Being An Imperfect Environmentalist

Over the past year, I’ve gotten into sustainability and protecting the Earth. I light up every time I hear the word ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’. From the research I’ve done, I have realized that a lot of the world’s problems are connected to the environment and our inability to slow down. The concept of living more consciously and intently, is uplifting, because not only do I think that paying more attention to how we treat the Earth will help the environment, but maybe even save humanity all together. This past year I took a class in college on systemic thinking. One of the resources I read for that class was about the year 3000 and what we as humans want the world to be like that far into the future. All of the authors agreed that they wanted an ‘imperfect but lovable world’. It could just be the young idealist in me, but I believe that the concept of sustainability can help us get to that point.

Even though becoming more sustainable as a person and inspiring others to do the same is uplifting, it also terrifies me. Every single time I read a disturbing article about climate change, I realize that it’s not necessarily just a foray into becoming a better human/contributing towards a better world. It’s a matter of life or death.

It’s not just preparing for natural disasters that might come a thousand years from now if we’re not careful; it’s about apocalyptic disasters set to happen in this century. It’s not just about choosing an organic bamboo t-shirt over an ethically made, cotton American shirt sprayed with pesticides. It’s about the female and child garment workers working over 12 hours a day in egregious working conditions; breathing in toxic chemicals while being paid slave labor wages just to survive. By the way, these chemicals find their way into the water supply as well. It’s about how  2/3 of the great barrier reef has been bleached. It’s about how minorities in poor communities will be disproportionately effected by climate change. It’s about how the Arctic during the summer-time will be ice free by the year 2040. I will be 43 years old. That sounds like a long-time from now, but in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t. The next war could be over water supply. Fact is, climate change is going to make the world into a pandemonium and 30% of people believe that climate change is not human caused, but rather due to natural changes. While this is still the minority and not the majority, cultural influences are powerful and as a result, they vote in people who deny climate change. The majority of Republicans in congress deny climate change because of big-oil special interests. Even amongst the slim number of Republicans in congress who do believe that climate change is caused by humans, they don’t believe that it’s a huge threat. For instance, Governor John Kasich who is seen to be moderate believes that, “Now it doesn’t mean because you pursue a policy of being sensitive to the environment, because we don’t know how much humans actually contribute.” It’s depressing when you look around you and want to snatch all the plastic bottles out of people’s hands and replace them with reusable ones; showing them how much easier and cost-efficient it is. It’s depressing when the college you go to promotes sustainability, but their compost bin isn’t even inside the dining halls. They also overheat the dorms and classrooms to the point where you’re sweating profusely and feeling nauseous. You want to yell at the administration and tell them how much money they’d save if they turned the thermostat down and told people to wear sweaters instead. It’s depressing when you see people do silly things that are toxic to the environment and if they made one small change, it could make a huge difference. But I also know that I have to have compassion and know that people care. They just aren’t educated enough and/or don’t have the time to think about it due to the ludicrously busy lifestyles we’re forced to live today.

However, I also think that environmental perfectionism can steer some people away from living more sustainably as they feel that they can’t live up to what they perceive to be an impossible standard. Including myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely admire and support the zero waste movement, minimalism, capsule wardrobes, only buying ethical and sustainable products, compassionate vegans, living off the grid, etc. If you do any of these things, props to you! I believe that the world can and should learn from these movements; but doing all of these things 100% of the time isn’t attainable for everybody.

I often will beat myself up for not being ‘sustainable enough’.  Even though I know about the horrors of the fashion industry, I still buy clothing from mainstream retailers when I need pants in a petite size, a bra that fits my large breasts, work clothes that fit my budget, or simply just because it’s more convenient. I try to buy more ethical and sustainable products, but I can’t help that they all come packaged in plastic. I’m just not in a place in my life where I can ‘DIY’. I still take 20 minute hot showers because I like it. I still use the dryer to dry my clothes. I’m nowhere close to zero waste or even low-waste yet. I can’t go vegan due to having a plethora of food allergies and other health conditions.

