The Fight Against Climate Change…How Much is the U.S. Really Doing

After a two-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist, made headlines after announcing her trip had zero carbon emissions.

Thunberg made her trip to protest the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.The agreement ensures that countries are actively “tackling global warming,” while being “driven by plummeting renewable energy costs,” the Guardian said.

This means, with new and innovative ideas, renewable energy sources are becoming cost-effective and accessible, enabling countries to lower their carbon footprint. One hundred and ninety-four nations  and the European Union are part of this agreement. That includes Italy, where the University of New Haven has a satellite campus. It is clear how European countries value climate change and the future of our planet. Less emission waste and recycling programs are strongly encouraged and enforced.

On the Prato campus, these goals are obvious in the residence halls.

Residents have a key card that also must be in the wall to turn on the electricity in a room. He or she needs to insert a key card into the scanner. This is the same card key that allows the student to enter a dorm room, which ensures that when a resident leaves, the key card comes out of the wall. This mitigates accidental or negligent electricity use, because the electricity service depends on the key card.  

One Prato student, Marissa Lehner who is spending her third semester abroad, said, “I think it’s a good thing, I definitely think more about when I have the lights on and when I’m using the electricity opposed to when I’m at home.”

In the U.S., Connecticut specifically, the recycling program is single stream. What this means for Americans is that, recycling is convenient because glass, plastic, paper, and metal can all be put into one recycling bin.

Americans have demonstrated that  single stream recycling is a disaster. From a FiveThirtyEight article written by Maggie Koerth-Baker: “There are perfectly recyclable cans and paper coated in food, grease or cleaning fluids that render them unrecyclable,” as well as “plastic bottles full of glass syringe needles that break open at the sorting facilities.” 

The Prato campus has many trash assortment bins. It is the responsibility of the students to sort their trash. Plastic, paper, general waste, organic waste, and glass all have designated bins.

Young activists’ motivation to strive for a more eco-friendly world, and the cooperation of students who are willing to adapt to new ways of living, ensure that our planet has a chance at overcoming the current deteriorating state it is in. By being more mindful of electricity usage, striving for separate recycling programs, and also putting in more effort, our generation is creating a healthier environment.

These adaptations will not be easy, but the alternative does not look promising. In a climate report from 2018, the United Nations said we have “12 years to make massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels,” Vox said.

The future will be determined by our generation. Either the U.S. enacts its own programs to ensure that the health of our planet continues, or we accept that we’ve created and supported this polluted fate and continue living our day to day lives.

The choice is ours.