"Sustainability for me, is still something I am learning about every day and something I enjoy adapting into my own life"


Statistics reveal what we have known for years: The Earth is warming at an alarming rate. You’ve all seen the statistics, the sad photos of polar bears clinging to tiny piece of ice, the videos of destructive deforestation in the Amazon, the photos of plastic straws harming sea turtles, and smog polluted cities worldwide. You know, and have known for quite some time, the harmful things that humanity has caused on our natural planet for years. We cut down thriving forests to build new mansions, we pollute important waterways to create chemical dyes and fabrics, we consistently utilize carcinogenic pesticides and pollutants on our fields and produce, all for what? To cut costs and make a little bit extra money here and there? Despite all these things, I do not want to berate you all with the facts that everyone already knows. Instead, I want
to offer you a personal story about how I became interested in sustainability, specifically sustainable agriculture, and offer some sustainable solutions to some of our individually based problems and commercial-level issues.

I recently finished up my junior year at the University of Southern California, where I am double majoring in Spanish and Business. I know, not environmental science or agricultural studies or anything, really, to so with the sustainability field. So, how did I become interested in all of this in the past few years? Truthfully, farming has been in my family for generations. My father grew up on a small farm in rural Missouri, which we have since transformed into a larger
ranch. I visit this ranch three to four times a year and absolutely love being there. Whether it be to witness the incredible signs of nature, such as bald eagles flying overhead, the sounds of wild
turkeys gobbling with the coming of Spring, or the taste of wild Morel mushrooms, this ranch has been a place of pure bliss for me since I was a child. With this love for my family’s ranch and an early appreciation for nature, it isn’t entirely surprising I have become enamored with sustainable agriculture in recent years.

Sustainability for me, is still something I am learning about every day and something I enjoy adapting into my own life. I am an avid surfer, spearfisherman, swimmer, and more and I see the effects our harmful practices cause on our natural environment every day. Whether it be plastic bags or other trash floating in the ocean, large amounts of food being wasted daily, or unnecessary chemicals used on our bodies, human beings for the last century have caused largely irreversible problems to our planet. These problems, as small as they might seem on an individual basis, will continue to worsen unless we enact immense changes on a commercial level. Although this article was mostly about sustainable farming, sustainability reaches depths far greater than just our produce. If we can mitigate the number of plastic products, we use daily, flora and fauna in every ecosystem will strengthen at alarming rates at every level of the food chain. If we lessen our reliance on plastic products, this will in turn lessen our global pollution levels from plastic-producing factories, ultimately leading to a slowing of global warming. All
these things, no matter how big or small have an impact, far greater than what one might initially think.

I urge all of you to adapt sustainability into your everyday lives. Whether that means discarding your plastic toothbrush, utilizing a compost bin to mitigate food waste, recycling your plastic products, or simply using a reusable water bottle, all these things, if adopted by many will have an incredible impact.

-Tommy King, USC Student

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"We are all citizens of our communities and our countries, but we are most importantly citizens of one planet"

 

 

I moved to Mexico about 7 years ago from Seattle for a job opportunity. The opportunity would always be a temporary solution to my long-term goals but my goals definitely have evolved over time. My journey to a more sustainable life happened through a peculiar series of events. I remember one day I was scrolling on Instagram and admiring women whom I aspired to one day look like, while also admittedly resenting them. One woman, whom I cannot recall now, posed in her photos smiling in bikinis at the beach living a very colorful life, and her bio informed me that she is "vegan". I was instantly triggered on a journey to debunk veganism in order to justify my own eating habits because my meals consisted of fried chicken, eggs, but also salads with meat and dairy, among other animal products. I waned to be the one to call out a silly trend so I could continue with business as usual.

However, after several months of research, I concluded that I too would have to be vegan from what I had learned. It was unquestionable that I could no longer partake in a system of exploitation, not only of animals, but of people, the planet, and its resources. At that point, environmentalism became a very personal hobby, so to speak. I wanted to become an expert in every conversation about it and as I continued this journey, I discovered so many other concepts compatible with and complimentary to what I wanted to achieve. There is so much information available at our fingertips, it just takes a bit of motivation and bravery to face it all. Through this experience, I adopted a zero-waste/minimalist mindset where all of my purchases from then on would be intentional and sustainable, although there are still impulse purchases and other practices I would like to work on. Sustainability to me means being a more responsible citizen. We are all citizens of our communities and our countries, but we are most importantly citizens of one planet. I was privileged to be born into the United States, but from my experience outside of the country and through my research, I have found that we are blind to the world around us.

 

This global pandemic is teaching us what we are capable of as a species to protect each other and the world, but there is still much we can all do individually and systemically from the food we eat, the clothes we buy, how we dispose of waste, the type of waste we use, how we travel, how often we travel, and so much more. Through this journey, my husband and I founded the first zero-waste shop in Puerto Vallarta committed to reforming consumer culture by providing sustainable alternatives to single-use items and actively working to raise awareness of the problems we unknowingly contribute to. For example, we have started a campaign to inform our community about wasteful industries such as fast fashion and food waste and will continue to do as long as we can. 

