Final Reflection Essay I honestly do not believe that Introduction to Environmental Science (EVR2001) has had a large impact on my life. However, I can attest to the fact that this class has somewhat broadened my understanding of many current global environmental issues, and has allowed me to gain a new perspective on the way I live my everyday life in relation to the environment, even if I have only made a few minor changes to my daily routine.
On the other hand, certain topics that we have discussed in lecture, and especially reflecting on my engagement preparation assignments, have shown me that little things I can do actually do have a big impact on the environment as a whole. The environmental issues that I consider most relevant to my life are recycling and air pollution. I was aware about the importance of recycling before taking this class because of many programs and initiatives back home, especially in my high school. The program that stands out the most in my mind stems from a few of my good friends.
They taught me a lot about recycling during our junior year of high school as they collaborated to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award, in which they implemented a collection of recycling bins into our local high school classrooms in order to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. They made this project an interactive, collaborative effort with students and faculty by setting up a wall prominently featured in the school in which anyone could sign pledges to recycle, and areas for individuals names where we could place stickers to represent another bottle we had recycled, to keep track of how much we had recycled and compare with our friends.
Recycling is one of the easiest and most important changes that we can make to reduce our environmental impact, and I have definitely become more conscious than I previously was in my everyday life as a result of this class. A survey study researched at the University of Massachusetts was conducted in order to determine how knowledgeable and conscious college students were generally concerning recycling and the larger environmental impacts of their recycling choices (or lack of). This study found that approximately 67% of students questioned regularly recycled bottles and cans, and approximately 50% noted that they also return newspapers.
However, almost 75% of students said that they are more likely to recycle if recycling bins are easily accessible to them, and that convenience plays a major role in their willingness to recycle. (Williams). I think that air pollution is one of the most important environmental issues personally, because I have seen firsthand the effects it can have. My grandmother spent most of her childhood in an area where levels of air pollution were much higher than normal, and she struggled with chronic illnesses and decreased lung functionality her entire life.
When she got married, my grandparents moved to an area with lower levels of air pollution, which helped her tremendously, but the lingering effects stayed with her, and she eventually was diagnosed with emphysema and lung cancer. Because of what she went through, I am very conscious of things that could increase the amount of air pollution in my everyday life, and actively encourage people to make small changes that have a larger environmental impact.
Air pollution is one of the most important environmental issues that we face today. ecause there is so much air pollution in many parts of the world that it poses a great danger to our health. Air pollution is defined as the corruption of the air quality and environment by particulates or anything harmful added to the air, including cars, industrial factories, and common household items. (“Air Pollution”). Most air pollution stems from human activities, which could be a variety of things, from the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity and exhaust from factories, to common household products, especially cleaning supplies.
One of the best examples of how air pollution has already affected our lives is the Great London Smog, as discussed in our textbook, Environmental Science: A Global Concern. In 1952, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, an extremely thick cloud of fog and smoke came down onto the city of London. This lasted for over four days, and was responsible for the deaths of over 4,700 people, due to extremely poor visibility, lack of oxygen and particulate contaminated air.
Scientific research into this anomaly found that this was due to a temperature inversion, which is when the ‘layers’ of air get out of order, and the coldest air settles on the bottom, underneath other layers of warmer air. (Cunningham). This cold air traps pollutants in and forces them to stay in one place, rather than dissolving out into the atmosphere. (Coenen). Air pollution should be a main concern because of the multitude of effects on us and our environment including effects on the atmosphere and negative human health effects. Firstly, the atmosphere protects us from the sun’s UV radiation through the ozone layer.
Due to global warming, the ozone layer has depleted dramatically. If measures were not implemented to protect the ozone layer, the UV rays reaching the Earth would be too strong for humans to withstand. (Hunt). Also, increased levels of air pollution decreases the amount of sunlight that penetrates through the Earth’s atmosphere, which in turn contributes to the visual degradation in our everyday environment. Human health is also severely impacted, because increasing pollution causes inflammation and reduces the functional ability of our lungs, which lead to increased rates of illnesses including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Coenen).
There are many ways that I could reduce my environmental impact, but some of them are not feasible due to the fact that I currently live in a dorm room, and do not control some factors. One of the easiest changes I could make would be to cut down on my energy consumption as much as possible. Some ways I could do this would be to unplug all my electronics and personal items from outlets, including my laptop charger, hairdryer and desk lamp. I an also make more of an effort to walk places or carpool with friends or classmates, instead of driving by myself. Another easy lifestyle change I can make is to bring my own tote bags to stores, especially when grocery shopping or buying things from large stores like Wal-Mart or Target.
By doing this, I will not waste the plastic or paper bags available at the store, and some stores even offer discounts for bringing reusable bags. Along the same lines, I could bring my own reusable coffee cup when purchasing coffee from places like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. nstead of using their disposable containers, which are often Styrofoam or other materials that are not biodegradable. I am limited in the extent that I can control my surroundings, solely because I live in a dorm on the UF campus, and I have a roommate. I cannot control what my roommate does, whether she leaves lights on or things plugged in. Secondly, I am limited because I have a laundry room in my building, but I am forced to use a dryer for my clothes, therefore using more energy, because there is nowhere to hang dry clothes.
As a result of this class, I have made a few minor changes in my life, but most of the ways to reduce one’s environmental impact that we discussed in class I already was doing to the best of my ability. For example, I own multiple reusable water bottles, and try my best to always carry one with me. By doing this, I am not using or purchasing plastic water bottles, which significantly reduces my environmental impact because I am not adding to th amount of plastic currently in landfills.
As I stated previously, one way to reduce environmental impact in everyday life is to make sure all electronic devices are unplugged when not in use. After learning this, I have made a more conscious effort to unplug as many things as possible, including my hairdryer and styling tools, my Keurig coffeemaker, laptop charger, and even my power strip extension cord. Lastly, I have made more of an effort to consolidate errands into one big trip instead of multiple smaller trips, and often go with a friend to save gas and attempt to decrease the amount of vehicle emissions released into the atmosphere.