2020: The Year to Embark on your Environmentally-Friendly Journey (the right way)

Saturday, December 21

By Ariana Noghreh

2019 has arguably been THE year for raising awareness and starting movements for important topics such as animal rights, equality, and the environment. So it can't be a surprise if 2020 turns out to become the year for action.  Something that's common in all movements, is the saying "change starts with you", and these words are great to live by. We can't just share posts or sign petitions or walk marches if we don't actively try to do things that are required for us to reach our goal and make a change. So why not start on this journey to change ourselves for the better this upcoming year?

An issue that has kept gaining popularity all over the world is climate change and how it affects the environment. Thanks to young people like Greta Thunberg and their role in acquainting and informing people from all over the world about this issue, more people are beginning to follow their footsteps and put the knowledge they've acquired into good use. More people are beginning to see the role they play in all this and are becoming more cautious when it comes to making choices. More people are beginning to realize that even the smallest changes in their routines and habits can show results, even if they're just one person. Because of this, more people are now willing to do what they can in order to support these causes. Having said all that, I should say that making mindful choices is easier said than done. But only because we are making a bigger deal out of things than they are. Let me explain...

There are a lot of things we can do to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Yet what I'm going to focus more on is the zero-waste lifestyle.

Zero-waste was popularized by the American entrepreneur and activist Lauren Singer, with her blog "Trash is for Tossers". You may know her as "the girl who could fit 2 years of her waste and trash in one tiny jar". Zero waste basically refers to swapping our harmful day-to-day items for biodegradable ones, and producing as little waste as possible. This means that instead of your typical Oral-B toothbrush, you'd use bamboo ones, use glass or metal straws instead of the normal plastic ones, and compost your food scraps. But what most people fail to understand is that no one can go zero-waste overnight.

Going zero-waste means that you have to set yourself certain guidelines and follow through with them every time. Plus, finding swaps for everyday items isn't always so easy. Only some cities, such as London and New York, have zero-waste centers. Yet there's another major problem with zero-waste that not many notice at first. The whole concept of zero-waste is wrong. Now I'm not bashing people like Lauren who've lived by this mindset and have done so successfully, but not everyone has the accessability to such tools. Even some ex zero-wasters, like Immy Lucas from "Sustainably Vegan", have come to the conclusion that this mindset is unrealistic to maintain. From what I've seen in my surroundings, this is the most common reason why people are hesitant to turn to more sustainable ways of living.

We can't all be able to fit our trash in one single jar. Nor can we always rely on making our own personal products like toothpaste if they don't come with the same benefits commercially-made ones do. Since we are all perfectionists and want to be able to do something perfectly from the beginning, we feel intimidated. Ultimately, what we have to do for the environment must also be within our comfort zone. In the end, what we're trying to do is live our best life while having as low an impact on the environment that we can. 

Not everyone can go vegan, but those people can limit their red meat intake during the week. That'll still reduce the negative impact we have on the environment. What we can do is start with small things and work our way up.

Now the question you may be asking now is "What's the point you're trying to make?".

What I'm trying to say is that instead of going from zero to hundred to live more sustainably in 2020, we can try to start with the low-impact lifestyle instead. What's that, you ask? Well, it's what zero-waste should be. Plastic and other harmful or nonbiodegradable products are found everywhere, in everything we use. So we ARE going to make waste either way. That doesn't really line up with the "zero" in zero-waste, does it? So people decided to change this and call it "low-waste", to give it a more reasonable name. Instead of trying to focus on making "ZERO" waste by starving yourself or trying abstain from your favourite things in life, you can limit how often you use certain nonbiodegradable products. What's great about this movement is that it is both easily manageable and is the right step forward. In order to start 2020 in this direction, this is the best plan of action. 

It's the small actions that matter, and if you're planning to live more consciously for the environment next year, then look no further! I've got some small tips that can help the transition to low-waste without totally affecting your life. Just remember that no one is the same, so some people may adapt faster and better to these changes in habits, while others may not. You do you! What matters is that you enjoy the process of living sustainably and feel good about going through it.

  • Don't throw out your old, unsustainable products JUST to get biodegradable ones! A mistake that most people make in the beginning is that they throw out everything that's not biodegradable. But that's wrong and wasteful. We can't really "reset" things. Instead of throwing them out, we can use them until they are no longer usable, and then reuse them or take them to recycle centers.
  • Buy your clothes and appliances from secondhand stores if you can. You can buy your clothes from thrift stores instead of fast fashion stores like Forever21. I myself used to buy all my shirts from Forever21, but I tried to control myself and use secondhand clothes more often,
  • Try to make some of your personal products by hand or buy them from "zero-waste" companies. This includes your shampoo, deodorant, water bottles and more. What's great about these companies is that they're online stores and generally deliver their products worldwide. I'd list some here, but if you literally search "zero waste" or "low waste" products, Google will show you dozens of websites that could meet your needs! You can also search for vegan makeup products, as they're still better than the typical brands you find everywhere. This way, what you put on your face is better for you and the environment! You can even make your own makeup at home! There are tons of DIYs that show you how you can make your own mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick.
  • Try to take your water bottle everywhere with you. This way, you won't buy water in plastic bottles from stores so you'll save money and won't add more harm to the environment. 
  • Use fabric bags, nets, or paper bags when you go shopping. A few countries have already banned plastic bags or put taxes on them, but if the country you currently reside in doesn't, you can start doing this simple thing now!
  • Try to go to the farmers market to get your fruits and veggies, if possible. Doing this is better as there's always an option to have no plastic packaging when it comes to your fruits. Plus, you'll be supporting your local farmers!
  • Try to eat less red meat. Now I'm not suggesting that you should all go vegan, because that's your choice. But it's better to replace red meat with chicken (or other birds like quail and turkey) and also eat more vegetables during the week. This is because the amount of energy and land used to raise and feed the cattle is way more than the energy and landspace that's used for the other food products I've mentioned. And let's not even mention the carbon dioxide emissions that are released from cattle that leads to global warming and climate change, but just know that other food choices are better for the environment. 

If you guys are planning on embarking on this evironmental journey next year, I hope that these tips could help you in the beginning of your journey. But just remember that whatever the lifestyle, what matters is that it's the right one for you. What matters in the end is how we feel about the life we're living and that we make more conscious, more mindful choices about the environment. 

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