The next time you're pleading with your parents about how much you need that CD or new shirt, stop and think: is it really necessary? Americans consume an average of 120 pounds of natural resources daily! Everything we purchase has a direct impact on the well-being of our planet. Whether it's polluting Colombia's rivers with pulp stripped from the beans used to make the coffee you drank this morning or depleting petroleum supplies for polyester used in the production of your t-shirt, we all pollute.
Americans are notorious consumers. We use 24% of the world's energy and make up only 5% of the population. That energy is used in all the natural resources we waste when we heat our houses to 75E, keep the air conditioning on all summer, let our car engines idle, etc. We have to consume less "stuff" that we don't really need. Ask yourself before you buy something, "Do I really need this, or do I just want it?" Do you really need ten pairs of shoes, or can you manage with five?
Just a few simple measures can make a big impact on the planet. They are as easy as not leaving your lights on all day while you're at school, taking a bus, walking or riding your bike for transportation and buying organic products that don't use pesticides in production. Another solution is to eat less red meat, or better yet, become a vegetarian. Farm-raised meat is a very inefficient use of natural resources. To make a four-ounce hamburger, the cow had to consume 616 gallons of water. Plants, on the other hand, can be produced in less space with less money and are easier to maintain.
It's impossible to live on the planet without having an impact. We can't stop all our consumption, but we can reduce it. So the next time you're at the store, shop wisely and ask yourself, "Do I really need it?" ^
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.