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Culture shock in my own culture

There are some things you just don’t do, even in front of your family. You know what kinds of things I’m talking about—the type that earned you a scowl from your mother and, if you were really pushing the limits, a trip to the bathroom.

In France, “no no’s” include not disposing of your paper goods in the correct bin and forgetting to unplug your charger from the outlet—two things Americans hardly think twice about.

I’ve never left the United States, so my experience with other cultures is limited to French24 articles and Hulu’s slim selection of French television shows, but the news I’m sharing here isn’t ground-breaking. You can see it in the trash on the side of the roads and the plastic bags in the rivers: Americans have a very different perspective on earth-care than much of the world.

I nearly blush in embarrassment while listening to my French professor discuss the habits of the French—did I know that the average French person’s carbon footprint is less than half of an American person’s, or that the French have, in the past 30 years, managed to decrease their overall carbon emissions?

No, I didn’t know those things, but now that I do, I’m a little obsessed with changing my carbon-consuming ways. In 2015, the Global Carbon Atlas compiled a list of every country’s share of CO2 emissions, and the United States ranked number two worldwide, exuding roughly 17.62 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person annually, adding up to roughly 5.49 billion metric tons every year.

The numbers are hard to digest, but solutions are easy to come by. Whether you’re recycling old papers, unplugging your chargers or carpooling with friends, every small effort adds up to significant change. Just one recycled can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on your iPhone, and 100 cans will save enough energy to light your bedroom for two full weeks.

The Bible is clear about our responsibility as Christians to take care of the Earth–it was so important to God that it was His first commandment to mankind in Genesis 1:28. I don’t intend to take that lightly.

Stewardship of the earth is a great duty that we’ve been trusted with. Let’s not waste our greatest gift due to ignorance and frivolity.