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From the Editor: How the internet helps Millenials go green

April 1, 2010

APRIL

Cover art by the Editor

The need for green

“Toxic air pollutants, or air toxics, are those pollutants known or suspected of causing cancer or other serious health problems, such as birth defects,” reads the EPA site.

Through the EPA’s zip code search and mortality comparisons, I was able to learn that the area around my Northeastern hometown has an infant mortality rate significantly higher than the national average, and that the risk of getting cancer from air pollution there is about 40 in a million.”

This month is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day set aside to examine the long-term environmental sustainability of our current practices and lifestyles and consider the problems pollution is already posing to us.  Earth Day is about more than recycling—it’s also about being informed, and thanks to internet, there are much more than at-home green solutions and recycling tips available to anyone wishing to show their concern for the environment.

According to the Earth Day website (www.earthday.net), over a billion people across the world participate in Earth Day campaigns each year.  The Earth Day Network (EDN), which began with the first Earth Day in 1970, has been empowered by the internet, contributing to outreach in 174 countries, the creation of an EDN blog and multiple related networks.  The online organization network and registry, for example, helps individuals find green events near them or to organize one of their own, while their Educators’ Network gives teachers resources and standard lessons to teach students about environmental preservation and how to green up their classrooms.

Despite increasing awareness of environmental problems over the past several years, however, pollutants such as benzene and carbon tetrachloride—both of which can cause organ damage and death in too high amounts—remain all too prevalent in the air around many communities.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers an online zip code search feature that shows the current and average air quality of the search area, cancer risk estimates and infant mortality rates for anyone wishing to see just how safe or unsafe their locality is.

“Toxic air pollutants, or air toxics, are those pollutants known or suspected of causing cancer or other serious health problems, such as birth defects,” reads the EPA site.  Through their search and mortality comparisons, I was able to learn that the area around my Northeastern hometown has an infant mortality rate significantly higher than the national average, and that the risk of getting cancer from air pollution there is about 40 in a million.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, has an infant mortality rate lesser than the national average of 6.8 per 1000 live births, and lower rates of benzene and carbon tetrachloride.  However, their cancer risk from air pollution of about 63 in a million.

Sustainable practices and “going green” is something for the Millenial Generation to consider, not only for personal health and the health of any children we may have, but for job prospects.

“While many corporations have been forced to eliminate positions and lay off hundreds of people at once, the renewable energy industry has continued to grow,” the EDN blog proclaims. “…To put this into perspective, the overall job growth average between 1998 and 2007 was 3.7 percent; in the renewable energy industry, it was 9.1 percent.”

Being informed is likewise a great persuader for practicing sustainability, and there is no resource like the internet for making both the why’s and how-to’s available to the public, as well as allowing individuals to speak out about it.  A 2008 statistical assessment by Adam Williams of Sustainablog gave the United States a C-grade when it came to recycling, showing that there are 251 tons of trash in the United States and 82 million tons of recycled material; on a daily basis, that breaks down to 4.6 pounds of trash per person per day and only 1.5 pounds of recycling.  Williams also believes, however, that the U.S. is on an “up-swing” with recycling, citing a 100 percent increase in the practice since 1998.

On its 40th anniversary, celebrating Earth Day is as simple as doing a Google search and finding out how you can do your part.

Here’s to good stewardship,

—keito, the Editor

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One Comment
  1. Julienne permalink
    April 16, 2010 9:16 am

    Good article – important topic. Love the header picture this month.

    It is interesting that you mention infant mortality, since this is a key indicator of a healthy society. The US has a lower IM rate than many developing countries in the world, per their own statistics, which shows how much work we still must do on healthcare. In the meantime, what you’ve mentioned (recycling, et al) is something we can do to make our cities a healthier place.

    Also, interesting to note that Starbucks gave away free coffee yesterday if you brought in your own reusable mug. I was all over that.

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