How can your life choices positively impact sustainability and the environment and what can you do to contribute and bring about change?
Recently it seems there has been a rise of young people taking action in causes which impact both local communities and the globe.
Greta Thumberg, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Dylan D’Haeze and Ridhima Pandey are all young people who have publicly made their voices heard about action that needs to be taken in order to protect our world from dangers such as environmental degradation, climate change, insensitive government policy and the dreadful impact of major money-oriented corporations.
The passion and courage of these young changemakers and many others across the world have inspired and spurred on so many, and this fact alone is able to provide hope that as a society we can evolve and change; enabling our world to recover from the scars of human destruction and prevent further catastrophe.
Before I started reading and learning more about the environmental and humanitarian issues that our generation faces, it sometimes felt easy to doubt the significance of the actions of one individual in helping to change a problem. I realise now it was because I didn’t see the direct links between my life, daily actions and choices and the wider world’s processes and industries.
The truth I discovered is that all of us are interconnected through so many aspects of daily life as well as just being humans who all share the same beautiful planet. For example, the kinds of things we spend our money on:
How does it affect the land and community where was it produced?
What kind of materials were used and was it sourced sustainably and ethically?
How were the workers treated?
How much non-renewable energy was used in order to make it which then goes on to contribute to wider issues?
Once realising this it also became clearer that all of the actions taken as an individual have a knock-on effect on different parts on the world as well as the environment and in this way, we can all contribute in amazing ways to help support sustainable systems and companies and protect the environment.
Here are daily actions we can take to improve the life of people and the planet:
- Eat local- fresh local fruits, vegetables and animal products not only support local farmers but also means products don’t have to travel as far to reach your plate, reducing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Eat organic- Organic produce can be pricier but techniques used to farm the produce often means soils are left less depleted of nutrients and artificial pesticides which often go on to pollute water systems are not used. Animals are not given hormones and antibiotics leading them to have a more natural upbringing and are fed 100% organic feed.
- Less Plastic the better- As has been greatly publicised, plastic is incredibly harmful to the planet as takes several lifetimes to degrade and often pollutes water systems and harms wildlife. Buying loose veg and fruit where possible is a good alternative as well as buying products which have as little plastic wrapping as possible eg. avoiding multipacks with individually wrapped packaging within.
- The less animal products the better – while it is argued by some that animal produce is necessary for a source of good protein, most livestock like cows require large amounts of land and water while emitting massive amounts greenhouse gases. Furthermore, there is a massive issue around the quality of life of many of the animals that are farmed, as in order to create the maximum amount of profit animals are often kept in cramp awful living conditions. A way to reduce negative contribution to this is to reduce amounts of animal products used and buy organic or free-range products from a farm as local as possible.
- Reducing food waste- so much energy, water, labour and time goes into producing food but in the UK 25% of households food and drink is wasted per year. Being aware of this and cutting down wastage means more energy can be saved and used for something that needs it more.
- Reduced use of international big brand products – Many big brands have a massive impact on both the environment and people’s lives due to the magnitude of the scale of production. As many of these are international corporations looking to make the largest profit, the ingredients frequently used are sourced and produced as cheaply as possible, meaning the labourers are often paid an unfairly low wage which is somehow deemed acceptable by some while the implications of having to live with such a low salary is far from imaginable for many who consume the products in a country like the Uk. In most cases, the ingredients used are mass-produced creating massive amounts of strain on the environment and it also leads to deforestation in order to provide enough land to grow the quantity of produce needed.
- Avoid products containing palm oil as its source primarily comes from cutting down tropical rainforest which many wildlife species depend upon such as the endangered orangutan.
- Educate yourself on issues – through learning more about how the natural world works and the actions big companies and government are taking its easier to adapt things in daily life to help create awareness and combat issues you are passionate about.
- Share your knowledge with others – this not only encourages people to reflect on how they impact the world around them but can also provide information to people which was unknown to them before.
- Second-hand clothing and reduced contribution to the fast fashion industry – Not only can you find some really cool pieces in charity and second-hand shops, but buying from them also reduces the impact on the environment. A lot of the clothing in high-street fashion is made as cheaply as possible leading to less money being paid to the workers who work in the incredibly demanding fast-paced environment. The land needed to raise livestock and produce large amounts of crops to make raw materials is another thing that is often not considered by consumers.
- Awareness of cotton use and synthetic fabrics- According to WWF it can take ‘2,700 litres to produce the cotton needed to make a single T-shirt.’ This is a massive amount of water which, like in many high demand industries, is sometimes unethically procured, leaving areas that have been over-extracted from. Buying fewer products made of cotton reduces our contribution to this problem as individuals and shows lack of support for these practices. Clothing made from synthetic fabrics such as polyester contains plastic microfibers which then leak into water systems when washed in washing machines which goes on to greatly affect marine life.
- Flannels over wet wipes and cotton wool- Despite how useful wet wipes can be when it comes to taking off the day’s make up or just when you want to clear away a little smudge, they are made from a mixture of plastic and natural fibres which takes an incredibly long time to break down and causes a lot of damage to wildlife when is littered or finds its way into waterways and the sea. Flannels are a good alternative as are reusable and can be made out of sustainable material. And as mentioned before it takes a massive amount of water to grow cotton so decreasing use is really beneficial!
- Public transport and decreased use of cars= smaller carbon footprint
- Walking and cycling- A good way to get a bit of exercise and contributes a lot less to carbon emissions!
Conclusion and Challenge:
Overall these are just a few ways we can all create positive change in society in our daily lives because where we invest our money and the attitude we have to our surrounding environment reveal the true priorities of the general population.
This eventually goes on to shape the standards and principles of major corporations and policy because they are designed to appeal to consumers and reflect what society believes is important.
I feel so grateful to be in a position where I can take these actions to help contribute towards a cause I feel so strongly about, if you feel like me that it is time, especially as youth of this age, to help create a change, how about we try a 10-day challenge as the first step for change?
Take the 10 days and 10 aspects of daily life challenge to experience how doable these simple changes are, and to show the rest of society as individuals we are ready to embrace the change needed to make daily life more sustainable and environmentally friendly!
Contributed by Estelle Marsh, 18 years old, UK