When this class began, I didn’t think it was going to have as big an impact on me as it has. If I’m being honest – at the beginning, I sat rather skeptically in class and thought the material was just going to be a repeating record of what sustainability is and cover information that was fairly common sense. I am glad to say that my preconceived notions were proven wrong and the principles of sustainability addressed in class were eye-opening and thought-provoking. It just goes to show how much you think you know!
Learning about the many different facets of sustainability came with some challenges as the material was – at times – difficult to process. I suppose that is the beauty of learning something new. As a course that is focused around the correlation between environment and society, I wish that we would have had more interactive elements integrated into the course. I, myself, am a visual person and I think that I would have grasped certain elements much better with interactive material.
Regardless, I know that this class has made a substantial impact on my daily outlook in life. I have a much deeper understanding on how mass consumption and disposal is quickly undoing all of the Earth’s natural work. I feel a bit ashamed that I have partaken in excessive consumption at times in my life, and now, as I am getting older I feel much more cautious about purchases and truly think about practicality vs “the want.”
The biggest impact this sustainability course has had on me is the concept of modifying behavior. I catch myself thinking twice about just buying something or tossing something out. In my field of study, both apparel merchandising and design, I see so much waste and have been guilty of it. The department does do a good job of putting out donation boxes for unwanted garments to repurpose them later. I truly wish more people would feel the motivation to donate unwanted goods. Just last night, my husband and I were cleaning out a storage unit – of all things – and my husband was so quick to say “trash it.” Instead, I decided to make a donation pile of all the things we decided to “get rid of” and we donated them today at the Goodwill. Donating our items gave us a feeling of satisfaction – we were doing our part to cut down on mass disposal by finding a new home for our things. Moreover, it made us realize how long we have held onto things that have really served no purpose in our lives for several years…and ask ourselves “why did we buy this/ need this in the first place?”
I vividly remember the Paper Beats Plastic TEDtalk video in class with Leyla Acaroglu explaining that using paper bags is truly not that much better of a choice if you’re not disposing of it sustainably. This explanation really resonated with me and made me feel a bit foolish because I have been that person that chooses paper over plastic. But, what do I do with the paper bags after I’m done? I toss them in the garbage – completely undoing the whole sustainable idea of paper bags. I’ve told several people about this video already, and it has inspired me to start a compost once I have my own home. Many people have told me that “composting takes so much work and time,” and I honestly couldn’t think of a lazier outlook. My Grandfather always told me “what comes from the ground goes back to the ground” and what a beautiful, simplistic, and natural mindset that is. That mindset is just the silver lining to what we can accomplish in the future. I will strive to carry this mindset through the rest of my life and pass onto my children and family, now, and in the future.