Navigating Our Current Environment

Sustainability… Climate change… Environmentally-friendly… Green… Low-impact living… We see and hear these words being used interchangeably almost everywhere in the media these days.

Large companies and organizations almost everywhere are setting and publicly announcing big bold climate change goals focused on reducing emissions and working toward a net zero business model. Along with emerging government regulations and continued differences of opinions whether climate change is even real.. how is our society supposed to come together to reduce our impact?

What is all of this supposed to mean for the everyday person? If we are really approaching the tipping point before our society’s impacts are supposed to be irreversible, what are we as individuals supposed to do? Can we do anything? What are some ways we can easily change our everyday lifestyles to adopt more sustainable ways? These are the questions I would like to explore.

About Myself and Background

My name is Jessica, and I am 26 years old. I have always had a passion for Sustainability ever since I was a little girl but never knew it was a career possibility until later in life. I grew up climbing trees and always loved to spend time outside until the sun went down. I would collect every rock I found outside our house because each one was unique and told a story… which is what I tried to convince my mom not knowing that she was secretly throwing them back out because my room was starting to resemble a chinese rock garden. I always pressured my parents to sell our house, buy a comvee, and start a nature documentary show like the Wild Thornberrys. I even tried to talk to animals… Needless to say, I was a very nonconventional, interesting little girl. 🙂 

I felt lost throughout school because majority of my friends and peers knew exactly what they wanted to do and/or be career-wise. Of course, they were the typical careers that had a straight and narrow path on how to get there like nursing, culinary, various medical positions, accounting, etc. I still had no idea.. In fact, it wasn’t until I was going for my Bachelors degree that I even knew one could major in Sustainability. 

Quick story-time because I feel like it is an important story to share with students who might be in the same boat..

I was originally in school as a pre-veterinary major. Trying to keep my Wild Thornberry fantasy alive, I was aiming to be a wildlife conservationist and travel around the world saving endangered species and couldn’t be told otherwise. I love travelling and animals, so it was like feeding two birds with one scone (if you have never heard of this phrase.. Please check out PETA’s Animal-Friendly Idioms for a list of updated phrases). Personal recommendation for other ambitious, headstrong students like I was.. Take every opportunity to shadow, volunteer, or work in a field you THINK you would be interested in. Lets just say… it wasn’t for me 🙂

Feeling lost again, I was scrolling through similar bachelor degree programs at my University still determined to graduate within four years. Scrolling.. Scrolling.. I thought there has to be something I could like enough to stick with. Then I saw “Environmental Science”.. What was that?! I quickly read the description and immediately was convinced I had found my childhood passion written in that high-level degree description. I switched my major the very next day.

It wasn’t what I thought it would be.. Majority of my degree was focused on Geology and not Sustainability, and no one seemed to understand the difference. I think this was typical for a University at that time in the Midwest where steel, petroleum, and farming industries dominated the area. Even my advisor referred to the Environmental Science degree as the “dumb version of the Geology degree”. They encouraged me to switch to a different major because they felt that I would not have a successful career in that field.  

I didn’t care though.. I believed in the field and knew that Sustainability was growing and that there would be MANY opportunities in the future. I am happy to say that I am currently working for a large corporation in their Sustainability department for the last four years, so I can confirm that there are opportunities in this field.

Can I Adopt A Sustainable Lifestyle? How?

Even with an educational background in Sustainability and working in the field for four years, I still feel lost when it comes to what Sustainability means to me as an individual and how to transition to a sustainable lifestyle. With all the events happening in the world due to COVID-19, I think this is the perfect time to make some life changes. Some of the questions I have bouncing around in my head are:

  • How do I eliminate single-use plastic in my house, specifically my kitchen and bathroom? Where do I even start?
  • How do I use the bulk item service areas in grocery stores without looking like an idiot? What will I need? Is it really cost-effective?
  • Where does all of my empty product containers even go? Is recycling really making a difference or is it better to just find an alternative product with minimum to no packaging. Is it really being recycled..? 
  • Are there easy recipes for foods I buy at the store I can make at home to reduce waste?
  • How do I start composting? Will it stink up my whole neighborhood making me the most hated on the street?
  • ….can I go vegan?

These are just a few questions about Sustainability I have for my personal life. I have spent a lot of time reading other blogs and looking on Pinterest for ways to adopt sustainable practices and feel that there is a gap on what it actually takes to get there and the journey from now until that end goal. 

I’m not talking about anything radical like installing a compost toilet, making my own clothes from fabric scraps, or going off the grid on some remote island.. Simple things in your daily life that we as the average citizen can do to reduce our overall impact without sacrificing some comforts in life.

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and some of the topics I would like to explore. Not sure if I will be successful, but as a Steward of the environment, I feel that it is my duty to give this my all and share my experiences to hopefully help educate and encourage others to do the same. Stay tuned as I share my journey towards understanding and adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Robert Swan