B1 Intermediate US 18137 Folder Collection
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Okay, so I try to recycle.
I've got my grocery tote bag.
I even have solar panels on my roof.
But in the back of my mind, I can't help thinking:
Does any of this actually make a difference when it comes to climate change?
If you read the headlines,
you quickly begin to see that climate change is a massive problem.
So is my reusable bag really going to change the world?
But not everyone feels that way.
This is all of my trash from the past four years.
Oh, my god!
This is Lauren Singer.
She runs a website where she gives tips and answers questions about living a zero-waste life.
Okay, so you've got tiny little ends and bits and things…
Are you really telling me that everything else that you use for four years—
you've found some other use for?
Totally, is compostable, infinitely reusable, or 100% easily recyclable.
You may look at the extremely eco-friendly way Lauren is living and find it inspiring.
Or maybe, like me, you're totally skeptical.
But a lot of what she's doing is actually pretty simple.
When she wants coffee, she brings her own cup.
Or let's say she wants to buy a pastry; she'll put it into a reusable cotton bag.
A safety razor instead of plastic ones.
There's all this disposable stuff in our lives that we're not even thinking about.
And what Lauren's done is find some easy substitutes.
Everything else ends up in the jar.
This is macaroni-and-cheese packaging,
and this was like, four years ago, right when I started.
That was, that was my weekend at Dad's house.
So these are…
Oh, I know what these are.
Plastic straws.
Hot chocolate.
This was a bad day, wasn't it, for you?
No, actually someone sent that to me in the mail.
These aren't huge trash problems.
The EPA isn't up in arms about plastic straws.
But you can see how these little bits of waste can really add up.
The United States is the No. 1 trash-producing country in the world.
If every country lived like the US,
we'd need over four Earths to make all the stuff we consume.
Do you think little things make a big difference?
If you reduce single-use coffee cups from your routine and you're a daily coffee drinker,
that's 365 cups per year.
That's not an insignificant change.
If every single person did that,
that's a massive shift toward a more sustainable future.
And good policy can encourage this kind of shift.
Take plastic bags.
Americans throw away about 100 billion a year.
But California is trying to change this.
Three communities have found that if you offer a plastic bag for free,
75 percent of people will take it.
But if you charge 10 cents for a bag, only 16 percent take it.
It's subtle, but this small fee makes people question whether they really need a bag.
And it reminds people to bring their own.
Communities across the country are beginning to adopt this policy,
and it could create a large-scale shift.
If New York City had a bag fee,
we could save roughly 7 billion plastic bags a year.
And without good policy,
it can be really hard to do the right thing.
Take recycling: in a place like Missoula, Montana, where I live,
you can't recycle glass because doing so, it turns out, costs my city too much.
I think this is a fundamental flaw of governments and their relationship with businesses.
Businesses aren't held accountable for products that they're putting into the waste stream.
So they're allowed to sell glass in Montana,
where there's no adequate recycling,
and completely wipe their hands free
and not have to subsidize any infrastructure to adequately recycle their product.
So that responsibility for disposing of that product falls on you,
as a resident and the government.
That is completely unfair.
The funny thing is, we used to have a really great system for dealing with glass.
After you were done with a bottle, you would just return it.
Companies would clean it and use it again and again.
Around the 1950s, companies began experimenting with single-use bottles and cans.
Lots of other things became single-use too.
Like Don Draper here, people were just tossing their garbage wherever.
And all this trash started to annoy people.
Do you remember that very famous commercial?
Of this Native American,
he's like, going down a river and there's all this waste, and tear goes down.
People start pollution; people can stop it.
And it's often credited for quote unquote "cleaning up America"
because we were reminded that we need to pick up our trash.
You see this commercial every Earth Day,
but it was actually funded by a group of companies,
many of them from the can and bottle industry.
They were worried that states would ban their single-use products
because people were getting sick of all the trash.
So they created this incredible ad,
which is very powerful, which made us pick up trash,
which is actually trash that they were creating
and selling to us.
And profiting off of
It actually shifted.
That was the moment.
I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't pick up trash.
But as far as I can tell,
it was the first moment where we shifted this responsibility
from the person selling to the person buying.
That needs to change really quick.
And once it does, we won't even have to talk about providing adequate recycling systems
because businesses will create products that are easily and conveniently recyclable
because it will make more economic sense for them
if that burden is put on the business instead of the consumer and the government.
This gets to the heart of the matter.
Climate change is a giant problem.
We're not going to solve it without government and industry taking action.
We live in this complicated web of carbon emissions.
I mean, every single thing we do as individuals creates pollution.
It's overwhelming.
But there's one simple policy that could make going green easier for all of us,
and it could have an enormous impact: we could put a price on carbon.
Right now, companies can emit as much pollution as they like.
We're basically treating our sky like a giant sewer.
As long as it's free to pollute,
no one's going to stop doing it.
You can't just go out there and find one source or one factory, one business,
and shut it down and clean up your air.
Everybody in a sense is part of the problem.
If companies had to pay for the carbon they produce,
it would encourage better behavior.
This is what California did in 2006.
The state set a cap on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions,
and they lowered it over the next few years.
Companies could either reduce their pollution or pay for carbon allowances.
And so far, it's worked.
The state is on track to hit its 2020 goal
and they are looking to cut emissions by another 40% by 2030.
Now, California isn't perfect, but this is a huge reduction in emissions.
It's really larger than anything a person could achieve on their own.
The fears that were raised by opponents have not come to pass.
We've not seen an exodus of industries from California
or people unable to drive their cars.
And as the state cut emissions,
California's economy has actually grown by 12%,
outpacing the national average.
Going green at this scale isn't an overnight process.
People like Mary Nichols have spent decades fighting for better policies.
We certainly have enjoyed a lot of political support from all sides.
I think that's largely just because the public in California has demanded that
clean, healthy air is something that everybody ought to have access to.
So individual climate action does matter,
in the sense that it creates cultural change.
When Lauren makes a video tutorial or shares one of her zero-waste tips on Instagram,
it has a social ripple effect.
Do you want everyone to live the lifestyle you're living?
I would never tell anyone how to live their life.
But I'd like to show everyone that there are options.
That the way that we're told we have to live in this hyper-consumeristic way
isn't the only way we have to live in order to live in a modern world with modern luxuries.
Folks like Lauren really help build the bottom-up support you need for large-scale transformation.
Look, climate policy can be complicated, and sometimes it can be boring.
But we need it to solve global warming.
And to get better policies like a price on carbon,
you need to have public support.
Because politicians and businesses won't take action
unless people come together and demand it.
So you may not be able to fit all your trash into a Mason jar.
But psychologists have been developing "green nudges" that trick us into being more green.
Want to know whether they are working their magic on you?
Visit climate.universityofcalifornia.edu to learn more.
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Going green shouldn't be this hard

18137 Folder Collection
Janice Yeh published on July 25, 2017    Gloria Ting translated    Ann reviewed
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