By Jomiro Eming
Modern-day living, ignorant politicians, and capitalist-driven systems and processes make being optimistic about the environment really hard. I get that. Why bother recycle, when over a billion tons of waste gets produced globally each year? Why walk to the shops, when there are approximately 1.5 billion cars traversing the world’s roads at any given moment? What difference do you actually make, and why should you make lifestyle changes for environmental conservation when no-one else seems to be doing that?
The truth is, there’s no easy answer. At least for the moment, the debate between giving-up completely and fighting for an essentially non-negotiable cause will continue to create inner conflict in us all. That’s the reality of life we navigate and critique every time we buy a takeaway coffee, leave a light on overnight, and run a 50 liter bath.
But even for the most pessimistic “giver-upper,” there are very easy everyday things we can all start doing – without many lifestyle “sacrifices” at all – that will help us become optimistic environmentalists.
- Ditch the drive
Yes, you’ll probably walk, cycle, or commute past hundreds of cars on the way to where-ever you’re going, and question why you have to suffer while everyone else gets to drive their cars without any bad conscience at all. But there are so many more benefits over-and-above reduced carbon emissions to advocate other forms of transport. Walking and cycling are healthy lifestyle changes for our physical health; the public commute is cheaper, and can give a sense of citizenship; car-pooling allows us to build friendships.
- Make your own menu
Food waste is actually just tragic. Seeing the juxtaposition of starving children and half-finished meals that simply get binned on a daily basis is heart-wrenching and disgusting. What’s even more upsetting is how easy it is to avoid.
Once a week, before you do your weekly shopping, plan your meals for the week, and how much of which ingredients you need. Translate that to your shopping list, and you shouldn’t be consuming more food than you need. Rather than over-buying and food going bad before you get to eating it, you have a schedule and a break-down of what you will eat that week.
Oh, and guess what? You save money as well. You’re welcome.
- Bag the bags
If you’re student budget doesn’t allow you to buy a reusable shopping bag, then just keep the plastic bags you would normally buy. Reusing those things is dead-easy, saves you money, and removes the effort of having to dispose them. Again, a super simple solution for every optimistic environmentalist.
- Vintage is the new “new”
Fashionable, cheap, and environmentally friendly? Yeah, vintage is such a steal. Thrift-shopping helps lighten to load on the production process by re-entering old products into the consumption cycle. By buying vintage, you close the loop and prevent clothes ending-up in landfills. Thrift-shops not only tend to be much more affordable than high-end clothing stores, but also tend to sell better quality clothes, so you really are winning on all accounts.
Plus, if you haven’t already noticed, even high-end fashion lines are re-iterating old patterns, cuts, and styles. In other words, you won’t stick out that much at all – other than because you‘re the coolest-looking, most fashionable optimistic environmentalist around, of course.
- Shut that tap!
One of the most detrimental ways in which water is wasted is through careless, “comfortable” behaviour. This includes leaving the tap on while you brush your teeth, and leaving the shower on while you shampoo and condition. That water is literally serving no purpose, and goes straight into the drain.
Closing those running taps while you aren’t using that water to rinse is not only a stupidly easy adjustment to make, but it saves liters upon liters of water. To think that some people line up for hours to get their water, while you abuse the luxury you have of a running tap, is not what an optimistic environmentalist should be doing.
These are simply a few ways to feel more like you’re actually making a difference, because often it’s something other people will see you do directly. That kind of ego-affirmation is a good-feeling, and will hopefully spark conversation about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and will be an opportunity for you to convince people how important and how easy it is to make the same changes.
Go on, go out, and don’t let that optimistic environmentalist inside you lose all hope. There’s still time to make changes that will inevitably save the planet – you know, that thing we all rely on, that we only have one of? Yeah. Optimism is what will get us through this. Because it will get better. It has to.