 

My biggest motivation is the younger generation, including my future children who deserve a better world full of compassionate, responsible, and conscientious humans and I want to be a part of making that change. The future is not disposable, so I hope to inspire as many people as possible to actively be a part of the solution. 

 

-Katelynn Pantle de Zepeda, Co-founder of Zero Waste PV

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"Is this the earth we want to leave for future generations?"

It wasn't until I moved away and lived with college roommates that I learned most people do not wash, rinse, and reuse plastic sandwich bags. Why did my family have this habit? I came to realize that during the Great Depression, my grandmother adopted all sorts of habits to reuse and repurpose. Very few items were thrown away. She passed these habits on to my mother and my mother passed them on to me. Recently however, it has "saved time" and sometimes "saved money" to purchase single use items. It is a bad habit that needs to go. 

 

Two years ago my grandson was born. I thought about the layers of garbage that will be under his feet if we don't break our patterns of consumption. Some of our trash takes thousands of years to break down. Is this the earth we want to leave for future generations? New habits are possible. We can purchase in bulk to decrease packaging, we can buy locally to decrease our carbon footprint, and most importantly we can follow the old adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." We may even learn to transport our sandwiches in reusable containers!

~Teddie Potter PhD, RN, Director of Planetary Health School of Nursing University of Minnesota

 

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"That's what we're really longing for- reconnection and healinG"

 

Climate change became real to me because of where I was raised. I grew up farming in Southwestern Wisconsin, and farmers I worked for talked about "100 year floods," with the generational knowledge that those devastating events only happen every so often. They had shut down our school and flooded our community in 2008, when I was in middle school. Then they came again in 2015, filling our steep valleys and causing us to lose crops. Now they've come multiple years in a row while I'm away at college, and they're beginning to have hard conversations about moving whole towns out of the valleys- towns already in increasing poverty due to the dairy crisis. Climate change is happening in my community, eroding slowly at what makes life stable and predictable. 

It's with those communities in mind that I stand for climate justice- both trying to reduce my own emissions and calling on leaders to push for a transition to a more sane society; to create an economy geared toward belonging within the natural environment instead of seeking to extract its way out of it. I see how farmers I know are increasingly in the same struggle as Indigenous folks fighting pipelines in Northern Minnesota- simply wanting to stay on the land and hammer out a dignified living with a healthy environment against the pressures of a quickly changing world. That world is increasingly controlled by corporate power and people who live far away from the land. It's transformative to be a part of the climate movement where people are lifting their voices and making changes, but also sinking a bit deeper into their hearts and the ground under their feet to reconnect and heal. That's what we're really longing for- reconnection and healing. 

-Joseph M.

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"From Being a Believer to Being an Achiever"

 

 

I am the type of person who puts my all into everything I do. Whether it be my school work, my hobbies, you name it… I always give my 100% and am without a doubt passionate. With regards to sustainability and global climate change, not until this semester, my last semester of college, did I realize how little I knew about the topic and how little I contributed to helping the environment. I felt passionate about the issue but I could confidently say that I was not putting in my all.  I wanted to help, but I just didn’t know how to without completely altering my life.

Two years ago, I lived with an avid environmentalist. She abstained from eating meat and dairy, insisted on using soy candles, and only shopped second hand. While I tried to admire her devotion to helping the environment, at the same time, she shamed me and the rest of my roommates for not adapting the same lifestyle as she had. When I wanted to make a small change in my life the live more sustainably, she would insult me and criticize my efforts, by saying that if I wasn’t doing it all, I might as well not even try. Rather than her lifestyle inspiring me, it ultimately made me feel defeated. But it wasn’t for long until I learned that just a small change can actually make a difference in the world.

 

This semester, I have taken on a variety of actions to live more sustainably. At the beginning of February, I started to make small changes to my diet. It began with consciously picking one meal per day to avoid eating meat, then progressing to adding one day a week completely avoiding meat. Towards the end of the month, I decided that it was time to stop purchasing meat products at the grocery store. I knew that if I could avoid having meat in my house, I could better focus on forming a habit that aligns with helping the environment, one of my new-found passions. In addition to avoiding meat at the stores, I am now also consciously aware of my plastic consumption, something I never thought I would even think about. When I used to shop, I would often take home nearly 20 plastic produce and grocery bags. I now never leave the house without my reusable bags! You used to find me walking around campus with plastic water bottles in my backpack, but now, I am a changed woman who carries her reusable water bottle wherever she goes.

Due to the current health climate, I have moved home for the remainder of the semester to live with my parents. Maintaining my new habits have been a bit challenging but I still always have sustainability in the back of my mind. It has been fun (but also interesting) educating my parents on sustainability. My parents depend on paper plates and paper towels. Since I have been home, I have encouraged my family to stop purchasing paper plates and to use dish towels more often. I think it is finally hitting them that using cloth towels and ceramic dishes actually does make a difference for the environment, and even saves money.

 

After all these years of thinking that I had to stop driving cars to lower carbon emissions, eat vegan, and take two minute showers to make a difference, I finally know that making any realistic small change to a lifestyle makes an impact. I encourage you all to think about your current lifestyles and consider making these small changes. And more importantly, educating those ‘non-believers’ that climate change IS a serious issue and any change you make will help the prevention of global warming. 

~ Rachel 

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