Be Sustainable: It’s Easy

Source: Getting to Zero Conference, Penn State University (2014)

Last week I went to the lower field to taste some delicious local food at the Food Show. In the tent in front of the garbage bins, volunteers helped everyone to sort their wastes to proper destinations. It was also reported that the plumbers from McGill created the water fountains to reduce the consumption of water in plastic bottles during these events. Seeing more and more moves are taken to reduce the production of waste or its misplacement, I feel very proud as a McGillian.

I seriously started to recycle when I studied in Switzerland, where everything needs to be sorted properly to avoid penalty. In the community, even green and white glass bottles are separated into two large bins. In the supermarket, you can find bins for laundry detergent containers, Brita filters, aerosol canisters, and other specific types of wastes. From cardboard boxes and newspapers to PET bottles and Aluminum cans, nearly everything I consumed has been assigned to a certain category and either gets collected or sent to the Hauptsammelstelle (‘major collection point’). It took time and energy to do the sorting and cleaning, and I needed to take a bag full of glass bottles to the collection point that can be located a kilometre away. However, I feel even happier because I know that I am contributing to the conservation of our environment, not for our kind, but for all the creatures that we share this planet with.

Not long ago, a video went viral on the internet, showing a British diver surrounded by more plastic bags than fish near Bali, Indonesia. As a chemist, I know how hard these polymers can be degraded in nature because of their ‘unnatural’ structures. Therefore, we are eager to find materials that both possess properties that we want and are biodegradable. Given the fact that large-scale industrial applications of our current research projects need more time, what we can do now is to decrease our unnecessary consumption of those durable but non-biodegradable products like plastic bags and PET bottles. For us, bringing a large shopping bag or carrying a water bottle are just so easy to remember when we go out. Also, proper recycling reduces the risk of exposure of those non-degradable materials to the environment – I hope we won’t see a sea turtle suffocated by a plastic bag in the near future.

This blog seems so far away from career development and job hunting, but I think the responsibility and determination we decide to take during those daily moves could definitely be a plus. People have said it a thousand times, but I still want to say it once again: we don’t only live our lives, we pave the way for the future. Therefore, let’s just take a few seconds per day to support sustainability.

For sustainability around McGill, please check https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/.

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