• Lucy Boyne

Happy Earth Day! Here’s How to Make your Lifestyle More Sustainable as a Highschool Student.

The past decade has been the hottest decade yet and in 2020, we observed record levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. It is important that everyone joins the fight against climate change. But, it’s easy to feel as though individual actions are meaningless, time consuming and expensive. As a high school student, the idea of “going green” can be very overwhelming, especially when you are living at home, on a budget and don’t know where to start! But making sustainable lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be difficult. They can be basic, quick and even save you money! Here are some eco-friendly habits that you can make starting tomorrow that are so simple, you’ll be surprised that you didn’t think of them yourself.

1. Switch up how you get around

Try walking or biking to school a couple days a week! Especially if you live within a 30 minute walk from school, this can be a great way to start your morning. It produces zero emissions and it’s great for your health, which is a win-win. Try walking or biking to school once a week, then try two days. You’ll be surprised how great you’ll feel once you get to school and you will be up to walking most days in no time! If walking or biking to school isn’t an option for you, try reaching out to your friends and see if they can carpool. This won’t completely erase your carbon footprint, but it will cut down on your commute’s emissions and is a great option for students who live farther away.

2. Unplug your appliances during the day

This may seem simple, but unplugging your appliances when you aren’t using them can have a huge positive impact on the environment. Even when you are not actively using them, many appliances spend energy when they are left plugged in, and can account for up to 20% of your monthly energy consumption. Appliances like your TV, desktop computer, coffee maker and microwave pull energy to collect data, power background functions and connect to remote servers. Making a daily habit out of unplugging these appliances before you leave for school will eventually add up, cut down significantly on your household’s energy consumption and save you money.

3. Make your lunch (and coffee) at home

Going out for lunch everyday can really add up in terms of money and waste! According to the government of Canada, Canadians throw away 3 million tons of plastic waste annually. The majority of this waste winds up in landfills and 29 thousand tons end up in our environment. Instead of buying your lunch everyday and contributing to this horrifying statistic by throwing out plastic cups, straws, cutlery and containers, try packing yourself a lunch a couple days a week. If this sounds like too much of a challenge, throw a set of cutlery and a reusable straw from a travel cup at home into your backpack, and request for your server to leave the plastic cutlery and straw out.

4. Use less water

At home, you have the power to save hundreds of tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. That’s right, cutting just 3 minutes off of your shower time can save up to 513 pounds of CO2 every year, not to mention thousands of gallons of water. Bonus points if you take a cold shower to save energy too. (Definitely not for me but if you’re up to it… go for it!) Another easy habit to create, is turning off the water when you are brushing your teeth and washing your face. The average running tap uses 6 litres of water per minute so this could save up to 36 litres of water every single day. This task is so easy, it would be ridiculous not to try!

5. Say YES to fast fashion?

Hold on, I know what you are thinking. I thought that in order to be environmentally friendly you couldn't shop fast fashion. Now there is some truth in that statement. Every year, 100 billion clothing items are produced and an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the fast fashion industry. Additionally, 93% of the brands surveyed by Fashion Checker, do not pay their garment workers a living wage and 80% of garment workers are women. This is a racial and gendered issue and must be addressed when discussing climate action, as they are intersectional with environmental issues. As a highschool student who may not have the luxury of time or an extensive budget, fast fashion shopping can feel like the only option. If this is the case for you, make sure that when you are considering a clothing item to purchase at a fast fashion store, you can picture yourself wearing it at least 50 times. Investing in a piece of clothing that you will wear consistently no matter what the current trends are, is sustainable in itself. 3 out of 5 fast fashion items wind up in landfills within a year of the purchase. So if you find yourself with no other option but to shop fast fashion, ensure that you are making smart purchases, rejecting trends and working towards a point where you love your wardrobe and make little to no new purchases.

6. Shop in your friend’s closets

Another super fun and completely free way to transform your fashion habits is to start trading clothes with your friends. Host a clothing swap party and have all of your friends bring the clothes they don’t wear anymore. You could go around the room and have everyone choose one clothing item to take each round, or do a free-for-all, it’s entirely up to you! You could also ask to borrow your friend’s cool sweater for a day in exchange for them to be able to borrow your t-shirt that they love. This way, you can create new outfits without going to the mall, spending your whole paycheck and contributing to the harmful impact of the fast fashion industry.

7. Shop local, vintage and sustainable

Finally, shopping at local stores, vintage shops and sustainable fashion brands are all great options for people who want to update their wardrobe without harming the environment or contributing to injustices against garment workers. It is true that these alternatives are on the expensive side, but if you can blow 100 dollars at Aritzia, Zara or Nike, you can afford these options too. It’s just up to you to make the sustainable choice.

8.Eat less meat

Did you know that studies show that giving up beef will reduce your carbon footprint more than giving up driving? According to Greenpeace, industrial meat is the number one cause of deforestation globally, causing billions of tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. Moreover, the meat industry advances the extinction of thousands of species and the loss of biodiversity by destroying habitat and using pesticides. This alarming truth is all the more reason to reduce your meat consumption. This can be very difficult as a high school student living at home, so start small. Try going meatless for one meal a week, one meal a day or even one whole day every week. When you choose to go out to eat, consider trying a vegetarian or vegan option. Another fun way to cut down on meat is to give meatless-mondays a try with you family or friends at home.

More easy eco-friendly habits:

Invest in a reusable water bottle and bring it with you everywhere. (this will save you money)

Donate your stuff when you are done with it instead of throwing it out.

Sort your garbage properly at school instead of shoving everything in the same bin. It takes 5 extra seconds!

Use your pens, pencils, highlighters and erasers up completely before buying new ones. (this will save you money)

Decline paper receipts.

Ask to submit your work electronically.

Re-use your pencil case, binders and calculators instead of buying new school supplies every year. (this will save you money)

Adjust the brightness on your phone and computer screens to conserve energy.

Spend more time in nature, and when you do, leave no trace.

Make your voice heard! Take part in local environmental initiatives and climate-action demonstrations.

Follow indigenous environmentalists on social media platforms.

Spread the word to your family and friends and hold them accountable.

We live in a world where “going green” is both treated as a very trendy topic and portrayed to feel like an all or nothing task. But sustainability doesn’t have to be mason jars, 200 dollar organic swimsuits and a completely raw vegan diet. It can look like making small but impactful changes to your lifestyle. People often forget that anyone can “go green” and that sustainability doesn’t have to be perfect, trendy or cost you a cent. Start small and give a few of these habits a try this Earth Day. Remember that a ton of people making small eco-friendly choices is more impactful than one perfect environmentalist.