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What It Means To Be A “Tree Hugger” And How You Can Be One

When you think of the term tree hugger, what comes to mind? A so-called hippie in flared pants and flower crown who has chained themselves to a tree crying for justice for the forest? These are exactly the kinds of extreme, irrational images that the mainstream media had hoped to create. 


I bet you didn’t think about the person sitting next to you in class who only uses reusable water bottles and metal straws or the teacher who bikes to class, and that is no coincidence. 


So, what exactly does it mean to be a tree hugger?


While it can literally mean someone who chooses to practice environmentalism by wrapping themselves around trees to protest against cutting them down, it simply means an environmentalist.


In the 1960s and 70s, environmental justice was on the rise. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This movement meant empowering minority groups before a time in which it was widely socially accepted. The media soon implemented the term tree hugger as a stab at these groups to try and weaken their morale. 


Thankfully, it didn’t weaken them at all, and environmentalism and environmental justice has only grown over the last 50 years. While it is still sparsely used as an insult, many environmentalists and organizations have decided to embrace the label. One media outlet for environmental news and commentary even used the term as the title of their organization, TreeHugger


So, being a tree hugger isn’t a bad thing?  

Nope, not at all. In fact, it could play a big role in changing the world as we know it to be a healthier, cleaner environment. 


Some environmentalists draw attention to big issues such as climate change and pollution, so that lawmakers can make the changes the planet needs to sustain us all.  Others simply use reusable grocery bags and water bottles, drink from metal straws, and recycle to make an individual impact. 


How do I  even get into environmentalism?


Environmentalism isn’t a radical, irrational ideology only practiced by hippies . Anyone can be an environmentalist.

You just have to start by finding a cause you’re passionate about  and making changes to positively make a difference. You can make personal changes in your life like recycling or eating less meat, or you can establish a group for the cause and host events and raise funds for the cause. 


It is entirely up to you, but you do have the power to make a change. Environmentalism is the perfect place to start using that ability.

Haley is a sophomore Journalism major at the University of Kentucky with a minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. When she’s not writing, she spends her time watching lots of movies, hanging out with her amazing boyfriend, and doing service projects in the community.
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