As you can see, some of the things I listed above I can definitely improve on and some of it is outside of my control. But I can’t help but compare myself to bloggers, youtubers, and Instagramers who I know are doing better than me. Sometimes I’m able to rationalize my way through and tell myself that I’m in a learning stage, that it’s important to have a peace of mind. Even if I could, I don’t think I would be completely 100% anything because having an obsessive mind-set where I scrutinize all of my actions isn’t healthy for me. However, whenever I see a new article talking about how we’re destined for the worst within our lifetimes, I feel like all the actions I’m taking are minuscule compared to the depth of the problem. If I use another plastic bag all the fish in the ocean will die. I need to start a capsule wardrobe now! 32 pieces in my wardrobe per season max! Curse you food allergies! Because of you, I can’t go vegan and I’m killing the planet. Yeah that piece of plastic might be recyclable, but only 9% of plastics get recycled, so therefore I must go zero waste NOWWW!!! You get the picture.

I can only do so much as one person. The key to saving the planet and becoming more sustainable is educating people on actions they can take, not specific lifestyles or labels. Small actions add up. Imagine if everybody drank from a reusable water bottle, started thrifting more, used public transportation or car-pooled whenever possible, refused plastic straws, or went meatless on Mondays. Think of the impact all of this would have! It is my opinion that the simple, daily changes of many can have the same effect as the larger actions of a dedicated few. If you can’t or don’t want to do everything in an eco-friendly/sustainable way, don’t give up the ship! Every little action helps!  Nobody should shame you if you aren’t doing things in their way or up to their personal standards. I’m not and will never be the perfect environmentalist. Instead, I strive to become more mindful and aware of the actions I take each day, while also educating myself as much as I can. Living a more sustainable lifestyle is a journey, not an instantaneous endpoint. Don’t beat yourself up for being an imperfect environmentalist. If you’re reading this blog post, you care, and that is what matters the most.

How are you an imperfect environmentalist? Let me know in the comment section down below!

Alex

15 Things I Would Tell My Teenage Self

My teen years weren’t the easiest of times. Between a tough course load, awkward body changes, and navigating the ever so complicated social scene, the teen years are not as wonderful as those movies, tv shows, and books make them out to be. I am graduating high school this Friday and now find myself in a reflective state of mind. Sometimes I wish that I had an older friend to provide me with comforting advice to make getting through my teen years easier. Therefore, I decided to compile this list for current teens  who might be struggling and myself as sometimes I have to remind myself of the things I have learned. After all,  everyday you have to force yourself to grow a little bit more, right? Here are 15 things I wish i knew during my teen years.

1. ) You will not get electives in high school: Yes that was a complete lie. If you want to go to college you’re going to have to take less than desirable classes such as Chemistry, Algebra II, Economics, and French instead of classes that would’ve enriched your soul. However, you will get through it. There might be blood, sweat, and tears but the pay off will be tremendous.

2.) Do not be friends with someone just because they like you: Making friends will be a struggle for you. Because of this, you might feel the urge to grab the first person that shows any interest in you and hang out with them. But often times they will either be kinda psycho, superficial, or just wanting to hang out with you because you’re a person to go do things with. Do not spend your time or mental energy on these people.  Instead cultivate relationships with people who make you feel your worth. Having one really amazing friend feels so much more fulfilling and spiritually empowering than ten flaky friends.

3.) Your twin sister is your best friend and don’t ever forget that: Your twin is always going to be the most loyal, trustworthy, nicest, insightful person you know. She will always be there for you and don’t discount her just because you didn’t have to impress her in order for her to be your friend. Hang out with her more often, this will make your high school years much less lonely.

4.) Girls who say “love you” on social media don’t really mean it: You will have friends who will comment on your pics or posts and say “I love you” or “Love you Alex.” You will not know these girls all that well and be in the budding stages of cultivating a friendship. The fact that they say “I love you” so flippantly  like this means that they aren’t the type of people you want to be hanging out with. You will find out that they don’t care about you in the way that you thought or they’ll only phone you up when they have no one else to talk to. Lesson is, many people will not take the word “love” as seriously as you  do. Be wary when people use this word.

5.) Confidence is key: You will meet people who are super weird (and not in that good way ), uber crazy, and annoying. These people will serve you well because they will teach you that their confidence is what draws people to them, even if they are the strangest of the bunch. Just look at Donald Trump!

Don’t worry about every little thing you say to people or how you present yourself. If you aren’t as socially anxious and focus more on the activity rather than impressing people, you will be surprised at how many more people like you.

