On his 1971 album ‘Sinatra & Company’, American singer Frank Sinatra helped popularize the 1970 Joe Raposo song “Being Green”. According to some of the lyrics, it is not easy being green because you can “blend in with so many other ordinary things.” And you are easily ignored if you are not “standing out like flashy sparkles on the water or stars in the sky.”

But then it notes that “green is the colour of spring…, big like an ocean… important like a mountain. Or tall like a tree…”

In today’s world, green is the only way to be if the earth is going to be able to still be here for posterity. Though there has been some amount of resistance, especially from global warming skeptics, over the past 20-odd years, countries around the world have been aggressively pursuing various forms of recycling. Waste like paper and plastics, scrap metals and food, can and are being repurposed and processed. Landfills, those mammoth human waste eyesores, nose sores, carriers of pollution, and sites of methane emissions are being reduced. The countries that have most recently acted on reducing pollution include Kenya, which in August last year banned plastic bags instating a law that anyone found using, producing, or selling a plastic bag can face up to four years in jail, or a $38,000 fine. It is said to be the world’s harshest plastic bag ban. Around the same time last year, the island nation of Vanuatu began phasing out single use plastics and bottles and Zimbabwe banned polystyrene.

As a follow up to its 2015 tax on plastic bags, in January this year, the UK announced a 25-year plan that it said would set the global gold standard on eliminating plastic waste. The queen banned plastic straws and bottles from royal estates in February.

Australia banned single-use plastic bags this year, following France, which announced its ban in 2016 that is set to fully take effect in 2020. But the French were not the first to see the light. Rwanda has had a complete ban on plastic bags in force since 2008 and it is set to become the first country in the world to be completely sustainable by 2020.

While a lot of attention is being paid to plastic pollution, and for very good reason, it is not the only measure that needs to be instituted to counteract global warming and by extension preserve the environment. For instance, it has been estimated that for each household that recycles half of its waste 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year can be saved. Why does this matter? Well because of the fact that the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history, when 350 ppm is considered a safe level. And according to NewScientist.com this is also a “psychological milestone”.

Social scientists have also been saying that the empowerment of girls and women would have a huge impact on global warming. For one thing, empowered girls would seek to be educated if they are not being forced into marriages at very young ages. Women all around the world would have more of a say in planning their families so that the number of children they have would be how many they can properly provide for and educate. According to GreenAmerica.org, “Education is the most powerful lever available for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, while mitigating emissions by curbing population growth. 

Education also shores up resilience to climate change impacts. For example, a 2013 study found that educating girls ‘is the single most important social and economic factor associated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters.’ This decreased vulnerability also extends to their children, families, and the elderly.”

Reducing food waste is another measure that can have a positive impact on the earth and one that is twofold. Consider that hunger—not the pangs you feel when you are late to the table or have missed a meal but gnawing starvation that pushes humans to extremes—is a condition of life for nearly 800 million people worldwide. And then consider that the food wasted globally—either unintended because of poor storage or refrigeration or willfully because high-end consumers will only buy unblemished items—contributes to the high amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It becomes much clearer does it not that actions have to be taken in every aspect of our lives if we are to succeed in healing the earth. Every individual can and must contribute, and citizens must lobby their governments to bring about change. Being green is the only way.

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