The Small Things About Sustainability
A New Way of Thinking About Sustainability
Before the start of this course, the concept of sustainability was something that I had not put too much thought into. It had always been something that I knew the importance of, but not how it could directly impact myself. And to be completely honest, I personally initially though that there wasn’t a lot that I could do that could greatly help with the issue. However, throughout the semester I have come to realize that being sustainable isn’t about doing something major, but rather the small things that all contribute to a more sustainable life. It goes beyond just recycling your plastics; it can involve anything from physical activities, to diet, to even the clothes I wear. Over the last couple of months, I noticed how just the smallest changes in my life all added up to greatly affect my overall lifestyle, as well as the people and environment around me.
The first minor change I made to my lifestyle over the course of this semester was choosing to opt for a vegan diet. My goal was to
‘go-vegan’ for the entirety of September, and surprisingly I chose to continue throughout most of October. For no particular reason really, it was just something that I had always wanted to try, and with my mindset around sustainability, I thought this was the perfect opportunity. Initially, I thought this would be a rather difficult task, and was fully expecting to eat nothing but lettuce for a whole month. But, looking into it and really exploring different restaurants and diners, The whole process has made me think completely differently about planning my meals, as well as a newfound appreciation for Japanese food. To be honest, I chose to start a vegan diet simply because it was something that I wanted to try, and not necessarily because of the sustainability benefits associated with it. Looking into it however and doing some research, I found a variety of benefits that a vegan diet can have on assisting with sustainability. The most notable statistics I found was that a vegan diet creates 2.5 times less carbon emissions than a meat-based diet, which equates to about the same amount of carbon emissions that a family car makes in 6 months. Introspectively, these statistics were the driving force for me to keep up with this diet, I felt the obligation to lower as much carbon emissions as I possibly could. Not only was this drastic change in diet a great way for my personal assistance with sustainability, but there were also many physical differences I began to notice. Within days I noticed drastic changes, not only in what I was eating but also my lifestyle. I was waking up with more energy, motivation, enthusiasm, and overall happiness. This in turn greatly helped with my studies, exercise and a general positive attitude towards my day. Although I missed the days of a Big-Mac, the benefits I noticed far outweighed the negatives, and choosing a vegan diet is more than likely something that I will do again.
Riding More for Less
One part of my lifestyle I made a conscious effort to improve upon in terms of sustainability was to start riding my bike again. I hadn’t ridden it literally in years, it was always something on my ‘to-do’ list, but something that I never actually got around to doing. This semester though I finally made the choice to pull the old thing out of the garage, dust it off and start riding again. Immediately, I wished I had done it sooner. I found riding my bike, often late at night, gave me a euphoric sense of relaxation and calmness, which as a result greatly helped with my mental health, as well as my physicality. I began riding to work, UQ and just around the neighborhood recreationally. But personally I think the best part of this was encouraging some of my friends to go bike riding with me. While some needed slight convincing to come along, many were more than happy to go with me, to the park or shopping centers; it really made us all feel like kids again. And that’s not even mentioning the environmental benefits associated with it. Not only does it save so much time on finding a parking space, but it also greatly reduces one’s carbon footprint. I’m so glad that I have rediscovered my love for riding a bike, and it is defiantly something that I will continue to partake in.
For a completely different course, I was assigned to give a presentation on bottled water. As someone who frequently used to buy bottled water (not anymore!), I felt that this would be a good wake-up call to the impacts that I have on the environment. However, upon researching bottled water, I noticed many other alarming statistics about the water contents itself that made me rethink my choice to buy bottled water. While plastic wastage is a large issue in terms of sustainability, many of the facts about the water contents itself were quite shocking. Not only do the contents of bottled water often contain less beneficial minerals and vitamins than tap water, but they also contain the same, if not worse, levels of acidity and fluoride than just regular tap water. Evidently, bottled water was just glorified tap water, often with less minerals and vitamins. Although I was recycling every plastic bottle of water that I bought out of habit, I never stopped to look at the actual water contents itself. Knowing this however, I started bringing in tap water in a reusable water bottle from here on-out. While the environmental impacts of plastic bottles is indeed a pressing issue, I simply didn’t want to spend money on a lesser quality tap water. Upon reflection, it almost seems silly that I was buying bottled water before.
Again, all these things may seem like minor changes I made to my lifestyle, but altogether I truly believe that they greatly helped with sustainability within the community. It only takes several small things that can make a big difference. I never though that a course about sustainability would change so much about my personal life, but I’m so thankful I made the changes that I did. And that is only what I’ve been doing, I cant imagine what everyone else in this course has been partaking in. Upon reflection this is the first and probably the only uni course that has changed my lifestyle beyond the boundaries of UQ.