On a Mid-Friday afternoon in Berlin, hundreds of school children blocked off the main roads of the city from the regular car and foot traffic. They hoisted signs in the air with slogans such as “Why have an education if we won’t have a planet?”. Children from ages 8-18, almost seeming too young to even grasp the severity of the subject, walked in anger their faces contorted as they chanted for better political policies to combat climate change. They marched with the knowledge that if a change didn’t happen, their future, along with their children and grandchildren, would be grim. I stood, watched and eventually joined in the protest. Despite a language barrier, I felt that I understood them. Our futures were forcibly connected by the shared state of the earth in which we gathered and for the first time, the immediacy of the subject truly dawned on me.
In school and in the media, I felt bombarded by fear mongering images of climate change. Photos of the icebergs melting and polar bears starving, images of garbage piling up but the messages that the images were trying to display never fully resonated. It was a hard concept to wrap my head around and it felt that a part of me shut off when looking at these photos. The truth behind the images was too scary to unpack. They were seemingly unimaginable and truly terrifying at the same time, it almost seemed easier to ignore them completely. Knowing that the generations before you have placed the planet in such a precarious position that directly affects you and then being told by this same generation that it is in now in your hands to fix, is a difficult narrative to face and one that many people choose not to. However, throughout a lifetime of being exposed to this narrative and feeling numb to it, experiencing the shared emotion of hundreds of students in the same position, I felt a shift in my perception of the issue. It was as if all of a sudden I was face to face with the reality of the present moment and inevitable future. I came to a full understanding that the narrative of the role that the generation I am part of plays in this issue is one that cannot be ignored.
On the overnight bus ride home from Berlin I began thinking about how the actions in my daily life affect the earth and what ways I can immediately make shifts that lessen my consumption, waste and amount of power used while traveling and living day to day. Here is what I came up with:
Cut down on food waste by using apps such as Omilio that connect with local grocery stores and restaurants to offer you discounted prices to food that would be going to waste such as items packaged incorrectly or pastries that will be too stale to sell in the morning. If an app like this doesn’t exist where you live check the app store while traveling to leverage what is available in the country you are in (this is also a great way to travel on a budget).
Use a reusable coffee cup and water bottle to cut down on paper wasted from drinks on the go. I use a bottle that functions as a water bottle and coffee cup keeping hot drinks hot for 12 hours and cold drinks cold for 24. It is estimated that 100,000 trees are destroyed in the making of disposable coffee cups yearly.
Grocery shop package free at stores such as Nada in Vancouver. At Nada you refill your yogurt and peanut butter in your reusable container once you run out and all products are weighed with a tariff taken off for the weight of the container you bring in.
Cut Down Your Carbon Footprint
Choose more vegan and vegetarian options and cut down on beef consumption. Going vegan even if just for one week has been proven to save 147,000 kg CO2e (enough CO2 to fly to the moon and back).
Walk or bike when you can and if traveling consider offsetting your CO2 emissions. When booking flights it is possible to select the option that adds a fee to offset your admissions. If there are alternatives to flying consider a bus or train instead.
Make a Lifestyle Switch
Change to a reusable straw. Canadians are estimated to throw away 50 million straws per year. In Vancouver, reusable straws are available at Nada on Broadway, Federal Store, Whole Foods and often at local independent owned grocery stores in your area.
Switch from plastic bags to a reusable non woven pp bag. The reusable bag only needs to be used 11 times to be more sustainable than a plastic bag. Commitment to using this bag daily greatly cuts down on the amount of plastic bags in the ecosystem.
If you use menstrual products switch to reusable options such as an Organi Cup. The average person uses 2640 disposable menstrual products a year which all end up back into our ecosystem. Organi cup states that “Most tampons contain chemicals such as dioxin, chlorine and rayon. While the products sit in landfills, these chemicals get soaked up by the earth and are released as pollution into groundwater and air.” Switching to a cup will completely eliminate all need to use disposable products.
Let Yourself Feel Fear About Climate Change-Then Do Better.
Awakening to the emotions that are coupled with climate change has sparked a shift in the way I live my life and these are just some of the ways I am committing to working towards living more sustainably. Have you opened yourself to the emotional reality that our earth is changing? What’s next for you? Let’s commit to taking steps forward together.