University of Delaware

The Brief: This is Why YOU Should Care about the Environment

Grand Canyon in Arizona, one of the seven natural wonders of the world

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

The fact that I am writing an article about the environment would have shocked me just a few weeks ago. I have never considered myself a tree hugger or thought twice about trashing an empty water bottle. I consider myself a part of a different community, a human community. I pride myself on volunteering with the on-campus group Sexual Offense Support as a hotline advocate; working with Girls on the Run with my sorority; and participating on alternative break trips to under-resourced communities. I thought human issues were more important than the environmental issues so I had my “good citizen” bases covered. Boy, was I wrong.

This summer, I journeyed across the country to the wondrous Grand Canyon State and had the opportunity to attend a conference on “Minimizing the Human Impact.” Going into the conference, I was skeptical. What could ever make caring about the food you eat as important as working with a child on early literacy skills?

Truth be told, by the end of the conference big words like environmental justice became a lot less scary, but I claim to be no expert on those. Here are a few simple questions posed to me throughout my week in Arizona that will resonate with any undiscovered nature lover.

1. What are you putting into your body?

When I hopped off the bus at Albright Training Center for a week of environmental conversation, I decided to take the ambitious challenge to go vegan for the week! Of course, I was unfamiliar with this territory, but I learned the industrial meat that dominates American markets is filled with hormones! I was alarmed to learn that the United States uses growth hormones that are outlawed in other countries! Cancer.org researched and evaluated the impact of the rBGH hormone that is used to make cows grow faster. They found in multiple studies that it could increase the risk of cancer in humans and lead to antibiotic resistance.

The truth is, the same industrial meat that could be detrimental to your health is also damaging the planet we call home. Cattle raised in the U.S. generate about twenty percent of the overall methane emissions in this country and that doesn’t even account for the effects of pesticides used on animals or deforestation caused by meat farming. The simple way to be mindful of these practices that are harmful to your health and the earth is to resist overindulging in meat and as I learned in Arizona this summer, “vote with your dollar” by only purchasing meat and dairy products from organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals.

2. Where does your trash go?

Depending on where we live, this answer differs from city to city. But once we take out the trash, we often forget about it! We know that waste workers will come and collect it, but what happens afterward? Sitting in a conference room while surrounded by one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, I learned specifically about where our electronics go when we have decided to upgrade to the newer version and throw the old one away. PBS.org illuminates the discussion of e-waste revealing that about one-third of trashed electronics in the US are shipped overseas where workers who are unaware of the risks are left to burn our used technology. These unsuspecting workers are often desperate for a paycheck and end up being exposed to cancer-causing dioxins including mercury vapor that is found in flat-screen televisions. Don’t panic! We can prevent these inhumane recycling methods by passing our smartphone on for reuse, finding a local e-waste recycler, or bringing small items into Staples and larger electronics to Best Buy so they can be properly disposed of. Just please, I beg you, don’t put them in the trash can!

3. Do you want your great-great grand babies to enjoy this earth?

As you read this article, electronics are being shipped overseas and livestock methane emissions are clouding the atmosphere. We must ask ourselves, do we want our kids to be able to play in city parks? Or would we rather cause our children to live in a man-made dumping ground? If you are like me and like to run on state park trails, spend summers at the beach, and hike beautiful wonders like the Grand Canyon, then that answer is obvious and your future spawn will thank you for taking action.

Leave this earth better than it was when you entered. It’s easy to set a few “green” goals. When I returned home from the Canyon, I bought a reusable water bottle, tasked my roommates to recycle and started to collect reusable bags at the grocery store. After all, the earth has given us ALL a home for our entire lives, the least we can do is keep it clean. Now if these aren’t human issues, I frankly do not know what are.


By Samantha Leonard, Community Engagement Ambassador and junior human services major from Robbinsville, N.J. Samantha spends her time on campus serving with UD Alternative Break, Sexual Offense Support, and Greek life.