Reduce, Not Recycle

Gabriella Jacobs ‘22

A few weeks ago, Ma’ayanot had a student walkout to raise awareness regarding the climate crisis. When I came home from school that night and told my parents about the walkout, they doubted its effectiveness, saying that while a walkout might spark the idea of change, it is ultimately futile if we don’t actually evolve.  We students love the song “Earth” by various artists, and enthusiastically chant “save the turtles,” but in reality we, as the greater Ma’ayanot community, are not meaningfully changing our habits to prevent climate change.  

           In one year, 480 billion plastic bottles, 500 billion plastic cups, 25 billion styrofoam cups, and 90 million tons of paper are disposed. That means that per person, annually, about 70 plastic cups, 82 styrofoam cups, and 700 pounds of paper are manufactured and disposed of.  You might assume that after we use this exorbitant amount of paper and plastic, we recycle and reuse the materials but realistically we don’t. Disregarding the fact that the estimated amount of recyclable goods that are truly recycled is 8%, recycling is an extremely controversial issue among climate change experts. Although recycling may seem simple, it is actually an extremely complicated process that can have both positive and negative impacts upon the Earth (for more information on recycling, read the book Waste by Kate O’Neil). In fact, the majority of our recyclables are not even recycled in the U.S (the U.S has not built a new plastics recycling facility since 2003) and recyclables are commonly shipped to East Asian countries resulting in a huge carbon footprint. However, one thing that all experts agree on is that people must begin to conserve resources and stop wasting. If we use less, we will waste less, resulting in a lower carbon footprint, and slowed climate change.  

           So, how can we use less stuff as a community? Every day we eat breakfast at school in single serve plastic cereal bowls.  Not only that, but sometimes we even transfer the cereal into a styrofoam bowl, (which may take one million years to decompose) simply because it is larger and more convenient. This is extremely wasteful, so the question then becomes what changes can we make to be more eco friendly in this aspect of our daily lives? Maybe instead of using single serving bowls, the administration could purchase boxed cereals, and instead of eating them in styrofoam bowls, we could use paper bowls which are broken down more easily.

          Another way we can tackle this issue in Ma’ayanot is by reusing non textbook school books (a book Gemach, if you will). Every year the student body has a similar curriculum in English class as the grade before them, and therefore need to purchase the same novels.  After the class has finished the novel, it is often forgotten on a shelf in the student’s home, or is thrown out. Maybe, we could pass down our school books to the class below ours. For those who would like to participate in this system, they can contribute their copy of Romeo and Juliet to a younger student, instead of contributing to the hundreds of thousands of copies of Romeo and Juliet that are currently lying in a landfill.

    These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg for what changes can be made to transform Ma’ayanot into an eco-friendly community, but they are at least a start.  As climate change activists’ young leader Greta Thumberg said, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic… and act as if the house is on fire.” What Thunberg means is that liking a post tagged with #stopclimatechange on Instagram does not create change or do anything to help the actual issue. We need to actively make changes and alter our own environmentally damaging habits. In addition to showing support through gestures like walkouts and Instagram likes, we must show support through actions that will truly benefit the world, and actually favorably impact climate change.