I am admittedly, and shamefully, a former climate-change denier. There. I said it! I believed that global warming was real, but thought that humans played little to no role in the process. It has happened before, and we need to stop obsessing over something we have no control over. I was not a person you would consider to be environmentally conscious, at all; in fact, those “tree-huggers” often annoyed me, with their suggestions that I make changes in my own life, to stop this process I didn’t think I had a role in.
I started working for Gulf Coast Environmental Systems just a few months ago, and quickly learned that I was wrong. In that short time, my entire perception of the planet and our role, has changed. As the marketing associate, I am responsible for the content that goes out on our social media platforms. This requires me to do a lot of research into all of the equipment GCES offers, what this equipment does, and why it is essential. For those not familiar with pollution control equipment, this is a quick, incredibly simplified, explanation: in most manufacturing processes, volatile organic compounds are used, or produced as a byproduct or means of production. Pollution control equipment is used to process or abate those dangerous chemicals and compounds, so they do not end up in the air, soil, or water. This encompasses just about every industry you can think of; food, beverage, packaging, steel, natural gas, oil, cosmetics, automotive, paint, pharmacy, printing… to name just a few.
Each article I researched and wrote opened my eyes just a little bit more, to the role we as humans are playing in the declining health of our planet. Sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, toluene, all common products of our industrialized lives, that until now, I knew nothing about. These are incredibly dangerous, when left untreated. Responsible for acid rain, the destruction of healthy soil, the decline in ocean health… not to mention the affects on human health! These VOCs are scientifically linked to everything from diabetes, asthma, and cancer, to fertility, and fetal development. And I was blissfully unaware they even existed.
One of the things that happened in my home growing up was the collection of plastic grocery bags, into other grocery bags, which were kept in the closet, “just in case.” As an adult, I collected my plastic bags, like adults do; then each time I moved, threw out the raging bundle of plastic, that I never fully used. I still have a small collection of bags in the closet, because old habits die hard, but I now carry reusable grocery bags. I even find that I like them a lot better, because they hold more, and are much stronger than traditional shopping bags. I do have to keep two sets, that I rotate, because I often forget to put them back in the car; but I am working on it. Plus, I know I am not adding to the massive, and dangerous, swaths of plastic, floating in our oceans. I am also an avid straw user. I basically cannot drink a beverage, without a straw. I would buy plastic straws in bulk, use each one once, then throw it in the trash. One of the articles I shared for our Earth Day Tips campaign had an image of ocean wildlife, dead, with straw sticking out of it’s nose, in addition other gruesome scenes. I was writing article after article about sustainability, and realized I was not living a sustainable life. So, I purchased a set of stainless steel straws, a straw cleaner, and I donated the straws that were left in my cabinet to my children’s school, for crafting. The biggest change made in my household were the self-care products I purchase. I realized how much waste my everyday use products create, and looked for ways to reduce this. I switched to shampoo and conditioner bars; removing the plastic bottle from the equation, while using cruelty-free, fair traded, vegan products. I feel so much more comfortable, knowing that I am using only natural, and high-quality products on myself, and my children. I have purchased refillable dish and hand soap dispensers; as a family with two young children, there is a lot of hand and dish washing taking place, and a ton of plastic being thrown out. Not anymore. We use ecologically friendly products, and reuse their containers. I have even started cleaning the waste out of my coffee machine pods, and recycling the plastic parts.
There are still a few places I am trying to make the change, but struggling… I really like my current paper products! But I am sure I will get there one day. My biggest inspiration to do so, outside of my children, is our oceans. Since seeing Free Willy, at the age of 3, I have had a lifelong obsession with marine life, Orca whales, specifically. I had whale curtains, whale toys, whale books, whale themed clothes, you name it… I owned it, with a whale on it. I am a secret weapon at trivia night, saving the day more than once, with my random and vast whale knowledge. I find them to be incredible creatures, and one of, if not the most, advanced of all living things. The research required of me to do my job here at Gulf Coast Environmental Systems has shown me that not abating and treating these chemicals, can have dire effects on the ocean, and my beloved Orca whales. Did you know that when an Orca whale dies of the pacific coast of the United States, it’s body is so polluted, it is considered toxic hazardous waste? That is how polluted their bodies become, from human produced pollution. Flame retardants, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides, all of these have been found in dead whale blubber… and all of these can be abated using pollution control equipment. Their ability to reproduce is being compromised, and their numbers are dropping quickly, and drastically. The idea that my children will not get to see, and learn about, killer whales, breaks my heart. This is why I am so passionate about GCES, and what we are doing, by providing the best chemical abatement solutions available. This is how we save the ocean, and the creatures that call it home.
In my short time in this industry, I have found that there are a lot of people in it for the money, as with any industry. But I can say with confidence, I work with people who care about what they do, and their passion as changed me. They understand the importance of pollution control, not just on a business level, but on a global sustainability level. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to learn, to open my eyes, and to make changes in an effort to reduce my family’s carbon footprint.