Last Friday, hundreds of young people in Edmonton gathered together in front of Alberta’s Legislature Building to take part in the global climate strike across Canada. It was the very first protest I took part in, and all I can say is that I loved every moment of it. I learned more about the climate change movement and the complex, multifaceted issues it deals with.
This is a critical time period in history where we must work together as a community to help save our planet and create positive changes. Some people have a misunderstanding that climate change only affects Indigenous peoples, which is completely false. This is a worldwide issue, and if we don’t start acting now, we will not see the future we are working towards. Yes, the economy, our education, and other aspects of life are important. However if climate change is not addressed first, our Mother Earth will be in serious danger…(this is why most students skipped class to attend this event and were excused for their absence, because even our educators understand how important this truly is). Hopefully our voices were heard and our efforts were noticed by the U.N and our politicians. Now, although we cannot reverse negative long term effects on our own immediately, we can start small and make our way up slowly. That being said, here are some ways to be more personally sustainable right now:
Go Plastic Free
Plastic is a material that is non-biodegradable, so bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store, take your own cup to Starbucks for coffee, buy milk in paper cartons, use rechargeable batteries to reduce buying batteries packaged in plastic, line home trash bins with recyclable paper bags, and drink water from the fountain instead of buying plastic water bottles when possible…the list is endless!
Buy Unpackaged Groceries
Avoid purchasing groceries that have unnecessary packaging. You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are unwrapped and they will taste even better than the ones that are boxed and packaged in the double plastic wrapping at Costco and other supermarkets. Another thing to keep in mind is to only buy as much as you can consume at a given time…(if you do plan on buying bulk, keep the extras frozen so they don’t go bad on you). Buying groceries locally is also a great idea (check out Strathcona’s farmer’s market for some tasty deals!)
Thrift Shop and/or Save for Sustainable Styles
It’s not hard to be eco-friendly AND fashionable at the same time. Thrift shopping is a great way to save money and the planet. On the other hand, stay away from fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, Stitches, Ardenes, etc because quality is sacrificed for quantity, and their intentional short life span clothing will force you to constantly replace items in your wardrobe. If thrift shopping is not your thing , spend a bit more time choosing meaningful pieces that you can hold on to for longer periods of time, so that you aren’t shopping as frequently. Oh! And if you can, donate used items to a homeless shelter or Goodwill instead of garbaging them so people in need can have them.
Invest in Reusable Lunch Supplies
If you can, pack your own lunch in reusable containers and bring your own utensils to campus! You never know when a fork will come in handy and doing this will prevent you from spending extra money on unhealthy food. I know when I pack my lunch I am more conscious of my food choices and I feel way more inspired to try new recipes!
Take Public Transport
Most of us are assessed for the U-Pass fee every semester. It allows for us to ride the ETS buses and the LRT whenever we want. It became a mandatory fee in 2007 because the Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Association, transit authorities, and the University of Alberta wanted to deliver affordable and sustainable transit to students. It personally takes me over an hour to commute to school via public transit, but I believe it’s better than if I drove my own vehicle everyday. Car pollutants affect the air quality and are one of the leading causes of global warming. On top of this, gas, parking, and other car expenses add up quite quickly and I rather worry about paying for all of that when I’m much older. For now though, why not just take the train with your friends when you are already paying for it?
Eat Veggies Not Friends
In my opinion, I do think that being vegan or vegetarian is more sustainable for our environment for multiple reasons. Before making any decision for yourself however, you can look at online resources, do some research, and watch documentaries that might explain why this is. If changing your diet doesn’t seem feasible, even cutting down the amount of times you consume animal products in a week can greatly impact our planet and people.
Again, these are just some ideas to get you started on your journey to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Not everything is possible for everyone, and at the end of the day it is what you want and what you can do. Some of these practices were also mentioned by Greta Thunberg (the inspiring Swedish environmental activist) in one of her many speeches about climate change. If you haven’t already, I suggest you listen to her speak through this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW3IQ-ke43w. Remember though, even one person can make a difference, and that person can be you!