Voting on sustainability issues

Illustration by Tonesha Yazzie

While there are different ways to practice environmental sustainability, voting on these issues is an additional option for those who want to use their voice. 

Just last year, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a Climate Action Summit after announcing the 2019 theme: climate action for peace. According to the U.N. website, the theme was created to shine light on the importance of combating climate change. This has been a recent cause for concern and voters are making it a priority issue now more than ever before.

Beacon Research, an independent research company, conducted a survey on behalf of the Environmental Voter Project. The study came to the conclusion that 14% of registered voters listed climate change and the environment as their No. 1 priority over other issues. 

This is a big spike compared to its 2016 research project where polls showed only 2% to 6% of voters found climate change and the environment to be their top priority. 

According to founder Nathaniel Stinnett, the Environmental Voter Project found that climate and environmental voters are the most motivated compared to their counterparts. Voters who are motivated to make a change in the environment can be categorized as an environmental voter.  In the research project, climate and environmental voters were found to be the most willing to wait in line for an average of one hour 13 minutes to cast their vote for the 2020 election. 

Sara Kubisty, Arizona Student Association (ASA) climate justice director, said voting is important because some votes on the ballot can lead to choices being made by Arizona’s 6th Legislative District. 

 “The [Arizona] Legislative District 6 race is a big one,” Kubisty said. “The people in the state legislature can make some important decisions regarding climate, especially carbon emissions. These elected officials are pushing policy for standards in the state. They can make the choices for you, whether or not businesses can emit carbon emissions, and especially for universities. They can put regulations on renewable energy.”

Reps. David Schweikert and Hiral Tipirneni are running in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District election. Schweikert currently represents the 6th District of Arizona. 

In a press release provided by Schweikert’s website, he introduced the Carbon Removal, Efficient Agencies, Technology Expertise (CREATE) Act. This bill authorizes an approach to conduct research and develop carbon dioxide removal technology. 

On the other hand, Tipirneni said during an interview with  nonpartisan political site Blog for Arizona that her approach is to center her campaign around getting back into the Paris Agreement.

Arizona voters will have the chance to vote on environmental measures depending on one’s county. Voters registered in Maricopa and Pima County have the chance to vote on the ballot as a referral. Referrals, also known as legislative referrals, appear on a state or local ballot on account of a cast vote made by state legislature or local lawmakers. According to Ballotpedia, referrals can either amend a state’s constitution, enact a change in a state statute, propose a bond issue, propose a tax, amend a local charter, amend local ordinances or propose an advisory proposition for voters.

Voters in Glendale, Arizona can cast votes on whether or not they are in favor of the Parks and Recreation, Street Projects, Landfill Projects and Flood Control Projects bond. 

According to Ballotpedia, a “yes” vote will authorize the City of Glendale to sell up to $87.20 million general obligation bonds for parks and recreation projects, while a “no” vote will oppose this action. 

Ballotpedia reports how the landfill projects bond gives voters the possibility to support or oppose $9.90 million in general obligation bonds for creating and improving landfill projects. 

Students can lend a hand in pushing for sustainability not only by voting, but by getting involved on campus.

Freshman environmental science major Melissa Minato said there are a variety of ways for students to learn, teach and advocate for sustainability. 

“There are a lot of ways for NAU students to get involved on campus,” Minato said in an email interview. “For one, there are amazing clubs such as Green Jacks that advocate for sustainability and anyone is welcome to join to make a difference. There is an O2GO program that aims to minimize single-use plastics by allowing students to return their containers through a machine.” 

The O2GO program was created to reduce single-use plastic waste on campus. O2GO containers cost $5. Once students finish their meals, they must return the container back to an OZZI vending machine. OZZI is a sustainability system that eliminates disposable to-go boxes and instead replaces them with reusable containers. 

Once the container is returned, the OZZI vending machine will give the student a token. From then forward, students will hand the token to the cashier in exchange for an O2GO container. Two of these machines are located in University Union and du Bois Center. 

Minato said students can individually join the sustainability initiative by composting, recycling and utilizing reusable water bottles. Students can also cut back on water and electricity usage by taking shorter showers, walking or biking to class and shutting off their electronics. Minato advised students to invest in power strips to reduce energy vampires. 

These are devices that continuously drain energy and power even when they are not being used. The United States Department of Energy provides strategies and solutions on combating  energy vampires. Examples of energy vampires include standby coffee makers, hair dryers and cellphones. 

Ann Marie Chischilly, executive director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, said when voting, one should take note of whether or not their values are reflected. 

“For all the different initiatives on the ballot, every person has to read them and read through to see if it applies to them,” Chischilly said. “We’re accountable to ourselves and our children, and our children’s children.”