There is an urgent need across the globe to incorporate more environmental sustainability practices into our daily lives. Although it can be undesirable to hold ourselves accountable for our destructive habits, I find comfort in knowing there are steps I can personally take to make changes that will enhance our society. I carry a high level of self-awareness, so I was not shocked at the numerous environmental problems I found within my own household. I decided to capture an image of the pile of plastic grocery bags my family collects for this project. I feel this item is extremely prevalent within households, even though it’s negative environmental impacts have been heavily emphasized for years. I volunteered at a homeless shelter in Baltimore City last summer, and every day we were handing out bagged lunches to the homeless. The plastic bags were constantly thrown all over the streets and left. In addition, I worked at the National Aquarium one summer, and learned so much about the impact plastic has on our oceans and marine life. Although it is discouraging that I cannot do much to change the ways of my family members, this project has encouraged me to make a sustainability plan for when I do move out.
I live in an exceptionally beautiful area, a short drive from Jerusalem. The rolling hills and forests outside my window greet me every morning with a bright sunrise. The natural wonder of the hikes and paths nearby is often marred by a litter problem, unfortunately. The city nearby has a few holes in its garbage disposal infrastructure that allows some trash to take flight and deposit itself on the streets and hills nearby. I am constantly confronted by this pollution in the environment, simply because of how natural the environment would be otherwise.
Consciously finding an example was frighteningly easy. My chosen photo is from a street that I take often. I go past frequently enough to watch trash collect in the area, blowing away and being refreshed periodically. I always notice it on my walks. It is also significant as it lies roughly on the border between the polluting city and a less polluting neighborhood. It reminds me of how pollution has widespread and far-reaching effects, even in areas that don’t themselves pollute heavily.
Looking at this environmental problem was really disappointing. It shows how little we as humans care about our environment. It also made me sad because this picture was taken very close to my neighborhood. I wish everyone cared enough to take the time to make the world a better place, by doing something as simple as picking up after ourselves. I selected this picture because it showed how a potentially beautiful, planted area was simply trashed. It made me picture what this little section of the street COULD look like. This picture means we need to do better, we all need to pitch in more, we need to be cleaner, and we need to realize what acts like these are doing to our environment. Littering leads to many types of pollution, affects plants and crops, and can contribute to various help problems among humans. This picture makes me ask a few questions. Why do our waste management companies slack off, why are we throwing a lot of trash on the ground, and why are we making our environment worse for our health? We need to come together to make the earth, our local environment, and our health purer.
Deliberately looking for environmental problems was more difficult than I expected it to be. I found myself struggling to find an actual problem, rather than one that would loosely fit the prompt. Though there are many problems facing the environment, I wanted to find an issue that the general public has become blind to. I started thinking about different household items and how their disposal may affect the environment. The item that I chose was the toothbrush. It is an item that is used every day and is supposed to be replaced every three months. This means that the average person goes through four toothbrushes a year. I started thinking about how four toothbrushes a year does not seem dramatic, but those four toothbrushes multiplied by the population of the United States is equal to over 1.3 billion toothbrushes a year. This made me think about how toothbrushes are disposed because I usually just throw my toothbrush away in the garbage; however, I learned that toothbrushes can be recycled through special programs, but not through the regular recycling. Due to a lack of awareness of these programs most toothbrushes end up in landfills rather than recycling facilities. Toothbrushes are an item that we do not usually think too much about when it comes to environmental issues, but we must be more conscious about how we dispose of them.
It was tough to deliberately look for photos, I honestly struggled trying to decide what to photograph. I could see a lot of problems in the area: trash, plastic bottles, old masks etc. I finally decided on photographing household objects commonly found in the bathrooms of many individuals. Sunscreen, wet wipes, and exfoliating body wash. I decided to photograph these three items because they all effect the ocean life, and I absolutely love the ocean, and I use these products and I had no idea that these products were causing so much harm. I especially love using products that exfoliate my skin and leave it feeling smooth. I will no longer use the products containing the harmful ingredients. I will make a conscious effort to make more environmentally friendly choices. Exfoliating body wash contains microbeads which add in the exfoliation of skin but cause many problems for ocean life. “Clouds of discarded microbeads make up a toxic debris that settles on river and ocean floors. Marine worms ingest these toxins and then, when they’re eaten by fish or other predators, the fish gobble up microbead poisons along with the worms.” (Animals Australia, 2015) Sunscreen is contains highly toxic ingredients named oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene which harm the coral life, and many reefs of the ocean. Wet wipes contain microplastic that can harm the ocean life. “when marine wildlife eat plastic debris like wet wipes or discarded plastic bags (common among turtles, who mistake the bags for jellyfish), “it just stays in the stomach of the animals and quite often they just die of starvation.” (Romain, 2017)
Animals Australia. (2015, August 27). Plastic (not) fantastic: microbeads are poisoning our oceans. https://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/plastic-microbeads-poisoning-marine-life.php
Romain, A. (2017, June 7). Wet Wipes Are A Huge Environmental Problem, & We Need To Talk About It. Romper. https://www.romper.com/p/wet-wipes-are-a-huge-environmental-problem-we-need-to-talk-about-it-62558
Looking for environmental problems was easy, some more than others. For example, pollution from trash and chemicals is quite easy and finding products in our home was also easy. For my example, I took a picture of cigarettes. Cigarettes are a problem all around, they are bad for your health and for the environment. They tend to be thrown all around outside, whether it is on the ground, in water, or in an ash tray. Chemicals from the smoke leach in the air and the buds on the ground leach into the soil or spread into our waterways. My thoughts were that this is a very hard problem to solve and what would it take to keep buds from being thrown anywhere. My feelings were frustration because I think it something people look over. It might be seen as small compared to other issues, but it still harms the planet. I selected this image because I think it is important to bring attention non-popular issues. Cigarettes have been a problem for years but the only so little has been done to fix it. I also, personally wanted to know more about how this affects the earth in detail. This way I can educate others that contribute to this problem, especially my family members who smoke.
