Making a Positive Environmental Impact as a Teen
While making a change in the environment is one of the most important pursuits there is, it is easy to feel like there’s not a lot one person can do to make a huge change. I can totally relate to this feeling, but with determination I realized how infectious caring for the environment can be. By putting in individual effort, we can inspire those around us to do the same, and leave the earth in a better position than if we did nothing at all.
I’ve assembled a guide to some simple actions that would be hugely beneficial for the environment if we all took them up. Each of these tasks can be integrated into your daily routine and they don’t require setting aside large chunks of free time.
Growing up as a millennial, I was taught the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) in school, and I was always well aware of each individual’s responsibility for the environment. Much of my habits were formed around this knowledge, but I wasn’t exactly taught to go far out of my way to reduce my carbon footprint. It wasn’t until I travelled outside of North America that I realized how many of the environmental evils I thought were inescapable–like to-go coffee cups or a processed and wastefully packaged foods–were in fact avoidable.
It may sound silly, but one thing that’s significantly reduced my production of garbage is thinking about my daily and weekly consumption. Like how many excess napkins I’ve taken from a coffee spot, the amount of take-out cups I’ve thrown out in a day, which products I’ve chosen from the grocery store and whether they are the ones that use the least amount of packaging––actively thinking about these things has allowed me to reduce the harm I’ve created.
There are tons of ways to stay informed about the environment outside of the classroom, even though you might have to go a little out of your way to find them. Every major environmental organization you can think of has a Twitter feed to keep you updated, and there are plenty of awesome journalists (Hiriko Tabuchi, Zoe Schlanger, and Alexander Kaufman, for example) that are constantly writing articles to help you see these universal issues differently. Since the environment rapidly changes, as do the methods environmentalists use to aid it, so it’s important to keep your eyes peeled.
Along with articles, there are also plenty of apps and podcasts to download that present new ways of seeing issues that might seem rather boring when presented in a textbook. Stepping Up, a podcast with an eye for groups with interesting takes on the environment, and GoodGuide, an app for environmentally conscious shopping are two good places to start.
Something that’s severely aided my effort to be mindful about my environmental impact is making it into a communal effort. In high school, I begged my friends to join me on the school’s tree planting trip, and even though we got a bit more dirty than we would usually, it was a fun activity that broke us up from our usual shopping mall haunts. Especially in suburbia, high school can be sickeningly repetitive, but irregular environmental initiatives can be a sweet way to break up the time, and get out of class.
Nowadays, I maintain an eco-friendly support system with my sister’s help. Whether it be leaving a set of reusable plastic cutlery in my tote bag to use in place of the wasteful plastic cutlery used at fast food places, or skipping the Uber ride and hopping on my bike, having my sister to discuss these choices is super helpful.
There’s always some way of rerouting our instincts to be more thoughtful of the world we live in.