Sustainable living is a topic close to my heart as I love the natural world and think we should look after it. Studying geosciences has only amplified this interest and now it’s my biggest passion. Often I wonder, what will make other people act? It’s easy to get the impression that it’s either all or nothing; to save the planet we should all go vegan, get rid of our cars and live a zero waste lifestyle. Or the other extreme, we focus so much on one thing that we forget about the others. I think it’s about moderation, about making better choices whenever we can. But first of all, we need to recognise that we need to change something.
That brings me to the question, why should we live more sustainably? We are currently facing several environmental challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic pollution. These are a direct reflection of our unsustainable consumption of resources. Carbon accumulates in the atmosphere as we emit it faster than the climate system can circulate it. The expansion of agricultural land destroys habitats, threatening many species. And plastic in the environment is a direct consequence of our throwaway culture. We can’t continue like this – it’s unsustainable.
All of these environmental challenges have one thing in common: the fact that they feel intangible and almost impossible to solve. But while it might be difficult to grasp the scale of these problems, we see hints of them around us: extreme weather events (like the recent heatwave in the UK which is the third longest on record), vast stretches of agricultural land (or the lack of natural environments) and litter on the roadside.
But there’s is one tool that we can use to measure our environmental impact: the Ecological Footprint. This is where the question ‘What will make you act?’ turns into ‘Are you willing to act?’. Calculating our Ecological Footprint is like looking out of the window and into the mirror at the same time, as it illustrates our personal impact on the planet. It shows which of our lifestyle choices have the least and which have the largest environmental impact, and what we can do to reduce our footprint.
The day I decided to reduce my environmental impact, it turns out, I embarked on a journey to a more sustainable life. I’ve implemented changes gradually and there’s still more I want to do. What I’ve learned so far is, that it’s not about being perfect and feeling guilty. What matters is that we decide to act, because whenever we decide against the unsustainable option we send a message along the supply chain and the more of us do it, the stronger the message will be.
Also, there are positive side effects to a more sustainable lifestyle, as what’s good for the environment is also good for us. And so living sustainably also means to live healthier and be happier :).
P.S.: Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what will make you act.