Amid the waste, there are things people can do to conserve resources
Samantha Nelson approaches going green like many young people; she tries her best to be environmentally conscious by recycling regularly.
But she cannot bring herself to take shorter showers.
“Going green can sometimes be overwhelming,” Nelson said, “because the practices seem too difficult to apply to everyday life.”
Nelson, a University of Miami student, said she cannot make a difference with such eco-friendly habits because she is only one person. However, there are many simple green practices teens could follow without much thought or effort.
For example, most teens do not realize that recycling a single aluminum saves enough energy to run a television for up to three hours. Despite this, Americans waste enough aluminum to completely rebuild the nation’s commercial airline fleet.
In addition, recycling one ton of paper saves 20 trees, and 7,000 gallons of water.
These facts and others are offered by Going Green Today, a company that creates plans to help families become eco-friendly and prevent further damage to fragile ecosystems such as the Everglades.
Chris Nicolaus, 35, has been organizing cleanups in the Everglades since November 2014 and says one reason the Everglades have become endangered is Florida’s population growth.
“If nobody picks up the trash that’s out there, it will just accumulate and create more damage,” Nicolaus said.
One concern for Nicolaus and others is the chemicals from fertilizers and construction sites, and activists like Nicolaus are not alone in their efforts.
South Florida businesses and universities are taking strides to become more green. Sustainable Florida is a business with a holistic approach to demonstrate and promote green practices.
“We don’t teach people how to swap a light bulb,” said Executive Director Tim Center. “We encourage folks to take an inventory of current practices to prepare a plan for the future to get the numbers even lower.”
Similarly, Imaging10, based in Miami Lakes, helps businesses go green by becoming paperless.
“The decision to go green came about when we realized clients were wasting paper because they were making up to three to six copies of each document,” said Jacob Russo, company president. “Wasting this amount of paper, which later gets shredded, burned and incinerated, was just creating another environmental issue.”
The company now has about 7,500 people working digitally.
“We have no file cabinets in our office,” Russo said.
The University of Miami also has adoted green practices. Teddy Lhoutellier is UM’s sustainability manager of Green U.
“Green U is the idea of how everybody at UM could make this a place that respects the environment,” Lhoutellier said.
From recycling practices, transportation solutions and public awareness, Green U has helped UM become a model of what a green university should look like. One of the first initiatives, begun in 2008, was to prohibit freshmen residents from having a car on campus, thereby reducing the carbon footprint these cars leave behind.
The main source of UM’s carbon emissions footprint is electricity. As a result, in the past eight years, the university has invested in green buildings, which are saving energy despite a growing campus.
Florida International University has a sustainability office that also applies green practices within its operations. An annual FIU event is Earth Day, which takes place at the university’s nature preserve. The university also offers various green organizations such as The Garden Club, SEA (Students for Environmental Action) and IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions).
The university also participated in RecycleMania, a competition that encourages students to participate in waste reduction and recycling. According to FIU News, the participants recycled 635,500 pounds of recyclable material and placed second in the state of Florida and 27th in the nation.
As businesses, universities and Floridians implement green practices, communities will see their effects. Nicolaus said that Floridians will take action and address the damage previous generations have left behind.
“We want our kids to go out there when they get older and enjoy the Everglades like we did,” Nicolaus said. “I want to make it a better place for future generations.”