Thirty-two miles down and three remaining, left to traverse before I would arrive at my home for the night. My legs felt like Jell-O, wobbling on a plate being extracted from a fridge. Balance the only thing between a refreshing dessert and a mess on the floor, in my case, balance ensuring my position on my bicycle. With front wind from the east, today’s pedaling left my stomach rumbling as I walked across the parking lot. This pitstop was a necessity, for my mental and physical stamina. With a protein bar in one hand and a water bottle in the other, I walked towards a trailhead, surrounded by mountains so large, their peaks touched the low-hanging clouds.

Iceland had been my dwelling grounds for two weeks, at this point as I biked from one campsite to the next, exploring and hiking along the way. My bike was equipped with a front loader, stuffed with a sleeping bag, along with pannier bags stuffed with granola, nuts, and ramen. As I crossed the southern coast, I was humbled by Iceland’s nature. I had seen lava explode from an active volcano, black sand beaches, and majestic waterfalls. However, missing from my list of awe-inspiring sights were the famous glaciers, until this unexpected pitstop.

I walked down the trail which eventually opened to overlook glistening ice, deep crevasses, and surrounding vegetation. As I stood, absorbing the view, a symphony of water dripped from the glaciers into a pool of brown water below. This trip occurred in August of 2021, since then, it is estimated that the earth has lost over a ton of ice due to global warming. Scientists and professionals in the field approximate that the rate of melting glaciers will not slow down but accelerate as our species continues to treat our world as a disposable commodity.

This bike trip granted me a deep appreciation for the natural world and showed me the necessity of adopting environmental awareness. It is not only the responsibility of consumers to make intentional purchasing decisions, but also the responsibility of companies to act with environmental awareness. Companies can “go green” and reduce their carbon footprint by using recyclable packaging, limiting plastic products, eliminating Styrofoam, and sourcing their materials locally, to reduce carbon emissions off gassed during shipment.

Packaging is involved in the delivery of online purchases and unfortunately, a large portion of these materials do not decompose for many years. Landfills overflow with polystyrene packing peanuts and other Styrofoam material which often take over 500 years to decompose. If such items do not make it to the dump, they can be found floating in oceans, lakes, and rivers for years on end. Tape and plastic-coated envelopes are also great burdens for the ecosystem and equally prevalent.

In recent years, there has been great innovation fueling alternative packaging products. I urge companies to incorporate such items into their repertoire with the goal of exclusively using environmentally safe materials. These options include compostable products made from plant-based items like bamboo or bio-poly substances. Recycled packaging is also a valid option, along materials derived from mycelium, and cornstarch. I have witnessed the splendor of ice caps, heard active melting, and felt the impact of global warming, as has the rest of the world, with heat waves and torrential downpours, a now common occurrence. The responsibility lies in consumers and producers to make intentional decisions and choose packaging materials that are environmentally sustainable. I encourage companies to utilize environmentally friendly packaging for the health of our planet which directly correlates to the benefit of humankind.

Essay by: Magdalen Garrity
New York University

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