6.) Wear makeup not because you think it will make you prettier, but because it will make you feel good: Makeup will not make you prettier and you don’t need to do elaborate, heavy duty looks to be pretty. However, with that being said, it’s fun to see your lips different colors or to amp up your naturally luscious lashes. There will be a makeup debate. One says, if you don’t wear makeup, you don’t care about yourself. Another side of the debate, perhaps the more viscous side, says that those who wear makeup are self-absorbed, vain, and do it to solely to attract men. Neither of these things are true and do what makes you happy. Makeup can be empowering and can help you look put together, especially when you’re not feeling your best.

7.) You don’t have to be pretty to be worthy: Looks aren’t everything. Yeah, maybe your nose is kinda long when looking from the side, your eyes shrink when you smile, you have a freckle on your eye (yes, this is a thing), your eyebrows are thick, your teeth are kinda tiny, your chin looks crooked due to jaw problems, and sometimes in photos you get a double chin. But you know what, your flaws are what make you, you! If we all looked like Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie would not be considered as attractive as she is. At the end of the day, it’s how you carry yourself and how your personality shines through your smile that matters. Work with what you got and you’ll be much happier than constantly trying to think of who you could be and hoping that one day you’ll wake up and those flaws will be gone. It’s better to look interesting and unique than to be purely pretty.

8.) The classics you read in English class will not enrich your understanding of the world and change your life: This is a complete and total lie. Many high school classics are really boring and you’ll wonder why people like them so much. Their life messages will be basic and things you have heard before. Modern day literature literary themes and messages are so much more complex and in-tune with today’s complex world. You will learn immensely from these books and they will change the way you look at things.

9.) Don’t be embarrassed to read children’s books and not read them as a result of this: Children’s books are often better written than adult and young adult fiction and contain more complex characters and plot lines. Just because you are older than 12 does not mean that you can’t enjoy them as much, if not more than, a child.

10.) Don’t feel the need to defend yourself: Don’t defend your gluten-free/dairy-free diet, your hobbies, tv show/movie/book preferences, clothing style, nothing. Decent people won’t care and it is more fun to just live than think about if they’re judging you (because they probably are).

11.) Don’t spend time being angry at people you once thought were friends and fantasizing about their demise: Forgiveness will not be your strong point. Unfortunately, karma doesn’t often serve people who deserve it and you just need to accept that fact. Trying to outsmart them or thinking about their lives being ruined won’t do you any good because most likely, they won’t. They aren’t caring or feeling guilty about your pain, so you should just brush it off and keep on walking.

12.) Don’t watch a tv show just because everyone else is watching it: If certain popular comedies don’t make you laugh, don’t think that there must be something wrong with you because everyone else likes it. You just have different tastes and that’s okay. Maybe you won’t have as much to talk about, but at least you won’t be sitting there for a half  an hour waiting for it to be over.

13.) Allow people to be angry: You will get people angry at you and sometimes, instead of trying to get people to wrap up things nicely, neatly, and quickly with you, you just have to let them be mad. It’s tough holding it all in and feeling that negative energy around you, but a lot of people need time to cool off. This is a process and you’re not going to have the easiest time with this. In fact, you will still be working on it when you write this list.

14.) Don’t worry about college finances as much: You will get great financial aid  for the top schools you wanted to go to and you didn’t need to spend all of those nights tossing and turning in bed.

15.) You will not have an amazing group of friends, a boyfriend, or go on cool vacations during high school: Just not gonna happen. Sorry, no can do. Instead of imagining these scenarios and envisioning your life becoming interesting, just live it. Read a book. Take some photos. Learn about something new in history. Get better at whatever you’re terrible at. While having an amazing group of friends, a boyfriend, and cool vacations is awesome, you don’t need these things to have decent teen years. Society lies and convinces us that we need these things to be fulfilled, but as long as you have a few epic people in your life, hobbies, and an imagination you will be happy enough.

Hope you all enjoyed that. These things that I learned during high school are things that I’m still working on today and some of them I might be working on for the rest of my life. But I think it’s great that I identified these things early on and I believe that the lessons that I learned during my teen years will carry over into my college years and beyond.

What are some lessons you learned during your high school? Did you learn any of the same lessons that I mentioned?

I really would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Don’t be shy and leave a comment (I ❤ ❤ ❤ comments).

xoxo
Alex