Step into a Sustainable Future

Step into a Sustainable Future

Emma Streano

Sustainability can be an intimidating topic for some,
especially students who must adhere to the lives and habits of their parents or guardians. Not only that, but terms such as “zero-waste” and “eco-friendly” carry with them a fog of panic and guilt to anybody who is easily intimidated by the thousands of sustainable swaps and switches out there in the world. It doesn’t have to be scary or even difficult to make small changes in your life, and with a few simple steps, who knows, you might even find your physical and mental state has improved.
It is important to note that sustainability is not an accessible or realistic choice for everyone. Environmental Racism is a very pertinent issue for all communities of color worldwide. A 2015 study done by Environmental Health Perspectives said, “there remains a disproportionately higher prevalence of harmful environmental exposures, particularly air pollution, for certain populations. These populations most often reside in urban settings, have low socioeconomic status, and include a large proportion of ethnic minorities.” Not only are ethnic majority communities getting hit the hardest with atmosphere pollution, but sustainable products are priced astronomically compared to their non-reusable swaps. This makes it nearly impossible for low-income families to lessen their carbon footprint.
Being conscious of your impact on the world we live in does not need to look any particular way. It is not a one-day process to an influencer level, zero waste, vegan life. It is messy and slow and doesn’t always look pretty, but it is essential to remember that every step, no matter how small, is progress while embarking on this journey.
A great way to start is in your closet. Shuffling through your forgotten tank tops that haven’t seen the sun in 5 years or all those skirts you don’t quite fit anymore is a great way to give your clothing a new life. And it’s free! Finding your inner Marie Kondo is important, but it’s more about what you do after that matters. Some great alternatives to the dumpster are alterations, giving to friends and family, or donating or selling them to a consignment shop. Picking up a few simple sewing skills seems daunting but could save you a lot of money in the future. If that is not a realistic option, just decide to donate or give away your clothes or even sell them. This expands their life and keeps synthetic materials out of the landfills.
Emory Guyer, a sophomore at Lakeridge, said, “When I buy things, I make sure to ask myself if I really need it. I just make sure I’m using resources wisely, we have so much excess while others have nothing.” Donating is a fantastic choice, but why stop there? Go to the root of the issue. If you find yourself overloaded with clothes you barely need, next time you’re contemplating a new sweater or pair of jeans, stop and think. Look at the tags to make sure it’s your size, and try it on if possible. If it’s not a perfect fit, throw it back because chances are you won’t gravitate towards it in the future. Think about if the piece will go with outfits you already have, if it is universal or a statement piece, consider all these things before you throw it in the cart.
Learning to sew or make alterations is a great hobby to have, but so many more can benefit you and the environment around you. With the abundant resources, we have nowadays, picking up these skills can seem less daunting.
Over quarantine, Guyer has picked up soap making. “I started making soap just because it looked fun, now it’s stress-relieving for me. And also it’s a good option for sustainable gifts.” Said Guyer. Not only did he discover a hobby that brought them joy, but he is also now able to make his own soap and soap for those around them. Hobbies such as sewing, soap making, cooking, biking, and so many more are just fun skills to pick up that you might not even think are benefiting our earth, and they are easy options for students.
¬†However, the real difficulty for students is not changing their own lifestyle, it is the looming responsibility of influencing family members. I suggest focusing on yourself and your own progress first and foremost, but there are a few things you can do around the house that are parent-proof. I bet that when you look into your family fridge, it is filled with plastic packaging and saran wrap and ziplock baggies, at least I know mine is. Some of the classic alternatives, such as beeswax wraps, reusable packaging, and of course, buying things in bulk with your own containers, are all great, but these can be pretty big steps for a lot of families. Instead of plastic baggies around produce, try a damp dishcloth, especially around lettuces and herbs; a damp cloth is all you need to keep it fresh. Instead of investing in reusable containers, a great alternative is keeping and washing plastic to-go containers you get from restaurants. My family has built up quite the stock and we use them for everything from fridge storage to lunch containers. Saran wrap is a little trickier to find a way around. It really depends on the purpose you’re planning to use it for. To cover leftovers, just put a plate on top of your dish, it will keep fresh for up to a week. For wrapping food, such as sandwiches or fruits, instead of saran wrap, use parchment paper, dishcloths, or throw the food in one of those to-go containers.
Sustainability is and always will be a goal, something to strive for, always a little outreach. The concept is an impossible one, but the process is not, and it is the process that counts. By focusing on your own strategy, educating yourself, and believing that you can make a difference, you can start your own sustainable journey. Maybe you’ll find new joys and interests in life through the process. Sustainability isn’t for everyone, but it can be. If the world works together, we can make a difference.