Why your reusable straws won’t really save the earth from climate change

Jessica Joachim, News editor

Over the past years, efforts regarding the environment have urged consumers to take great action and steps towards making the world a better and more place. These efforts have prompted followers to switch out their plastic straws, bags and even utensils for reusable products instead. While these attempts have increased awareness of environmental issues and encouraged shoppers to pay attention to what they buy, can this movement actually solve the global climate issue?

Climate change refers to the changes happening to the planet, including global warming, rising sea levels and shrinking mountain glaciers. Studies show that climate change most likely results from human activities. Research also shows that China, the United States and member nations of the European Union take lead as the major contributors to greenhouse emissions, with the primary sources of emissions including electricity and heat. While individuals themselves can contribute to climate change since 1988 100 companies have contributed more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

“Individuals can at most be responsible for their own behavior, but governments have the power to implement legislation that compels industries and individuals to act sustainably. Although the power of consumers is strong, it pales in comparison to that of international corporations, and only governments have the power to keep these interests in check,” Contributor, Morten Fibieger Byskov from Fast Company said. 

With news of increasing climate change dominating the global landscape, companies have taken the initiative to profit off of the issue, advertising products that help the environment. However, with further research, not all products actually help the environment; in fact, multiple products actually harm more than they help. 

There’s a lot of money to be made by marketing items as environmentally-friendly, regardless of whether or not they actually are. Greenwashing is rampant and…corporations prioritize profit over the planet,” VICE contributor Anne Gaviola said. 

Even though large industries hold responsibility for the majority of greenhouse emissions, consumers can take the initiative and find ways to make an impact. 

Well, [we can] elect better leaders to Congress that are conscious of the climate crisis emerging. Vote! Register to vote! And tell your electric utility company, ‘I don’t want to be burning fossil fuel electricity anymore; I want to participate in a renewable energy program.’ Send a letter saying, ‘What is my carbon footprint per kilowatt-hour? How can I reduce it, and what can you do to invest in renewables?’ co-founder and co-director of the Climate Accountability Institute Richard Heede said.

Before investing in what may seem like a more environmentally-friendly product, complete more research on the product and the company selling it. While consumers do not take full responsibility for the issue of climate change, solving the problem falls on the shoulders of everyone in order to make a better earth for future generations.