My Journey Towards Sustainability
Updated: Mar 5
Lyn Nassif, University of Toronto
My journey towards climate justice and environmental sustainability may be just like yours, or it may be very different.
It began at a young age. My family and I would go on hiking trips, and I remember my mother explaining to me why it’s important not to leave any waste behind, like the plastic wrapping of my chocolate bar.
My family loves all things nature, and they taught me about the importance of preserving it.
But how could I do that?
I grew up in Lebanon. Its natural beauty and cultural richness were overshadowed by polluted air (see trash mountains for an example), garbage on the streets and no clear policies for environmental preservation (quite the opposite).
It is a sad situation to see and experience. You care, others care, but that does not seem to be making a change.
So, at the time I did what everyone else around me did. We focused on micro-sustainability and changing our lifestyle. We hoped to encourage others to do the same. Simple steps, such as carpooling or walking, avoiding plastic waste, composting, and using reusable bottles were the new norm.
It was definitely rewarding, I felt like I was making a difference. Perhaps I was, but it wasn’t long before I wondered:
What difference are a few steps actually making? Thinking about that would sadden me. There are so many people in the world, what if we do not all collectively work together towards the greater good before it is too late? From there on, I discovered other difficulties with sustainability.
One, it is not affordable. How can the world expect financially struggling individuals to opt for a “long term reusable item” when that investment would mean there would be no food on the table in the short term? It was elitist in a sense, the movement towards sustainability was more about the rewards of feeling like we’re making a difference instead of recognizing that many people simply rely on single-use items because of reasons outside the realm of sustainability.
Not to mention, it was definitely different for people around the globe. I would see articles and guides encouraging using tap water. Growing up in Lebanon, the tap water is not drinkable, plastic was the only option. All you could do was recycle.
That definitely made me feel helpless. As if what I was doing was not significant. Even if we were hundreds, there is nothing we can do when the world is constantly moving and producing.
Then fast forward to my senior year of high school. It was around the time Fridays for Future movements were occurring all around the world. My friend came across a post on social media regarding a climate march in Lebanon.
In the past, we attended beach cleanups, we participated in marathons, we acted sustainably within our own homes. We were always focused on what we need to do as individuals, never what we are owed as individuals.
On a sunny October day, my friends and I participated in our first climate march with hundreds of youth and adults alike as part of the Fridays for Future movement. It was magnificent, eye-opening, and inspiring.
I consider it to be one of the defining moments in my life. It showed me that advocacy is essential. It is important to raise awareness, to pressure big corporations into being more sustainable, to force our politicians to make actual appropriate and sustainable policies.
If we are sustainable, but our environments, societies and policies are not, it is difficult to address the bigger (or already occurring) issues at hand.
From that point on, I knew that issues of climate and the environment were something I want to stay involved in.
I am always on the lookout for better ways to be sustainable, I am always trying to see what is going in the world regarding climate change. And, here I am, writing to you as a first year student with no idea of what is to come but filled with hope. All I know is that there is still a lot for me to learn.
Something that is important to note is that the beauty of sustainability lies in its multidimensionality. Climate change, with regards to society and societal issues, is like a cycle. They influence each other constantly.
As sad as that is, it is also an invitation to observe everything through a sustainable lens. Additionally, we must observe sustainability through any other lens you are passionate about.
Your story may be similar to mine, it may be extremely different, or it may have not even begun.
The key takeaway from this blog is remembering to make your own sustainability journey. You do not have to be an environmentalist or a scientist or a politician to care, you can simply be you, a being on this wonderful planet. YOU can make a change. You can be sustainable in your own house, and you can also participate in advocating for better actions to be taken by bigger players.
Climate change is relevant everywhere and with whatever your other passions may be, do not be afraid to look for sustainability within your everyday life and actions.
photos taken by: Lyn Nassif