A Walk towards Conservation: Waste will Never be the Answer

A Walk towards Conservation: Waste will Never be the Answer
It was a hot summer Sunday morning, a little less than twelve years ago, when my family walked (though my sisters and I did this begrudgingly) home from church. When we finally reached our house, not but a mere five blocks away, we each had one thought on our minds, breakfast. While one of us emptied the dishwasher, and another began to set the table, the other would help my mom prepare the eggs. And as this almost habitual process unraveled, a large aluminum bowl, not far from the stove, would begin to fill with the remains and peels of uncooked fruits and vegetables, egg shells, and coffee grinds. And so this was the one last culminating and thoughtless chore.
One lucky daughter had the fortunate honor of delivering the remnants of that aluminum bowl to the large, beautiful, and unidentifiable mound of composting materials in the backyard. And through the practicing of such behaviors as the recycling of such waste, being trained not to hold open the refrigerator door in such a sloth-like manner, and learning to turn off the lights, I suppose I have always cared for the environment. At a very young age I learned to recognize that even egg shells can be used for cultivating gardens and that waste is bad. I have my Birkenstocks, and listen to activism laden music, and debate global environmental issues with my wonderfully (and I don?t say this sarcastically) conservative roommate. But do I honestly actually do anything for the environment? Not really, which is what prompted me to intentionally use higher education as an opportunity to seek information, on the so called ?environmental problems,? that ominously hover over our society. First semester, freshman year, I took egee 102, Energy Conservation for Environmental Protection. Under the sincere guidance of Professor Sarma Pisupati, I learned about methods of conserving energy through the use of energy efficient devices and appliances in the home (ranging anywhere from efficient lighting to my favorite, geothermal heat pumps, a wondrous source of clean and free energy). I learned that the production of energy through means of burning coal and oil release such greenhouse gasses as carbon dioxide. Moreover, I learned that consumers practicing energy efficient behaviors can both drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and (perhaps even more importantly) save consumers money. Save me money? I believe this had the most profound effect on my own personal philosophy concerning environmental issues, for what would keep any individual from conserving energy, if it would prove to be economically beneficial. I also became aware of the common misconception that carbon dioxide is an ?evil? force behind all of our environmental problems. In fact carbon dioxide is a necessary component of the Greenhouse Effect. Essentially, the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere trap infrared light which in turn heats the planet. However, our wasteful emissions of such greenhouse gasses as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, are expediting, what is supposed to be a gradual, climate change, hence ?global warming? (Kates et al. par.1). Thus egee 102 fundamentally changed the way I viewed such environmental problems as global warming. Upon completing the course, I was almost positive that there was some government/corporation conspiracy which was deliberately withholding valuable methods of saving both money and the environment. Moreover, this rash personal judgment was the product of my own ignorance of the existing methods of energy conservation, prior to taking this class. However, upon ?Googling? the phrase ?energy efficiency?, I realized that this information was nothing new but readily available to the public. In fact the first site that appeared was that of the ?U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy?. As I browsed the government site, all the information that I could possibly wish to find on the topic of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency were available through the simple click of my mouse. After contemplating on how drastically wrong my original hypothesis was I met with Professor Pisupati. As I bombarded him with questions as to why people don?t know anything about energy efficiency, and asked why energy efficiency is not the common practice of all people, he began to explain that the primary reason for such behavior is a lack of education. Professor Pisupati commented on how there are many people who fail to realize that the world?s environmental problems are issues of today and not the future. Moreover, he observed that many improvement stores, such as Lowes, provide their shoppers with ample information and supplies for transforming ones home into energy efficient one. However, since consumers generally do not understand the effects of their own choices on such environmental problems as ?Global Warming?, people tend to dismiss the simple solutions to rather gigantic problems. But does a lack or education really account for the general sense of apathy that plagues the public conception of global warming and methods of conservation? I believe this offensive dismissal is routed in something much deeper. Why do people choose to practice wasteful rather than environmentally guided consumer behaviors? What could be the possible explanation for these senseless actions, when simple and small lifestyle changes can make a significant global difference? Is it because environmental problems are so overwhelming and controversial that it is just easier for people to ignore the destruction we impose on our earth rather than confront it? And as I began to search for possible reasons as to why we choose to overlook environment issues, it became increasingly apparent that the only way one can truly analyze the common environmental choices consumers make today, is to understand human behavior. Moreover, the only way we can truly understand behavior is to understand human motives and how they determine consumer choices. First, according to Claudia Strauss, co-editor of Human Motives and Cultural Models, traditional theories on the psychology of motivation are primarily concerned with the ?biological needs and psychological drives that influence the behaviors of organisms,? (D?Andrade et al. 2). All animals have a physiological need for food and water which consequently drive the states of hunger and