The photo above was taken in the basement of my home in Charles Village. It was strange to look for potential environmental problems, especially in my own home. Looking critically at the structures that made up my everyday surroundings was a little scary. The picture shows old, rusted pipes with paint scraping off. Behind the pipes, chunks of bricks have been removed from the walls. I looked up on the Baltimore City County Housing Records to see that my house was built in 1921. Aging infrastructure is a big problem all over the country, but especially in cities and how it relates to public health. Old systems are more likely to break and lead to a public health crisis. In 1986, lead pipes were banned from new developments. However, unless pipes have been replaced throughout a house, lead pipes could still exist in the old infrastructure that exists in cities. This loophole and many others in the housing code have allowed dangerous and old infrastructure to remain in homes and buildings around the country with. If my home, in a relatively affluent neighborhood looks like this, what problems are houses in poorer neighborhoods facing that no one realizes? This picture is a representation of how aging infrastructure is all around us, often hidden, but still posing severe risks to our health.
As I was walking through my neighborhood, I realized that there was a lot of trash in the area, it was very upsetting to me. How can some people be so careless and just leave their garbage on the ground? At first, I was confused on where to start looking for environmental problems, but I remembered that usually small areas in the neighborhood, such as near a sidewalk have usually been littered on. The reason I chose to take pictures of the images I posted is because they stood out to me the most. The images show how certain parts of the areas have a lot of trash and other things. It is very hard to see the environment being taken care of so poorly. I plan to pick up every piece of trash that I come across in the neighborhood from now on.
I grew up in rural Massachusetts surrounded by woods, lakes, and rivers. Every day I stepped outside and was greeted by what I thought to be ‘normal air’. It was sweet and woody with a hint of dried leaves during the fall months. Since moving to Baltimore the thing that I notice the most is how distinctly different the air here tastes and feels compared to my home. The stale gas and garbage fumes that fill Baltimorian lungs are quite different from the air of my childhood.
The picture above is from my favorite location on the Hopkins campus, pictured is also the reason it is my favorite. The balcony of the JHU rec center is the perfect vantage point to watch the sun as it sets over Baltimore. On clear evenings the sky is streaked with shades of red, orange, and pink.
A number of atmospheric factors contribute to the color of sunsets, but there is a commonly held belief that air pollution makes more beautiful sunsets. This statement is fairly subjective but it is known that both natural and synthetic aerosols produce more red and orange hues in sunsets. Regardless of if particulate matter and other pollutants dispensed by urban areas disrupt or allow for color-filled ends to the day, the fact remains that the pleasures which allow us to escape from the chaos of society for a moment are also, often, a product of the negative ways our society treats the world.
It was just nearing dusk when I was on my walk back to my apartment on the way back from the store. There’s a garbage heap in the alley behind my house and as I was passing it I saw something on the gate that seemed weird. I stopped to look and turned on my phone flashlight to try to figure out what it was: a rat climbing the gate. As I peered closer with my flashlight more rats scurried out from the garbage around the gate. In fear I ran the rest of the way to my apartment and away from the kingdom of rats. While seeing this pile of trash grosses me out and makes me nervous because of its occupants, it’s unusually normal to find similar heaps all over the city when actively looking for them. While disappointing to see, it becomes more clear why these unsightly piles exist in the city. As with many instances of pollution, we have to ask: who is responsible, who is to blame, and who will pay to clean it up? And because these questions exist in the legal and municipal practices of the city it is often these never do get cleaned up because it becomes a problem of whose property and whose money. This image is an important call to action. Preventing pollution can help prevent pests, an unfortunate problem that Baltimore City has become known for.