Going Green: A sustainable start

Hello all, and welcome to the first in a series of columns about living more sustainably. Over the course of this year, I will regularly write about trying new sustainable practices, maintaining a sustainable mindset and overcoming some of the challenges that arise when working to minimize our ecological footprint.

Living sustainably is necessary, but sometimes it’s not the easiest. Personally, I’ve found that changing small aspects of my life, little by little, leads to an overall more environmentally conscious and friendly lifestyle. Although this may not be the best way for everyone, it’s been the most effective for me.

Think of first switching out plastic straws for reusable ones made of bamboo, silicon or steel. Then try eating only organic vegetables. And maybe next start buying clothes second hand. There are so many options out there, it can just take time to find the ways that fit your needs, lifestyle and budget.

I’m definitely not a sustainability expert, but I don’t think you need to be one to make greener changes. I started really getting into sustainability after coming to Augustana and seeing all the great things college students and professors were already doing. 

On-campus organizations like Augie Green and Augie Sustainability have been working for years to implement sustainable changes. Joining these kinds of groups is always a great place to start. They help foster a sense of community among people who share a similar passion. They’re also a good source of information and can answer questions about living sustainably.

I also decided to look into how to better the environment after learning that our timeline for making necessary changes is short. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have about 12 years to drastically cut carbon emissions. This announcement brought with it a sense of urgency.

When I was growing up, global warming and climate change seemed like far-off threats.  In school, I was taught to recycle and conserve resources like water and electricity. I learned about the damaging effects of burning fossil fuels and how big companies were responsible for hurting the environment.

But now, as a 21-year-old college student, I fully understand the gravity of our current climate situation. 

We’ve been given a deadline to get our act together before we’ve irreversibly harmed our planet. We have a decade to learn how to live more sustainably or else we’ve done more damage than we can undo.

That’s kind of a morbid start to my first column, but it’s also the reality we’re in. And I think reality reveals that to make real change, we need to adopt sustainability as a lifestyle. Almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives has the ability to leave behind an ecological footprint. Our clothes, our food, our packaging — they can all hurt the environment in some way. 

It is still important for big companies and governments to make sustainable changes, but I think that in a way, that change starts with the little people. 

We’re the ones who can support sustainable companies instead of big brands. We’re the ones who can adapt our lives in ways that snowball into global transformations. We’re the ones who can demand our leaders make taking care of the environment a priority. We’re in charge of our money and our vote — both powerful tools that can lead to a more sustainable future.

There’s already great work happening on and off our campus, and I hope to highlight those efforts in future columns. But I also hope to shine light on new ways that are often overlooked. I’ve learned that there is so much more to sustainability than recycling or using less water. Living sustainably is really about adopting a greener lifestyle. 

I’m looking forward to writing this column and exploring different ways to bring sustainability into my life and yours. I know there will be some trial-and-error, but I think that’s an important part of the process. I truly believe it will take a group effort to bring about this kind of large-scale change, yet I also think the first step starts with each person.

Let’s get to going green.

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