thirst. These drives naturally provide the necessary motivation for animals eat and drink, thus satisfying feelings of hunger and thirst (3). However, when evaluating the complex motives of the consumer, especially in respect to ?ecologically responsible consumer behavior?, issues of animal instinct are no longer in question, but rather the culturally defined ?need? to waste. In Mark Villacorta, Richard Koestner, and Natasha Lekes journal article, Further Validation of the Motivation Toward the Environment Scale, they emphasize three forms of motivation as identified by Deci & Ryan?s Self-Determination Theory. According to the authors of this journal, ?these motivations can be ordered along a continuum to the extent of which they are endorsed by the individual,? (Villacorta et al. 488). First there is intrinsic motivation, which is basically concerned with an individual motivation to act in a manner for his personal sake. Contrastingly, extrinsic motivation is based on the expectations of rewards or punishments and is commonly associated with both an individuals? sense of obligation and personal identity, values, and goals (488). This explains how individuals who value the quality of our environment are generally more likely to be consumers who practice environmentally conscious behaviors (Poortinga et al. 87). Finally, there is amotivation which reflects an individuals feeling of a lack of control between his or her actions and the outcomes they produce (Villacorta et al. 488). It is common for consumers to feel that their personal consumption style has little effect on the environment due to the expansiveness of such problems as global warming. Thus they experience a sense of amotivation, or lack of control of the situation, which explains their tendency to ignore the problem. Ideally, human beings would have an intrinsic motivation to practice environmentally conscious consumption (Moisander, par.7). However, since this is obviously not the case, these distinctions in the varied forms of motivation offer some insight into the importance of understanding how motives generally direct individual behaviors toward the environment in our ?increasingly convenience- and consumption-oriented society? (par. 9). Despite motivation being a prime indicator of how a consumer will behave environmentally, an individual?s ability to perform a specific behavior is also important to grasp. Ability is concerned with both the resources and opportunities available to an individual in order to ?impede or facilitate behavior,? (Moisander, par. 6). Unfortunately, grassroot movements that are often developed in an attempt to locally respond to the concerns of global climate change lack the technological resources needed to implement energy efficient improvements in the community. Moreover, it is within the context of government and corporate policies that these institutions inhibit the resources local efforts need to reduce emissions. This is also partially due to their lack of support and the implementation of sanctions or rewards to encourage or discourage positive or negative environmental behaviors within the local community (28). On a smaller scale, monetary resources are often needed to implement individual environmentally friendly methods of conserving energy. However, the prior could be used in an individual?s justification for their own failure to behave as environmentally orientated consumers. In the case of the citizens of developed nations, money cannot be used as an excuse because our livelihood predominately and depressingly revolves around our own pursuance of such worthy pieces of paper. Nevertheless, the ability is just as important as the motivation when determining a specific behavior. It has been suggested that ?social systems typically collapse as a function of their relationship with their natural resource and energy base, but that collapse can be avoided by redefining society?s relationship with its energy source, or by expanding on it,? (Klupfel et al. 29). Since fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource, ?expanding on it? is obviously not a viable option. Moreover, there is little global consensus over how we can successfully transition from behaviors which endanger our future sustainability to those which will promote a stable world population (Parris 2). Despite these facts, we can adopt methods of conservation which will not only allow the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere to stabilize, but will also allow the current rate of global warming to make a graceful and hopeful sweet sounding retard. So what is the problem? The fact is that most people generally lack the motivation to adopt an ?ecologically oriented consumption style,? (Moisander par.1). We mindlessly believe that ?global warming? is a global problem, rather than an individual one, and are constantly in a personal battle between deliberately ignoring the effects of our own waste and a subconscious fear of our own consumption. And I think that is where my own personal problem lies. How can we be so blinded by our own intrinsic, lazy, arrogant, and wasteful motives, to not recognize the environmental and economic benefits of conserving energy? Yes, all human behavior is ultimately governed by an individual?s motivation to meet his or her own intrinsic needs and extrinsic goals. But when it comes time to make a choice on our own actions toward the environment, we more often then not, will tend act in such a way that will sustain our own interests. But conserving energy is in our best interest! We are motivated by our own experiences and what we individually know. This makes it easy for us to claim ignorance to both the global and economic issues concerning conservation if the effects of our own waste are not bludgeoned over our very own heads. It is too easy for us to ignore the global issues that ?don?t apply to me?. Additionally, we don?t have to be passionate or angry or alienate ourselves from environmental issues for they are not issues of blame or guilt. It is just time to make a change. It is not too late to adopt economically beneficial behaviors which require little effort. But we must try to implement individual change to benefit not only ourselves but a collective whole. Thus, I say let us all learn together how to walk home, start conserving the energy, and maybe even realize that waste will never be the answer.

A Walk towards Conservation: Waste will Never be the Answer 9.6 of 10 on the basis of 2990 Review.