Sadie Richter

Though our government holds most of the power in fighting climate change, we as Americans also have responsibility and we need to stop buying into the consumerism that fuels our production of pollution and waste. Being eco-minded is not convenient.

I spent this past summer interning with Green Iowa Americorps, logging 328 hours of work. I was the youngest one there. Because of the pandemic our team shifted focus from advocating for sustainability within schools to working with community members outdoors. Among the many great things we accomplished, I most enjoyed interacting with people on the trail during our work with the National Mississippi River Museum, monitoring mussels and water quality in a restored creek and floodplain that recently replaced part of a storm sewer. This taught me how much work there is to do in environmental activism beyond advocacy, and informed what I’d like to do in college and beyond.

Even before this internship, however, environmentalism has been a big part of my upbringing. Between fourth grade and my sophomore year of high school, I lived in Elkader, Iowa. I attended a small school where environmentally-friendly practices such as composting were normal and easy to implement. When I moved back to Dubuque last year and began attending a much larger high school, it was a big shift. I was shocked that my new school cafeteria used plastic utensils and styrofoam plates, and there was no composting at all. It was so crazy to me. Unlike my school in Elkader, we didn’t have a Green Team to address these issues, and decided I needed to create one. Twenty-five students joined our new Green Team last year, and we helped with recycling, coordinating speakers, and we were just getting into composting when the pandemic hit. We’ve been able to put on fundraisers this year despite the pandemic, and as President of the Green Team I find hope in each member who has stuck around; their passion and ideas keep me from feeling bogged down.

Seeing Iowan communities come together time and time again to respond to climate-related disasters like flooding and this year’s derecho, also gives me hope in the face of climate change. I’m so lucky to call the Midwest home, because people here are constantly stepping up to help each other out. To fight climate change, we need this kind of collective action where everyone is doing their part, and we need complete recognition of this climate emergency. This recognition needs to include climate justice and consider people who will be disproportionately affected by climate change, and must come from the government across party lines. Our government also needs to step up our game when it comes to lowering waste and pollution, and hold accountable giant corporations that contribute enormously to climate change. 

Though our government holds most of the power in fighting climate change, we as Americans also have responsibility and we need to stop buying into the consumerism that fuels our production of pollution and waste. Being eco-minded is not convenient. The problem is that Americans want everything to be fast and easy, so we don’t bring our own straws or reusable bags when we go out, and we keep choosing non-renewable resources, especially plastic. In the news I keep hearing about how we’re prioritizing the economy over all else, and putting convenience and money over care and conservation. I wish it was care over convenience all the time, and I know that if whole communities act with this urgent recognition in regards to climate, it would lead to astronomical change.

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