It’s 2019 and people are throwing “sustainability” around like we are playing a game of catch. With sound slogans and aesthetically pleasing products, it’s no wonder the term has evolved into a buzzword. I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone recycling, only to receive the adorational response, “Oh, that’s so good of you,” as if the recycler has just solved climate change.
Now, this is not to say that identifying as “sustainable” is a bad thing. In many ways, recycling and commending your friends for doing so is a really good thing. But my concern is, how many people are being sustainable just to sound trendy? Or even more so, how many people actually care about maintaining and even reducing the overall means of production?
Personally, my relationship with sustainability started in 2017 when I bought my first Nalgene water bottle. At the time, I must admit, I was hopping on the trend. Surrounding myself with environmentally conscious colleagues, I too wanted to identify as “BPA-free,” even though I had no idea what that meant.
But, making the decision to buy a Nalgene was one of the best choices of my life because it marked the beginning of a lifelong journey. After doing some research on the benefits of reusable water bottles, I discovered that the benefits far outweigh any costs.
According to Forbes, humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute and as much as 91 percent of all plastic is not recycled. Considering plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose, learning this was reason enough to stop buying bottled water.
In addition to the unreasonable amount of plastic we produce, giving up store-bought water bottles means giving up BPA (which I later found out stood for Bisphenol A, a potentially harmful chemical found in plastics) and saving more than $50 per year on bottled water.
However, my relationship with sustainability did not stop there. In 2018, I gave up beef — a change I was extremely reluctant to make. It took me months to finally cut beef out of my diet and, though my friends constantly supported me in actually pulling the trigger, I still couldn't resist buying hamburgers when we went out.
After sitting on the decision for months, I eventually snapped after doing the research. Discovering that we waste 460 gallons of water per 1/4 pound of beef, according to the United States Geological Survey, the answer became clear, the current rate at which we produce and consume beef is simply not sustainable.
Not only does eating beef waste a ridiculous amount of water, there are also a lot of inhumane farming practices in the beef industry. So, while my favorite meal was difficult to give up, I can now feel a sense of pride knowing that I am no longer contributing to the ever-increasing need to produce beef.
It is now 2019, and I have fallen in love with sustainability. So yes, water bottles and beef will still be out of the picture, but I am going to try to do more. I am going to try to not use plastic bags. I am going to try to only buy used clothes. I am going to try to give up more meat.
And, that’s one of the most important aspects to sustainability— trying. Because no one has to be perfect at giving up water bottles or meat or plastic bags; we just have to try. In fact, if the entire U.S. simply tried to not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of one car not driving 91 billion miles, according to the Earth Day Network.
With everything in mind, this is why my 2019 resolution is to ensure that I will never again use “sustainability” as a trend. Because ultimately, you don’t get into a relationship with sustainability to sound cool. You get into a relationship with it because you honestly love and care about protecting the Earth.
Luisa Pennington is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_lpennington_.