Hey there, I’m Sarah!
I’m a 16-year-old high school senior living in central New Jersey. I have two passions: ballet (which I have been studying for thirteen years) and the environment.
Growing up, I was a big worrier (and still am!). For example, every night, I would pack all of my stuffed animals in baskets so that if there was a fire, I could grab them easily and run out of my house. I worried for the environment, too. In the early 2000s, schools and communities were bombarded with two environmental messages: Recycling is great, and climate change is terrifying and complicated. So that was what I grew up believing: climate change is a massive problem that the world will have to work on collectively to solve, and all an individual can really do is recycle.
“But, hang on a second…” I would think, “what are our leaders really doing to solve climate change? Most politicians have yet to make it a top priority.” And then I would take notice that few of my peers were even recycling properly. For most of my childhood and adolescence, my response to these acknowledgements was “Whelp, guess we’re screwed!”
Then, at the end of my freshman year of high school, my history teacher came up to me and suggested I start an Environmental club. The whole summer, I wracked my brain as to what I could possibly do to make my school more sustainable. I decided upon educating my peers on composting, as it seemed like the only possibility.
About a month into my sophomore year of high school, after procrastinating A LOT on getting this compost project started, I went up to my same history teacher (now my club adviser)and told her I wanted to do this, and that is how the Environmental Club, and my passion for the Earth, was born.
Throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school, I began to learn more and more the reality of the environmental movement. Beyond the depressing documentaries (which, I acknowledge, are just as important) and disheartening statistics was a world of innovation, creativity, and endless possibility. I learned through my experiences that the best way to get people involved, especially with something like the environment, is to be positive and welcoming. Real innovation and change occurs when you let people get excited about progress!
So, I started bringing resources, both physical and ideological, to my community. The club set up a Terracycling bin, we ran workshops on energy vampires, local biodiversity, the bottled water industry, and composting in Earth Day festivals and Service days at our school, we even won a grant to screen three documentaries at our library, as well as have documentary creator Mark Dixon come to the school as a guest speaker and show his film, YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip (Which is an educative, inspiring, and upbeat film that I highly recommend), to the entire student body. Through these efforts, I hoped to inspire and make it possible for others to live with more sustainability. I was beginning to really love it.
Around April 2015, I read an article about a 26-year-old New Yorker who could fit all of her trash from the past two years in a mason jar. Yes, I am talking about the amazing Lauren Singer. Some of the ways she avoided trash were so innovative, like how she brought her own container when eating out to avoid the disposable ones. I thought “This is really cool. Obviously I could never pull it off, but it’s still really awesome.”
Shortly after, during spring break, I spent five days in a wealthy part of Southern California visiting one of my closest friends from New Jersey who had moved there at the beginning of the school year. My first full day there was spent with her friend, Kyle. We stopped by a Whole Foods and bought coconuts that were covered in plastic wrap and grabbed disposable straws. He took me to Lagoona Beach, where we sat in the sand, drank our coconuts, and discussed our love of nature. This beach was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
About an hour later, we decided to get up and leave. We were finished with our coconuts, so we threw them out in a trash can that by the sand. And I heard it. The loud “thump” of the heavy coconut hitting the bottom of the can. Yes, coconuts are biodegradable, but here I was, surrounded by beauty, talking about my passion for the earth, and I had let that much go into the trash. And now the two of us were going to walk away, and never think about it ever again.
It would not be until about a month ago that I truly decided to alter the way I lived, but since that moment, I have seen trash differently.
So here is what I am going to try to accomplish through this blog:
- The documentation of my efforts, as well as my family’s, to reduce our trash and overall environmental impact.
- Empower other people in my age group (aka millennials) to be educated and environmentally conscious consumers.
- Enable people to re-think all aspects of their trash: I want people to understand the part they play in the trash dilemma(I mean, we all contribute), where their trash goes and comes from, how to reduce it, and how trash is interconnected with other environmental issues. For instance, climate change is, in part, caused by trash. Think about the life cycle of your trash: Raw materials have to be extracted from the earth, transported to a factory, then probably brought to another factory, then to a manufacturer, then (most likely) overseas, then to a distributor, then to a store in your area. Then you buy it, drive home with it, use the product and throw away the trash packaging, which a garbage collector has to drive to your house to collect and then drive to a facility that will drive it to a landfill. How much carbon do you think is involved in that process?
- Share tips on how to live more sustainably, and hopefully learn a thing or two from you guys as well!
I’m not here to say that I, or my family, is going to be absolutely perfect. In fact, there are limitations (due to the selection of stores in our area) that will prevent us from, for example, getting things such as dairy and meat without packaging. Nor am I saying that I know everything about the zero waste life style, recycling, trash, the environment, or environmental politics. In fact, if you catch me saying something incorrect, or improperly executing a sustainable practice, by all means let me know!
This blog is here to document, empower, and educate. I sincerely hope you enjoy it!