Environmental initiatives seen outside the United States

By Abby Wargo


Sustainability has been at the forefront of humanity’s attention in recent years. With symptoms of climate change rapidly multiplying, making changes to our current living style is becoming more prevalent as the necessity for action increases.

When I visited Ireland at the beginning of January, I saw firsthand how the residents have been doing their part to help the environment. It was comforting to see that there is worldwide concern for the well-being of our planet, and it was reassuring to know that it is possible for change to happen.

While Ireland is not listed as one of the world’s most sustainable countries, neither is the United States, and from my observations, the Irish seem to be making more of an effort.

“A wait and see approach is not an option. We can act to limit the potential impacts of climate change by starting the adaptation process early enough to ensure that we can take advantage of any opportunities that climate change might present and that we choose options that avoid the considerable costs that climate change may impose in the absence of adaptation,” Climate Ireland, a research service dedicated to getting citizens and lawmakers invested in sustainable practices, wrote on their website.

One of the first things I noticed was that in many houses, in order to get hot water, the water heater must first be boosted. Attached directly to a water line, boosters can provide more hot water than the hot water tank and increase efficiency. While this was my least favorite adaptation I had to make over the course of my trip, I can understand how much energy this method saves.

Every single public restroom I used utilized hand dryers; there were no paper towel dispensers anywhere I went in the country. Hand dryers are notably more sustainable, as they are energy efficient, do not waste paper, and leave less of a carbon footprint. In fact, hand dryers are so prolific in Ireland that there is even an Instagram account that rates them, @irish_hand_dryer_reviews.

Just as in America, using reusable cups, utensils, and straws is prevalent, although I noticed the promotion and usage of these items was far greater in Ireland. Almost every coffee shop that we went to had reusable cups available as well as metal straws, and from observation, many people have been taking advantage of them.

Recycling is also a regular practice, to the point where recycling bins were more ubiquitous than trash receptacles. While we were driving across the countryside, at every place we stopped we tried to throw away the trash that accumulated in the car, but we had to wait a long time before we found a receptacle that was not devoted to recycling.

When I compare these seemingly small efforts to those in the United States, we fall short. Under the Trump administration, 95 environmental rules and regulations have been either reversed or rolled back, especially those concerning pollution and emissions, oil drilling, and planning and infrastructure. These rollbacks, according to a report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center that was quoted in the New York Times, can “significantly increase” greenhouse gas emissions and will potentially lead to thousands of deaths caused by poor air quality. And that is only one of the myriads of negative effects climate change will have on this country.

I was only in Ireland for a little less than two weeks, but I noticed multiple environmental initiatives and a general willingness to adapt to climate concerns in that short time. The United States, and its citizens, should follow their example and make as many changes as possible to help reduce the impact of climate change. We are all on the same planet, and we are all in this together.

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