High School Essay Contest Winner Chosen

This year’s Utah winner is Anais Barrientos of Brigham City, sponsored by the Spade and Hope Garden Club. She will go on to compete at the National level for a $1,000 college scholarship. Here is her essay:

Waste and Natural Habitats

As the demand for land and resources continues to rise, our ability to supply this becomes increasingly difficult. Populations continue to leak into the remaining rural areas and our accessibility to natural resources becomes scarce. This leaves the untouched places in the world dwindling at an alarming rate. This is partially due to just the presence of humans but the majority of the negative effect on the land is created by our actions. Time after time, news article after news article, testimony after testimony, the same fact is made clear. We must change our actions to protect what is left of the natural habitats on Earth and the window of time we have to do so is closing in rapidly.

The human impact on the world has grown exponentially and continually renders negative effects. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of physical examples of this that exist in every corner of the world. Human impact is present everywhere, whether it be the oceans or the forests. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the perfect example of the disastrous effect our
plastic waste has and how in reality it never goes away, it simply breaks down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. Another great example of our massive footprint is simply the alarming increase in global warming which has been majorly caused by human emissions and activities. All of our activities produce some sort of waste, even agriculture, which is the leader in methane production. A few very simple conscious adaptations in how we consume and produce could completely alter the direction we are headed in.

As a society, if we were to simply put a damper on our plastic production and consumption, it would start a butterfly effect that would then benefit all things on Earth. Plastic is one of the leaders in worldwide waste and continues to reach new heights every day. All the plastic ever created is still somewhere on the Earth today, whether this be seen through the toxic
fumes produced or microplastics that litter our marine ecosystems. This damper could be as simple as banning plastic grocery bags or coffee stirrers. Many plastic products are completely unnecessary and can easily be replaced by other products like glass bottles and paper or reusable grocery sacks.

By reducing the plastic production on something small like that it sets in motion many other bans on small things that can be easily replaced. With less demand for these small, harmful plastic pieces there will be fewer companies that produce them. This allows for fewer harmful toxins to be dumped into the atmosphere, like acetone and benzene.

In addition to being cautious of unnecessary plastic materials, we can also become more conscious about how we consume our food. Compared to other countries the U.S. leads in annual food waste. One fix is being aware of what you have and what you need. Many times food is thrown away simply because it could not be eaten quickly enough and then expires. Some of the most common things to discard are dairy products like milk and cheese. This cycle of buying dairy products, throwing them away, and then buying them again is relentless. Having the millions of dairy farms in the United States filled to the brim with cattle, we produce a notable amount of methane which is added to the atmosphere and enhances the greenhouse effect surrounding Earth. By being more conscious of what we actually need we could shift our dairy consumption in a way that would reduce the numbers of cows raised for dairy farms.

Society is ever changing and the demand for bigger and better things continues to lead industries. Many times we are not aware of the thousands of ways we add to the degradation of our natural habitats and this needs to change. Living in ignorance is one of the most dangerous things we could do for future generations. There is a shift happening, and it is happening quickly. We must become more conscious of what we consume and produce in order to protect the things that are not able to do so for themselves, like our natural habitats.