One trend that has been gaining traction lately is the push towards integrating environmental sustainability into our everyday lives. The issue with trends, however, is that they always fizzle out. Changing small practices in our everyday lives to make them more sustainable is easy and can have long lasting impacts on future generations. As humans, we have created a lot of great technologies that make our lives more efficient. The tradeoff has been the negative impact they are having on the environment. Sustainability involves using practices in our everyday lives that reduce waste, reverse the impacts of climate change, and allow us to support the continual health of the population. Living sustainably is too important to just be a trend! So, what can we do as a generation to make sure sustainability stays relevant?
Eat less meat! Animal agriculture is unhealthy for the environment because of the pollutants that are released by factory farms. In fact, factory farming is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it is not very sustainable. Chickens, pigs, cows, and most of the other animals we eat are herbivorous, so they don’t eat any animals. Thus, eating animals is like eating second-hand plant nutrients. Also, they eat much more than humans. If we eat less animals, factory farms will breed less animals because it is not cost-beneficial for them, and the crops used to feed animals could directly feed humans (and since we eat less, it would feed many more of us)! As if sustainability and was not a good enough reason to eat less meat, the impact on our health is another great benefit. One documentary that I watched on Netflix called The Game Changers explained the numerous health benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you don’t want to give meat up completely, try starting with Meatless Mondays! Starting a plant-based diet can seem very intimidating and limiting at first, but in my experience, it can also create opportunities to try new foods!
Use less water! One thing we have probably all heard is to remember to turn off the water when we brush our teeth, and that is very important. The EPA estimates that leaving the water running while we brush our teeth wastes an average of 4 gallons per brush. If you brush your teeth twice a day, that is 2920 gallons (11054 liters) per year! Another simple way we can save water is by buying low-flow shower heads. They are usually inexpensive, and there are a wide variety of options to choose from. Another benefit for you is that you will save more money on your water bill each month!
Compost! This is one of the most underrated practices in our world today. So what exactly is composting? Compost is essentially the controlled decomposition of biodegradable materials, including but not limited to: leftover food, eggshells, paper waste, and some plastics. Instead of throwing these items in the garbage, we can compost them! Many people can create a compost bin in their backyards, but if you don’t have a backyard, you can create an indoor compost bin. Composting can enrich the soil with nutrients, which creates healthier plants for us to eat because it reduces soil erosion and runoff. Composting is not only sustainable, but it is also regenerative. While it is important to live sustainably, it is even better to be able to live regeneratively. This means that we are living sustainably by not depleting Earth’s resources, but also giving back by creating more resources for the Earth. Composted matter brings a lot of organic matter into the soil, allowing the soil to store more water, sequester (or extract) carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and give plants more nutrients. By diverting compostable waste from landfills, you will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it will reduce your carbon footprint!
It’s easy to feel like college is supposed to be the most important and formative part of your life. At least, that’s what many of us have been led to believe through media and film. However, after some time, I’ve come to realize that’s not true for everyone. It’s hard to not get muddled up in what you think your experience is supposed to be, but it is best to focus on making it the best version of what it already is. I felt the same way about high school — like everything that happened was the most important thing in the world. Yet, the number of people that I still keep in contact with that I used to see every day can now be counted on one hand. Even my most embarrassing or happiest moments have all become a blur.
High school and college can be all-consuming while you’re in them, especially because they are a cesspool of unhealthy comparison. However, everyone is on their own path — it may take longer to get from one place to another for some, but that doesn’t determine your destination. Trust that everything will work out, and if it doesn’t, worry about it when it happens because everything, good or bad, eventually comes to an end.
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over time to help remember how to keep things in perspective in college:
1. Start studying early to minimize stress around exam time.
Annoyed how tests, projects, and papers all seem to pile up at the same time? Start studying early by going over your notes for a few minutes each day so you don’t have to cram for four classes at once. When you have some free time, study even if you don’t think you have to because exam time can sneak up on you before you know it. Easier said than done, but try not to procrastinate! This way you won’t be so concerned about where you stand in relation to others when you are cramming during exam week.
Throughout my life, I have traveled all around the world. I have been to Israel, Spain (twice), the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Costa Rica, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico. Soon, I will also be going to Canada for the first time. Although I love traveling, there are some things about the traveling experience that haven’t always been easy for me: I used to struggle with traveling alone.
The first time I ever traveled alone was when I went to Costa Rica the summer after my freshman year of high school. I remember it clearly-it was 3:00 in the morning and I had just woken up. I was so excited to go abroad alone for the first time, but at the same time I was really scared. My flight was not until 8:30, but the program told us to arrive 4 hours before because of customs and traveling to South America. Since LAX was decently close to us, we left at 4 o’clock. The roads were completely empty and I already knew we could have left later. When we got to the airport, my mom parked and walked me to security. Since this was my first time flying alone, I was not quite sure what to do. I followed my mom to the bag check and we checked my bag and got my boarding pass. After that we headed to security where we said our goodbyes.
The TSA line went pretty quickly and after 20 minutes I was sitting at my gate, listening to music and reading my book to pass the time. After what seemed like a full day we started to board and then just like that we took off to Houston for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. After 3 or so hours we touched down in Houston, and I met up with the rest of the group for our Costa Rica flight. Because it was such a short layover, it seemed like we got to Costa Rica in no time. I sent my mom a text as soon as we landed to let her know I had arrived. We landed in San Jose and stayed the night. The next day, we boarded a bus that took us on a 2-hour drive to the mountains where we were staying with our host families. The town was called Turrialba.