At the end of each year, people across the country make resolutions. For some, those resolutions involve weight loss, saving money, or becoming more charitable. Few, however, make resolutions involving their environmental impact. Perhaps it is because, as a society, we generally focus on improving ourselves rather than improving the world around us. Older generations often accuse the younger generations of being too self-involved and/or disconnected from those around them. Be that as it may, it seems that younger generations care just as much, or more, about their environmental impact. As technology evolves to connect us to those far away, the world becomes smaller. The pollution and deforestation occurring overseas have become newsworthy phenomena to those of us here at home.
As people are becoming increasingly aware of the world around them, they are becoming more concerned with issues affecting not only their country, but the world as a whole. In response to this concern, lawmakers in the United States are responding with legislation aimed at curbing pollution and waste. States that seem particularly concerned with these issues include California and New York, but the list is growing everyday. Environmental issues here at home include single-use plastic bags, plastic micro beads, and Styrofoam containers.
In Arizona, lawmakers have recently voted to ban single-use plastic bags. Their reasoning behind the new legislation resonates with eco-conscious consumers around the country; single use plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade and frequently end up polluting landfills and waterways. The bags are often used only once for convenience (maybe twice as waste basket liners) and then are discarded without any further thought by the consumer. While such legislation seems innocent, if not proactive, others aren’t so sure about the motives behind the bag ban.
On the other side of the spectrum, Florida has made it illegal for municipalities to ban plastic bags, and Missouri and Texas want to follow. California passed a statewide single-use plastic bag ban in 2014, but the ban has been halted. In 2016, voters will be able to decide whether the ban should be overturned. In New York City, lawmakers introduced an amendment to the administrative code to charge .10 per plastic bag, encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. States that are against banning single-use plastic bags cite concerns such as putting low-income residents at an economic disadvantage. Low-income residents cannot easily afford reusable bags, and if they are forced to pay .10 per bag, they will forego purchasing other food necessities to pay for the convenience of the single-use plastic bags. Others argue that the bag ban is just a ploy by business owners to make profits off of the proposed .10 charge associated with single-use bags.
Another growing environmental concern involves plastic micro beads. These beads are commonly found in personal hygiene products including, but not limited to, toothpaste, facial wash, and body scrubs. While these beads work to exfoliate dead skin in the shower, they are actively destroying marine life after they slip through water purification plants. The beads, which are often very tiny- about the size of a grain of salt- are swallowed by fish, clams, and other water dwelling creatures that mistake them for food. The beads, which often absorb toxins, can kill or poison the animals that eat them.
As a result of the increased awareness of the harmful affects of micro beads, states including New York, California, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana are considering legislation that will ban the use of the beads in personal care products. Illinois is the first state to officially ban the beads. For those who are devout fans, there are several natural alternatives including oatmeal, nutshells, and small seeds that accomplish the same results, but with less negative environmental impact.
While the above referenced laws and regulations will not change the world, they are certainly a step in the right direction. To some, it may seem that the United States is lagging behind in the “green” revolution. We say the United States is quickly catching up. To learn more about eco friendly legislation, visit your state’s legislative website.