How can you make a difference?

This is an image of plastic bottles floating in the ocean.
This image shows plastic bottles floating around in the surface of our oceans. Our oceans are growing more and more unhealthy as time goes by, and it is only up to us to make a difference.

With the rise of a globally aware generation constantly interconnected through social media, people are starting to become more vocal about issues that they are deeply passionate about. Several of these issues revolve around the environment and the rapid deterioration of it. The buildup of plastic waste in Cocos Island, the bleached corals of the Great Barrier Reef, the endangerment of beloved species worldwide such as the Sumatran rhino and the reported cases of beached whales with stomachs full of plastic, has created quite the stir across social media. Individuals often feel inclined to share their reactions to these critical events by posting on social media in order to raise awareness. But is reposting yet another sad story relating to the environment enough to save our planet? Sure, you may be raising awareness and showing that you care, but I believe it is time for us to step up and take action. Small actions go a long way, and there are certainly changes you can make to your everyday lives which can save the environment, and essentially save us.

There are many small, but effective, ways to become more sustainable in your everyday lives. One must note however that sustainability is a gradual habit and it can take a few days to adjust to the changes you choose to make. But ultimately, paying that extra price to become more sustainable, will be priceless for the health of the planet. In this article, I will be focusing solely on plastic consumption, although there are various other factors behind the environmental issues in the world today. I want to share some things that I have started to do in hopes to commence my own sustainability journey. I will also highlight some things that I may not have started implementing yet, but will definitely consider to do in the near future. 

One of the biggest causes of land/ ocean pollution and endangered species is the over consumption of plastic. According to Ocean Conservancy, there are about 150 million metric tons of plastic that are currently floating around in the surface of the ocean, or circulating in the deeps. The Guardian also recently reported that plastic was found in the Mariana Trench, the deepest natural trench on earth, during the deepest dive ever conducted. Not only has plastic reached the deepest and lowest points on earth, it has also reached some of the highest. A recent article on CNN reports that about three metric tones of garbage and plastic waste was collected from Mount Everest. This is truly shocking to me as it shows that just like humans, plastic has essentially reached every corner of the globe. Plastic has caused habitat loss and has damaged the beauty of nature in so many ways, and the issue is progressively getting worse. There is a bright side however, as there are several organisations and NGOs that have developed projects to tackle this issue. The Ocean Cleanup Project for example is the largest cleanup project in history and is estimated to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every 5 years. 

These efforts are truly commendable and people like us should definitely follow and support the organisations behind them. It is unlikely that everyone can develop and fund a large scale project to help the environment, but it is very possible for ordinary people to take small actions to make a difference. I want to highlight some ways that I have started to cut down my plastic consumption in hopes that you all will hopefully gain some inspiration to do the same.

Firstly, I always bring my own water bottle everywhere I go so that I never need to purchase a plastic bottle. Plastic water bottles are everywhere and it is very easy to grab one. But carrying your own water bottle will help you cut down on your spending, and reduce your consumption of plastic. Relating to this, I always try to bring my own tumblers and metal straws whenever I go to coffee shops or on milk tea runs. After doing this a few times, it will become like second nature. I have started to become hesitant to go to any coffee shops nowadays if I don't have my tumbler at hand, which brings in the notion of conscious consumption as well. It definitely takes some getting used to because one may tend to forget to pack their tumblers each time they leave the house. I would recommend buying several tumblers, as it is a good investment, and keeping one in the car and one at home. This way, you can account for spontaneous coffee shop visits. An incentive is that coffee shops often provide a discount for those who carry their own tumblers and straws!

Furthermore, if you are a student who buys lunch from the school canteen, it would be great to carry your own containers and utensils everyday. With just a little extra effort, you can help reduce the overall waste production of your school. Some schools have switched to paper plates and paper utensils, but it is important to note that those are also covered with a coat of plastic. They may be just as harmful as using plastic plates and utensils. Therefore, it would be wise to start bringing your own containers and utensils to school. Many environmentally conscious schools nowadays are also promoting discounts for those who bring their own containers, which is also a good incentive! Lastly, every time I go shopping, I make sure I bring my own cloth bags with me. This has become a very natural habit for me now, because I usually keep a few cloth bags in my car at all times. Not only does this limit your consumption of plastic, it also makes shopping more efficient. Cloth bags are more durable than plastic bags and can hold more items. You can also reuse these bags for as many shopping trips as you'd like. 

Those are only a few of the many actions you can try out in order to become more sustainable and reduce your plastic consumption. It is important for the youth of this generation to realise that the future is ours, and it is largely up to us to make a difference and inspire others to do the same. By taking small actions against plastic consumption, and supporting the large scale actions taken by others, plastic consumption can decrease significantly. Trying out the tips I described above can make a huge difference in the long term. Imagine if you start carrying your own container to school, and your friends become inspired and begin to do the same? Then more and more students will witness the good deed you and all your friends are doing, and hopefully start bringing their own containers as well. Your actions and your journey towards sustainability can inspire so many others. I know I was inspired by the sustainable actions of some of my classmates to start rethinking my every day lifestyle. 

So, to conclude, it is up to us to stand together and make a difference. It is up to us to save your planet, our environment, our oceans, our animals and ultimately ourselves. Instead of just posting a photo on social media to raise awareness, think about what YOU can do to make a difference. Whether this be starting your own sustainability journey, conducting research on your own, inspiring others or submitting your own articles, we all must show that we care to save Mother Nature.