Oregon Wildfire

Firefighter night crews work in the Jones Fire at night, located in Nevada County, California.

Being a college student during the days of COVID-19 is undoubtedly stressful, and being someone who cares about the environment makes it even harder. Sustainability was a growing topic at East Carolina University, set to be on the forefront of conversation across campus this year. Instead, most of this progress seems to have halted in its tracks.

Greenville has suspended the majority of its recycling efforts. Those blue disposable masks are littered across every busy street in town. Sustainability issues may be on the back burner, but the problems haven’t gone away. There is still plenty we can all do to live safely and also sustainably.

The human race and the COVID-19 virus have a very ironic parallel. COVID-19 has been so successful because it multiplies rapidly and quickly spreads throughout the host. It causes short-term damage that can range from very mild to severe, however the long-term effects are unknown.

Coronavirus rapidly spread across the globe and caused an abrupt shift in our societal system. This terrible event was not surprising to the many scientists who have been predicting a global pandemic for decades. If you reread those statements, this time in the context of humans and their impact on earth, they still hold true.

Continuing with that parallel, I believe everyone has a responsibility in keeping the earth safe in the same way they are responsible for keeping their family members safe during the pandemic. It’s simply a matter of thinking beyond yourself and taking an initiative. No, this doesn’t mean you should drop everything and go buy a metal straw and a compost bin. Just take a few moments out of your day to do something good for the planet.

A small change every day leads to a big impact. Next time you see that cup on the sidewalk, carry it with you to the trash. If your mask falls out of your pocket, take the time to pick it up before you continue on your way. I promise you that doing something good beyond yourself will brighten your day, which is something we all need in a time like this.

Many of us are already taking steps forward in sustainable practices without even realizing. We’re driving less since all of our lectures are online and eating at home more often. Employers and employees are learning that they can be just as productive without meeting in the office every day. Cities across the country are seeing reductions in emissions. These are all positives we can use as motivation to continue going forward once we’ve returned to a sense of normalcy. But for now, there is still plenty to do.

I encourage everyone reading this to try and do more for the place we call home. No matter your political opinions, there’s a multitude of reasons why we would want a cleaner, more sustainable environment to live in. There are groups on campus who continue to work towards these goals, even during the pandemic. Consider joining or volunteering for the sustainability clubs on campus: the ECO-Pirates, and ReLeaf. Do your own research and connect with the ECU Sustainability Office.

There are great opportunities to get a break from the monotony of online lecture and do something positive for the community, you just have to take the first steps to get involved. Overall, keep sustainability on your mind and be open to making changes. It may help you stay positive during these difficult times.

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