What can we do to make millennials care more about the environmental crisis?” An accusation wrapped in an inquiry, this is a topic I’ve heard tackled often among grownups. On the surface it’s a fairly boring question — after all, what disaster haven’t they tried to pin on us? But unlike blaming us for killing television or agitating traditional office dynamics, this one is a little too far off-base.
Because we came of age at the same time that environmentalism came into vogue, concern for the environment isn’t something our generation has had to fight for — it’s all but hard-coded into our psyche. It follows that we’re statistically more likely to act on it, even when it means shelling out good money for eco-friendly offerings.
Of course, actually buying into the latter takes some real heavy lifting and it’s easy to get discouraged along the way. So, to get the newbies going, we’ve put together an essential starter pack for building eco-conscious lifestyles — with a caveat: Buying better barely scratches the surface of what it means to make environmental decisions. By the time you’ve graduated to ordering your own African Night Crawler worms for your home compost, hopefully you’ll have taken the concepts of sustainability into other areas of your life as well — from who you vote for to where you work. Until then, here are a few things to get you started:
On hikes, where we plow through mud, run through rain, and just generally get gross, it’s funny that what some other climbers find unpalatable is trading in wet wipes for wet cloth towels. And now wipes even seem to reign in everyday situations, where bathrooms and running water are a thing. From snot and makeup to MRT germs and hiking grime, cleaning up is most effective when you don’t create more waste along the way. Write it down: “disposable” and “biodegradable” aren’t interchangeable.
REUSABLE FOOD KITS.
If you were to do a personal waste audit, you’d be surprised at how high you could build a plastic mountain out of just your food packaging and paraphernalia. Say no to plastic (yes, even when it’s attached to free tastes) by using your own glass Tupperware, metal utensils, and — if you genuinely can’t live life without them — metal straws. It’s hard work braving the funny looks you’ll get for asking for Jolly Spaghetti in glassware, but someone’s gotta do it.
STAINLESS STEEL THERMOSES.
In the UK, enough coffee cups are thrown away annually to circle the globe almost half a dozen times. They’re also coated in plastic, so no one gets points for throwing them into the recycling bin. And don’t even get me started on disposable plastic water bottles. Whatever they’re worth in terms of convenience and social stature doesn’t hold a candle to the environmental mess they leave behind. Invest in a good thermos that will keep your beverages hot/cold and your waste levels low.
If you and your dentist have a good relationship, you probably throw out your toothbrush every three months. What this adds up to is billions of plastic toothbrushes coalescing in landfills and waterways, creating a surprising amount of pollution for things meant to keep our teeth sparkly and our breath minty fresh. Make the switch to bamboo toothbrushes that are strong, biodegradable, and microbacterial.
MENSTRUAL CUPS AND PERIOD PANTIES.
Women have been taught to live in fear and shame of our monthly periods — of public leaks, of ruined clothes, of the dangers of sneezing. And on top of being mentally and physically discomfiting, pads and tampons have a nasty production and disposal system whose aftershocks will outlive us all. Enter reusable menstrual cups and period panties that are just short of magical. Ladies, these game-changers are our liberation and a boon for the environment.