Sustainability should always be considered. Whether it’s deciding what to purchase or consume, so we don’t contribute to climate change, what to take on in our lives, how much time or energy you plan to invest in something or someone, it’s important to factor in how sustainable it is. In my opinion, it’s the most basic and important question you can ask yourself when making any decision, “Is this sustainable?” or “Can I sustain this?”. If the answer is no, it’s best to steer clear, though that may be easier said than done. I have always been someone looking to the future, considering how my past or current state will impact my potential.
I was an environmentalist at a young age. My elementary school had a lot of programs about recycling, saving the planet, and conservation. There was also a cartoon I loved when I was ten years old called “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” which gave me more motivation to do good for the world. In the cartoon, kids from around the globe would come together and summon Captain Planet to fix the world and stop the destruction other humans were causing. I took the mission of the show to heart. My Dad installed a can crusher in the garage because I liked recycling so much. He would bring home some cans from our businesses for me to crush for fun. I was really nerdy growing up!
In sixth grade, we went to a week-long outdoor school camp with my class. We spent 5-days hiking, taking nature walks to identify plants. We made plaster casts of animal tracks and tested soil and water samples to see if they were clean enough to sustain life. I loved that week. It’s funny because many of my friends hated going to camp, but it was something that I continued to do even through college.
In high school, I became a camp counselor for the very same camp, hosting a group of students to the same experience I loved when I was younger. I went so many times that the camp directors eventually asked me to help train other counselors a few weekends a year. I felt like I was changing the world through outdoor education. I stayed a trainer through a few years in college, but I couldn’t always make the weekends because of work, so I had to stop, which always makes me sad to think about.
Over time, some of what I learned at camp was left to the wayside for whatever reason. I don’t know what the turning point was, but I stopped thinking about the planet in the same way, or at all. Captain Planet would not be pleased with me. It may have been part of me becoming an adult and having so many things happening all at once that I just prioritized the other stuff, but I hope to get back to living a sustainable life, in all aspects by the end of the year.
During the lockdown, I started looking at all I had accumulated over the years, the books, the CDs and vinyl, the travel memorabilia, the art originals and prints I have gathered, and all the “beauty” or health products I amassed. I have so much stuff, some of which felt obligatory to have as an adult. I have moved six times in the past five years, each time moving my hoards of things from place to place, some of which I haven’t used or looked at in years. I’m embarrassed about it, not only because I should have condensed my things long ago, but also because I should have dealt with the root cause of why I felt the need to fill space in my life and why I felt like empty spaces weren’t good enough as is. Whether it be physical or emotional, baggage is still baggage, and it can weigh you down as you continue on your journey. It isn’t realistic or sustainable to carry either around with you for long. This year, my goal is to shed as much baggage as possible to free me of burdens I have been holding on to for far too long.
I have been watching a few organizations that help the environment in unique tangible ways, and they have inspired me to do more, one of which cleans up harbors to support marine life on Greek islands. I watched a few of their videos and decided to take action. I recently took an online eLearning scuba course from PADI to start my certification journey and to hopefully volunteer on a clean-up project. I hope to get booked into some classes while in Greece, but I may have to do the next steps in person back in the UK or once COVID restrictions ease up. I hope to travel next year and help clean-up the oceans in some way.
I’ve also been thinking about my desire to travel and how mass tourism impacts the globe. Watching the news coverage of places like Venice, Dubrovnik, London, and Athens, showing them empty of the tourist masses with clear skies, clean air, and almost peaceful, makes me wonder how we will come out of this pandemic. There have definitely been some benefits we can learn from and hopefully continue. I’m conflicted on the topic because of how passionate I am about traveling and experiencing the world. I’ve been looking into more sustainable ways of traveling or offsetting carbon emissions from my travels. There are so many options available, but they aren’t commonly known, which is a shame. Sometimes the information which can benefit us isn’t made available for a reason. It’s been fascinating to see who has been lobbying against climate change initiatives and thinking about why it’s in their company’s best interest to do so.
Moving forward, I want to pledge to change. When I return to London, I need to become more comfortable on my bike, which will reduce my travel by cars, taxis, or public transport. I am still really nervous about cycling in the city when all the cars come back, but I need to get over my nerves because it’s the right thing. I want to look at what foods I buy and the food waste I am creating to minimize my impacts. I also plan to donate or resell what I can of my clothing and home items, which I don’t use frequently. There’s no need to keep around that which doesn’t make me happy or have a purpose. It’d also be nice to redeem myself with Mother Earth and Captain Planet as well.