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We’ve seen the world’s youth take it to the streets, and the pressure for governments and corporations to commit to an environmentally sustainable future is rising fast. At this pivotal point in time, it may seem overwhelming. How much of a difference can one person make? What is the significance of doing anything at all when nobody around you seem to be trying?

Take a deep breath. In the fight for our sustainable future, shifts in attitudes on both political and personal levels are what will drive us forward. If you’re keen to make some simple changes in your life, there are many places to start!

1) Invest in a metal straw, or ditch straws completely

If you’re a regular straw user, having a reusable straw is one of the easiest swaps you can make. A pack of four stainless steel straws will set you back less than twenty dollars. Share them with your friends and sip your beverage of choice in style. Better yet, just put your mouth to that glass, it does the same thing.

The bubble tea industry seems to be growing at the same exponential rate as the anti-plastic movement. You don’t have to give up your addiction—staff are usually more than happy to prepare your tea for you in your own drink bottle, just ask! On top of that, you can give their straws back to them for the next customer.

2) Bring your own Tupperware and cutlery to events

Chances are you’ve already got a mountain of Tupperware in your pantry. Bringing your own container and cutlery to picnics and parties will help to reduce the number of disposables going into the bin after twenty minutes of use. You might get a couple of weird looks and questions, but just take it in stride—you’re doing something that makes sense!

3) Invest in reusable period products

Period products are tricky—they’re a necessity to go about life, but the very premise of them is unsustainable from the get-go. Thankfully, in recent years, reusable alternatives have begun to hit the mainstream market.

Although there is a slight learning curve to using a menstrual cup, they last for over five years—that’s over sixty periods! A menstrual cup can be worn for long periods (pun intended) of time without needing to be emptied, removes the need to fork out cash once a month and slows the constant pumping of unrecoverable waste into our environment. Whilst not as popular, washable pads are also available from many up-and-coming small businesses.

4) Shop second-hand

Australians are the second largest consumers of fashion in the world, consuming 27 kilos of new clothing and textiles year. Consider going to community clothing swaps, having an open-closet policy with your friends, or shifting to the second-hand clothing market. Finding something you like is so much more satisfying when you’ve had to scour both your physical and digital neighbourhoods for it.

Don’t stop at just clothes—check Gumtree, Facebook marketplaces and even ask around before buying anything. More often than not someone’s been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get rid of exactly what you’ve been looking for.

5) Think about what you really need

Turning down things you don’t need, even if they’re cheap or free, sends a message to manufacturers to stop wasting precious resources on things that are useless. Flimsy carry bags for your purchase? Those infuriating Coles collectibles? Portable fans that plug into your earphone jack and stops you from effectively using your phone? Just say no.

Take a moment to evaluate your shopping habits. Do you shop out of boredom, or necessity? While buying “sustainable” products is far from a bad thing, the most sustainable thing would be to not buy anything at all and use what you already have. Reusing the same plastic lunchbox for years is better than buying a new one in the trendy and sustainable stainless steel.

 

You don’t need to be doing everything from day one, or even by day one hundred—progress, even slow progress, is better than stagnation. Taking small steps towards a sustainable lifestyle is not as daunting as it appears—intentions will become habits, and habits will become second nature. Our future is uncertain, and we have made many mistakes over the last few decades. But do not lose hope; the world will get through this together.