By Bailey Poe | Originally Published February 1, 2023
In the year 2023, the American media is filled with tons of ways to “go green” or “lower your carbon footprint.” However, when looking into how industries or companies are actually making an environmental impact in America, it seems as though many statements are made on the surface level as a result of “greenwashing.” With the exception of poor sustainability practices in the United States, it is the countries that are most impacted by climate change that are outwardly doing the most to combat climate change. This effort can be seen in action when having the opportunity to visit places like Guatemala.
An article from NBC explains that, “Guatemala lurches between intense droughts and devastating floods – two extremes made worse by climate change.” Climate change also significantly impacts food and water security in Guatemala, leaving “more than one-fifth of the population with dangerously high levels of food insecurity.” Having this preconceived knowledge, it is incredible to see how much the people of that country are doing to combat climate change.
In Guatemala, local fast food chains such as Taco Bell and McDonalds do not have any straws, instead having lids with a pre-cut hole, eliminating the need for straws. Junior musical theater major Ricky Cardenas, said that, “Since going to Guatemala as a little kid, I always picked up on how much the fast food chain restaurants used sustainable practices in distribution. Taco Bell in the city used reusable bottles for all sauces and had them out on each table for those who chose to dine in. Since I’ve had the opportunity to recently visit the country, I was so happy with the continuous push and effort to little to no plastic use in fast food service.” The common practices of production of goods is also a reflection of sustainability in Guatemala. The colorful cotton, dyed by natural materials such as plants and insects, is used to make weaved designs in many goods such as blankets, purses, shirts and headbands. One of the biggest differences in sustainability in the United States versus Guatemala is farming. In America, there is a farming practice widely used called “tillage.” The Brittantica definition states that tillage is “the manipulation of the soil into a desired condition by mechanical means.” This process kills weeds and manages crop residue; however, this practice does damage to soil structure. According to USDA, “soil tillage can increase the likelihood of soil erosion, nutrient runoff, and the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.” It is this release of greenhouse gasses, specifically CO2, that directly impacts global warming. In Guatemala, there was no sight of tillage farming. All of the farming was done without the use of mechanical machines and through “no till” farming practices. USDA also states that “no-till reduces soil erosion, increases soil biological activities, and increases organic soil matter.” This sustainable agriculture plays a huge role in the longevity of our planet.
When looking beyond sustainability in Guatemala, other countries impacted by climate change have made changes institutionally. According to the 2020 Climate Risk Index presented during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Japan and the Philippines were ranked No. 1 and 2 for countries most affected by climate change. Yet, in both of these countries we see big companies, such as McDonalds, get rid of single use plastics. Junior musical theater major Nico Nazal said, “In my recent travels to Asia, it’s become apparent that countries like the Philippines, Japan and Singapore have made strides in reducing plastic usage by charging extra for plastic bags and reshaping their lids at fast food restaurants so there is no more use for straws.”
Sustainability on a global scale is possible, but in countries like America, where companies follow less of a national change, it is of utmost importance for individuals to hold themselves environmentally accountable. Continuing to vote for a greener future by electing eco-conscious leaders, as well as decreasing our consumption and emphasizing environmental education, will push industries and companies in America to take steps torward a sustainable future.