Pushing past pessimism: staying sustainable against all odds

The other day I sat at a Waynesburg University football game and watched as a train went by with car loads and car loads of coal. At first, I was slightly annoyed by the noisy distraction, and after two minutes I stopped counting how many there were, and my thoughts changed direction. I wondered, how are those paper straws at Starbucks accomplishing anything?

Just this week, according to CNN’s Eric Levenson, 126,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in the ocean off the coast of Huntington Beach in California resulting in beach closures and scores of fish and birds washing up dead along the shoreline.

Sustainability and environmental consciousness can often feel like looking up the face of an impassable precipice. I almost feel like giving up. I’m sure a lot of us already have. Environmentally friendly alternatives can add up, especially for students who are more than likely already scraping to get by. Reusable to-go containers at the Benedum Dining Hall are currently $12. I remember having less than that in my bank account my sophomore year. 

So, in the face of all the tragedies constantly occurring from the shifts caused by climate change, how do people like us ever begin to shape our lives conscientiously and deliberately to push back against the strain on creation?

I thought I’d leave you with some creative ways to push past the pessimism that can result when we feel our efforts aren’t stopping the constant catastrophes. We may only be making minor changes, but think about all the times something small touched you in a big way.

  • Switch to bars of soap and shampoo bars. These bars are typically sold without additional packaging, last longer than alternative options and are often a cheaper alternative to big plastic bottles!
  • Thrift, thrift, thrift! You can save money and the environment by buying secondhand clothing. Almost all of my outfits are from thrift stores. Shifting from fast fashion relieves landfills of our cheap clothing, and means already produced goods are being reused, hopefully reducing superfluous production.
  • If possible, line dry. This saves a lot of energy produced by dryers, and saves you money!
  • Buy refurbished electronics, including smartphones, video game consoles, laptops, computers, etc. 
  • Try to repair something broken before you replace it.

All of these efforts, though small and seemingly inconsequential, actually save money as they do their part towards saving the Earth and its resources. 

It can be easy during our day to day lives to forget that we live on this thing called Earth and are called to be good stewards of it. In all of our pursuit of unity we forget the Earth is one thing we all have in common. When we care for the Earth, we are all caring for eachother in some way.

The Dalai Lama put it best, “It is our collective and individual responsibility … to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live.”