What It's Really Like to Be an Environmentalist

Ever since I was little, I’ve cared about the environment. I couldn’t tell you why. There isn’t a definitive moment in my life where I realized that it was what I was passionate about. But I never truly considered myself an environmentalist until I was 14.

I had watched the documentary “Cowspiracy” which discussed the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. And shortly after I went vegan. My friends and parents were very supportive, but everyone else I knew thought I was crazy. They said I was being, “too extreme.” And that no matter what I did, I wasn’t making a significant difference. It was honestly frustrating. There I was trying to do what I could to leave a positive impact on the Earth, and I was being criticized for it. pile of garbageAnd naturally, as I got older it didn’t get any better. I soon learned about the dangers of plastic and how wasteful consumer culture was. So I replaced everything I could with a zero-waste alternative. I started thrifting so I wouldn’t contribute to the waste produced by the fast fashion industry. And people started to irritate me even more.

Rather than be proud of me for the decisions I made, people would tell me I was doing too much, that climate change wasn’t that bad or that the alternatives I was using were, “disgusting.” And me being the person that I am, took it personally, and I still do. But how can I not?

sunflower field with windmillI feel so connected to the Earth and the nature around me. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. And I will never understand why other people don’t. Every single one of our actions is important and leaves a lasting impact. But for some reason, no one seems to care.

People think that the most difficult part of being an environmentalist is making their life more sustainable. But for me, it’s watching the world burn. Literally.

I have so many people come up to me telling me that what they think I’m doing is great, but that they could never do it themselves.  Or people tell me they care, but they never show up for anything. And what’s even worse is dealing with the people who post about climate change on social media but don’t actually do anything about it.

It is mentally exhausting.

I wish my life could be the way all the zero waste influencers make their lives seem. But I know they aren’t exempt from the same scrutiny and frustration that I have. It’s been difficult learning how to deal with it, but I know I’ll eventually get over it.

And I hate to be preachy, but what you do right now matters. Switching to a reusable water bottle matters. Reducing the number of animal products you eat matters. Going thrifting instead of shopping at mall matters. And yes, even using a metal straw matters.

I know it seems difficult and impossible, but the small changes we make every single day truly do make a difference. We just need more people to make them.

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