Students should embrace green trend but also commit to long-term cause

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By HiLite Staff

The phrase has been schlepped onto handbags, storefronts and backs of cars. At the surface, it seems that the turning point in environmental awareness has been reached. Marketers have realized the appeal of “eco-friendly” merchandise and are milking it to its full potential.

Although awareness of environmental issues is pertinent in today’s world of shrinking resources, buying organic cotton purses with a recycling sign does not change the wasteful habits of Americans. It may be hip to carry a recycled purse, but it’s rather hypocritical to wear it and continue on without recycling personal waste.

One of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution is the unbelievable amount of plastic bags used every year. According to, Americans throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags a year, and only 1 percent of those is recycled. If everyone that bought an organic cotton bag used it to carry their groceries, the amount of polyethylene bags used every year would be reduced significantly. Plastic bags that are used for semi-useless things, such as bags from sandwich stores or bags for single items, can be eliminated all together. In most European grocery stores, patrons are required to pay for their bags, encouraging use of recyclable bags.

The little things, like reducing plastic use in daily life, make the biggest difference. For students, reducing waste can be especially easy in the cafeteria. The most wasteful use of plastic can be seen in the pre-packaged utensils. Most students here use only one utensil in the pack, while the napkin and the plastic covering are thrown away into non-recyclable bins.

The growing popularity of the green movement has had some positive results. Instead of ignoring a problem all together, the public is beginning to realize the importance of recycling and reducing personal waste. Catch phrases like “going green” and “reduce your global footprint” seem to finally register with the public, which certainly is a positive effect of green merchandise.

In some ways, Europeans seem to be the model of eco-friendly living. Their grocery stores recquire patrons to buy grocery bags to encourage greener solutions. Everything in their society is fit to reduce waste. Even the toilet has two options for flushing, one for ‘number one’ and ‘number two’. Although it isn’t likely that Americans will adapt all their toilets to two options, with more pressure from the eco-activists, some changes can be made in consumer products.

The retail industry seems to be the fastest to respond to the ecomovement, but permanent change can happen through consumer changes in domestic products. The superficial benefits of wearing organic cotton recycled T-shirts are many, but scratch past the surface and people may not actually be making positive ecofriendly choices. The real difference is made when families take the time to find places to reduce waste in as many places as possible, whether that means running the washing mashine less or switching to canvas grocery bags. Try to actively make a plan to reduce these sort of wastes, and it is suprising to find how much an individual wastes in one day.

It’s great that consumers are attracted to “green” solutions in fashion and merchandizing, but the real difference comes from self-control. Rather than simply buying more products, people should follow their “green” messages. Self-control, in terms of using these products, is more effective in decreasing garbage than buying a bag. Make the real difference by carrying out what a shirt asks you to do instead of just wearing it and continuing to participate in common wasteful habits.