Reduce, reuse, recycle and remember to vote


Jeremy Marynowski

Reduce, reuse, recycle and remember to vote

By Kristen Nichols

Food shortages, wildfires, the death of coral reefs, coastal flooding, droughts and rampant poverty could be seen as early as 2040, according to an Oct 1. environmental report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For current college students, 2040 is within our lifetimes. The agricultural industry would be threatened by the 2.7-degree-Fahrenheit increase cited in the report, which could affect the economy internationally, as stated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While the biggest decisions about the environment remain in the hands of the Trump administration, there are ways to make a positive impact on a smaller scale. Approximately 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the U.S., according to the Eco-Cycle, a nonprofit recycling organization. Eight major companies have recently committed to banning plastic straws, including Starbucks, Disney, American Airlines, Hyatt and Marriott International, according to a July 9 Time magazine article. Illinois residents can vote to ban plastic straws with their Nov. 6 ballots. 

College students are busy, which means takeout food can often be the easiest option to make sure we’re fueled to finish homework, classes or shifts at work. While we’re not in control of the packaging or eco-friendliness of restaurants, we can control which establishments we buy food from and what we do with the packaging when we’re finished.

Student favorites, such as Blaze Pizza and Chipotle, are introducing eco-friendly packaging. In 2016, Chipotle introduced 25 percent post-consumer cutlery and increased recycled content in its aluminum foil. Additionally, about 80 percent of its restaurants recycle waste materials and 875 provide recycling options for customers, according to the company’s most recent sustainability report. Blaze uses recyclable packaging, and its straws, lids and cups are made from plant materials, according to the company’s site.

Plastic, cardboard and aluminum are recyclable in Illinois. If a meal comes in packaging made of one of those three materials and can be adequately cleaned so that no oil or food items remain, they should be recycled. There is little excuse for laziness when campus buildings have recycling bins next to trash cans and each residence life building provides a recycling room. Relying on reusable utensils is another solution everyone can contribute to. Reusable straws and cutlery are available in a variety of materials, from paper or plastic to metal, bamboo and glass, and can be purchased from retailers, such as Amazon, Target or, to name a few. Some even come in a sleeve or container that make slipping them into your backpack simple and convenient.

Paying attention to packaging, responsibly recycling and relying on reusable products will lessen your contribution to the climate crisis we face, and voting with the planet in mind will force those in power to act on this issue.