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Now that we're going full speed ahead into spring, Earth Day is coming up — aka, a yearly reminder that our time is ticking, and we need to save our planet. If that isn’t enough, we’ve also got statistics like the Climate Clock to warn us that we don’t have much time — according to their website, there's less than eight years left for us to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Especially for us college students, who have our whole lives ahead of us, climate change can cause some worries. These facts lead many of us to wonder: What can we, as students, do? How can we make changes to our everyday lives and start living sustainably? In efforts to prevent climate change from worsening — and to pick up slack from those who don’t believe it exists — we must begin to limit our plastic, save on gas, recycle correctly, and do anything else we can to reduce our ecological footprint.

But unfortunately, this path doesn't necessarily guarantee a fairytale ending. We can’t just magically change all of our actions to fit the needs of our environment, and suddenly stop climate change in its tracks. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for us to adjust our actions — which can cause guilt whenever we do, say, use toilet paper or paper towels. And with the privilege in the sustainability movement making certain lifestyle changes harder, figuring out where the balance lies between what's feasible and what's morally right can be tough.

It can be scary, and sometimes a bit unpractical, to do a complete 180 on some habits we’ve been engaging in for decades. Take me, for example: I know I should focus on it more, but I really can’t see myself giving up tampons. Diva Cups are an amazing alternative, but they just seem too daunting to me. And we’ve all been using paper towels and toilet paper since before we could speak — it’s not an easy switch to get rid of these everyday items.

Changing our habits can also be pricier. Fast fashion tends to be cheaper, and electric cars are expensive upfront and not as practical for a student living in a university town. Don’t get me wrong; they’re still important investments to make — just tough ones at that. (Try encouraging your family to buy an electric car! As someone whose parents have one, it’s definitely worth it.) 

So what's the answer here? Well, it may be time for us to open our minds to the idea of imperfect environmentalism.

In case you’ve never heard it before, imperfect environmentalism is a term originally created by Sara Gilbert in her 2013 book, The Imperfect Environmentalist: A Practical Guide to Clearing Your Body, Detoxing Your Home, and Saving the Earth (Without Losing Your Mind). It’s all about focusing on what's practical in your lifestyle, accepting your weaknesses, and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be perfect — particularly when it comes to sustainability.

If you’re struggling to give up paper towels, tampons, or another product that’s notoriously bad for the environment, know that you’re not alone! It’s fine if you’re not a zero-waste, 100% sustainable person committing their life to saving the Earth. You can be an imperfect environmentalist, and still make contributions to saving the planet. For example, in today’s world, it’s nearly impossible not to use plastic — but, for your next clothing purchase, try a sustainable brand instead of a place notorious for its fast fashion practices (I’m looking at you, SHEIN). Try to eat local for your next meal. When elections come around, vote for candidates that promise to put resources toward sustainability.

Be sure to appreciate the steps you’ve already taken, even if they’re not drastic. And if you do make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it — just keep moving toward more sustainable practices. The best thing we can do is educate others, and transition our lives — even if it’s slowly but surely.

Hey! I'm a second-year Global Business & Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo, a National Writer for Her Campus, and the Senior Editor for HC Waterloo. When I'm not writing, you'll probably find me reading the newest Taylor Jenkins Reid book, watching The Office, or eating pizza.
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