5 ways to make a difference to the world

conservation woodland

It is now common knowledge that our climate is changing, our population is increasing and plastic waste shouldn’t be in the sea. However, finding a solution to what is an enormous many-sided problem is daunting for anyone. It is easy to feel helpless; even though the ‘millennial’ age is generally considered more ecologically aware, it is also unfairly ridiculed. And yet if anyone is going to make a difference, it’s the passionate, vocal fighting spirit of the millennials.

These are five meaningful things we can do:

1. Give up as much plastic as possible.

The supermarkets made a start by charging for plastic bags. Reducing the number of plastic straws in a way that doesn’t have an adverse effect on the lives of disabled people is next on the agenda and people have made headlines by removing all unnecessary plastic from their shopping in store and taking just what they need.

So don’t wait to be told what kind of plastic is now bad: challenge yourself! Try to use as little plastic as possible, and if you find a good alternative then shout it from the rooftops.

Friends Of The Earth has started a list of alternatives to plastic you may find useful.

2. Spend time in the natural world- and take other people.

This is not something you can measure with statistics, but it is groundwork. You cannot value something you have never learned to appreciate – so, if you can, take somebody to visit a nature-rich place. Even if they usually prefer the sofa.

If you’re excited and passionate about your surroundings, that excitement can often be contagious, especially with small children. If you do have a young child with you, teach them to be observant by encouraging them to count different trees, point out animals, tell you what shapes they can see in the clouds and ask their opinion on their favourite leaf shapes.

Unless you get acquainted with nature, how can you grow to value it? Experience as many places as you can. Woodland, lake, wild garden, mountain, desert, sea. Sit and look, without watching through a camera or phone lens. Listen to the different sounds. Touch things, smell things. If your place has wild fruit (that you know is definitely edible), taste it. In England, there is nothing better than wild blackberries picked from the hedgerow!

3. Be vigilant with contraception

Overpopulation has been the elephant in the room for too long. It is taken for granted that the world’s population will continue to grow, yet procreating is usually a choice. The population could be levelled if we all worked together for the same cause: slowly stabilising the birth rate. It’s a much bigger personal decision than the choice to use less plastic but the ‘group effort’ works in the same way.

It is perfectly okay to want children, but consider having fewer children, adopting children already on this earth and in need of parents, or consider remaining childfree if you don’t want (or don’t have strong feelings about having) children. There is another serious reason for this point. In many countries, this is a scary time to be a woman. Access to safe abortion is being restricted, sex education is being limited and so, now more than ever, preventing an unwanted pregnancy should be given top priority.

For many, controlling our fertility is a privilege. For those with no access to contraception or sex education, having child after child is not a choice. Support charities and organisations that actively work to provide and educate, putting that power into women’s hands.

4. Consider your diet.

Consider the inconvenient truths that everyone would rather not think about, like the fact that food production (especially meat) is a business. The food industry comes complete with cutting corners, bad conditions and saying complete rubbish in order to get us to spend money. After all, look at all the ‘superfood’ fads and buzzwords that come and go…

Due to health, location and finances, an organic vegan diet is not for everyone. Are there smaller changes that would work? For example, you could consider switching to sustainably caught fish. The most important thing is that we start to consider what we buy.

We are desensitised to violence and wrongness. Most of us see pictures of horrors on charity adverts every day on the commute to work and it can get to the point where these barely register any more. That’s also what happens when somebody posts radical facebook statuses about the need for an ethical food consumption every few hours; people stop caring (at best) and get confrontational (at worst).

I’ve found that the best way to educate and get a point across is to craft one informative articulate social media status with plenty of resources for those interested and pin that to your page. People are more likely to read a well-reasoned, clearly written post than the same opinion posted every day or so.

5. Speak. Write. Blog.

One major reason for that hideous helpless feeling when confronted with how much the world needs to improve is the fact that almost any change we make as individuals is going to have a very small comparative impact.

Take solace in the knowledge that many people making the same change does get results. For example, look at plastic bags- since the 5p charge, the main retailers issued around 83% fewer bags! That’s a small change but with a lot of people. However, the fact is that big companies have the power to make a serious difference in a shorter amount of time.

One major strength of the so-called ‘millennials’ is the willingness to speak up and find solutions. Use social media, blogging and any other platform you have. Write to those companies. Sign any petition you can*. Write to your MP about the issues currently affecting your town. If you have a blog, find a way to promote eco-friendly companies. Never stop speaking up.

* Here’s one that worked on Change.org.