Why Helping the Environment Shouldn't Be "All or Nothing"

“Saving the planet” is a notion that’s been projected upon the younger generation time and time again, and is a notion that can sound incredibly broad and exceptionally overwhelming. This is especially true when you’re a student with so many other things on your plate. Making a complete lifestyle one-eighty would be very difficult; however, I’m here to give you some good news: you don’t have to.

The idea that there’s only value in the “all” promotes the harmful mentality that as one single person, our efforts are entirely futile - we may as well not even bother. Though this is fraught with flawed logic, it’s something that I hear far too often from far too many people. The state of our environment is becoming increasingly fragile and unbalanced, and turning a blind eye to it does not make it go away. You don’t have to go vegan or live 100% waste free to do your part.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that was relatively environmentally-conscious, so I had a solid foundation on which I could build when I went to university. My own desire to make an impact, however microscopic, definitely grew after I began to do my own research and discover the reasons behind each environmentally-conscious decision. So, if I were to give you a first piece of advice, it would be to become informed. Taking shorter showers and recycling are great, but knowing why you’re doing it makes the lifestyle changes sustainable.

My second tip would be to do it in baby steps. If you’re someone who eats meat regularly, for example, and is understandably daunted by the idea of cutting it completely out of your diet, then don’t. Maybe begin by reducing your red meat consumption to once a week, and then no red meat at all. Eat more white meat and fish, and then maybe after a while cut out white meat entirely. My decision to stop eating meat was entirely gradual -- it came from months, even years, of slowly eating less and less until I had the tools and the desire to no longer consume it at all.

I am also a firm believer that balance is key. Living a happy, fulfilled life and an environmentally-aware life are not mutually exclusive - it’s the little changes, the little sacrifices we can make in our day to day lives that add up to make the visible, tangible differences. You’ll be surprised at how many things you can give up without impacting your daily life, but those small things can make a huge difference environmentally. That being said, I am nowhere near perfect, and there are many ways in which I could do better in helping the environment. Don’t beat yourself up for forgetting a reusable shopping bag that one time at Metro, congratulate yourself on the fact that ninety-nine percent of the time, you aren’t contributing to landfills.

If you’re looking for other small, easy ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint, here are a few ideas:

  • Eat less meat

  • Consume less dairy

  • Be aware of your palm oil consumption

  • Use reusable shopping bags (Hello, Campus Bookstore bags!)

  • Use reusable straws and cutlery

  • Compost

  • Walk places instead of driving, or use public transit/carpool

  • Meal prep to avoid food waste, and freeze food before it goes bad

  • Buy dry ingredients in bulk - Bulk Barn now allows you to bring and fill your own jars instead of using plastic (you just have to have the cashier weigh them before you fill them)

  • Use a reusable water bottle and lunch containers, along with using empty jars as containers

  • Explore the sustainable fashion industry, and try to avoid “fast fashion”

  • Use more eco-friendly cleaning products (Castile soap and hot water make a great all-purpose cleaner!)

  • Don’t wash clothes excessively (to quote lyrics by the great Jack’s Mannequin: “If it’s not dirty, I’m gonna wear it.”)

  • Recycle (properly)

Hopefully, this sheds some light on some minimal changes you can make in your everyday life to be more environmentally friendly! Don’t be intimidated by the all-or-nothing approach, and do what you can to improve over time!