism.
In 2015, one RetailMeNot survey suggested that 81 percent of shoppers considered green products to be more expensive. That some of the most visible proponents of environmentalism are incredibly wealthy doesn’t exactly quash the association between going green and having green.
Sometimes, it’s true. It’s often easier to bike to work if you live in a central (read: pricey) part of the city, for example. But to write off this kind of lifestyle as a purely wealthy pursuit tricks us into thinking we can’t all do more.
We can. In fact, some of the simplest ways to reduce your footprint are free: swapping paper towels for cloth ones, for instance, or taking shorter showers. Simply using less paper in class (and asking your professors to do the same) is worthwhile.
These changes certainly won’t save the world but can at least help to normalize a way of thinking that’s long been seen as us (Gwyneth Paltrow types) versus them (everyone else).
Similarly, one’s choice to be vegan or not can be seen as a polarizing lifestyle decision – you either love the Earth and its animals and are “committed to the cause,” or have a cool disregard for all things living.
But when we brush off the other side with absolutes like “Vegans/meat eaters are always so …” or “I could never do that,” we distance ourselves from the kinds of conversations that could help us better bridge the green divide. Weekday vegetarianism is a happy medium, for example.
If we took the time to listen, we may realize we all pretty much want the same thing – namely, a healthy planet.
We should want the same thing, anyway, especially in a county so seriously threatened by the changing climate. Some projections call for a sea-level rise as high as 12 feet by 2100; this could sink significant chunks of Miami and turn Stanford Drive into one big swimming lane.
As students, though, we’re uniquely able to run with campus-wide causes. ECO Agency’s solar-powered charging umbrellas embody the sort of initiatives we can rally around: Though small, they benefit the whole school and serve as the perfect starting point for a less polarized way of thinking, a commitment to embracing your green side no matter who you are, or think you aren’t.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.