Other generations have dubbed Millenials with this annoying reputation that they are the “me, me, me, give me a participation trophy,” generation.  Meanwhile, Kathy, the Baby Boomer over there has opted to cover original wood flooring with shag carpet.

In the corner is a Gen Z kiddo doing what they do best: Snap chatting. And Generation X?  Well… what do they even do anyways?  However, even with all of the differences spanning each generation, we all have a key common demand: sustainability.  Across generations, the majority demands prioritization of sustainability.  But what is sustainability and what does it mean to become sustainable?

Why Sustainability?

If we are practicing sustainable habits, the goal is to preserve our environment so future generations can still fill their needs and feel the benefits of our earthly resources. However, that doesn’t mean that we necessarily go without—we have needs now! Basically, everyone on this earth should still get what he or she needs, but in a way that is conscientious of future generations. There are many ways to become sustainable, and while some actions may seem inconsequential, collectively, these small actions will absolutely improve public health and the environment.

Recyclable, Biodegradable, and Compostable

Remember that a key concept of a sustainable lifestyle is that we still fulfill our present-day needs. We need certain things (straws, gasoline, food packaging), but we need to change the composition and the usage of these items. This is where the three “-ables” come in, and they are key in making the switch to being sustainable.

  • Recyclables are an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Use the product, and then properly dispose of it to be made into something else instead of taking up space in a landfill.
  • Biodegradables are materials that will completely breakdown into the elements found in nature within a reasonably short amount of time after disposal. These materials disappear completely, like Houdini trash!
  • Compostables are materials that will break down into usable soil, which provides valuable nutrients back to the Earth. These materials only have a positive value and do not add chemicals or toxicity to the soil.

Just so we are clear: Styrofoam and many traditional plastic items are not recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. Fun fact: Styrofoam and plastics are literally made out of a toxic chemical found in petroleum. When we were too little to make good decisions, our caretakers would say, “No, don’t put that in your mouth! Yucky, poison!” But then they would pack up our mac ‘n cheese leftovers in a Styrofoam to-go box.

Taking Steps Towards Becoming Sustainable

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City have made statewide regulations to require sustainability. In these cities, laws require that restaurants don’t use plastic straws, plastic utensils, or non-biodegradable to-go containers. Additionally, since 2010, the San Francisco plastic bag ban has led to a 72% reduction in plastic bag pollution! So, be like Seattle, San Fran, and NYC. Keep reusable bags in your car for groceries. Don’t use plastic straws. Either ditch a straw entirely or order yourself a set of reusable straws you keep with you. Support restaurants in your city that are using biodegradable to-go containers so you aren’t taking home your tasty leftovers in a literal poison box. Demand your place of work to do better for the Earth for the future and because it’s one of the only things we can agree on across generations. Kathy, step away from the carpet samples and tell your employer you want biodegradable sporks and coffee cups in the break room. That’s what it means to become sustainable.