When I was 16, I left Alaska for the first time. I traveled completely across the United States to attend a college-prep program with one of my classmates. We were the only two students from Alaska. This experience is the one that really jump-started the development of my ability to share my experiences and advocate for my land and culture. In the years since then, I’ve continued to share my story as it’s become more relevant to others.
The truth is, and anyone from Alaska will tell you this, the land around us is changing rapidly and changing our everyday lives. Within the past 6 years, our seasons have also changed pretty dramatically, as our winters are getting somewhat shorter and less consistent. Our permafrost is also melting, shifting the land, and messing with some valuable infrastructure. As glacier melt continues to accelerate, the sea levels continue to rise and more coasts are being threatened. Ocean acidification and the impact of rising ocean temperatures is also posing a huge threat to our ecosystems and food sources.
All these things have a massive impact on life here in Alaska. Many rural Alaskans live off of the land for food. It’s vital, considering the lack of job availability in many communities and high grocery costs. It also has a big impact on our culture, as subsistence hunting is such a big part of it and many values are taught to young people through hunting and gathering resources from the land.
Currently, the United States holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a body made up of international governments to address issues regarding the Arctic. I think that most people in the US often forget that we are an Arctic country and don’t know much, if anything, about Alaska or the Arctic. Throughout the past two years, the government has made a lot of effort in creating awareness about Arctic issues, a topic that’s becoming more popular among politicians. The Arctic Youth Ambassadors program was created to give young Alaskans a voice in all these discussions and to educate non-Arctic citizens about our experiences and challenges.
Despite all the attention and politics, there is still not enough effort going into finding solutions for the situation we are facing. Rural Arctic communities still receive little to no funding for infrastructure and little support when it comes to climate issues. Currently, there are a few small villages, like Shishmaref, that are being drastically threatened by coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Within the next few decades, Shishmaref will be washed away and the Inupiaq residents will be forced to relocate, leaving their homes and many traditional aspects of our culture behind.
I think the thing that most people don’t realize is that what is happening with Shishmaref will soon be happening everywhere else as well. With the Arctic warming at twice the rate of any other region in the world, what happens here sets a major precedent to what happens elsewhere. And what is happening is the rate of change in these areas is accelerating. These changes will happen more rapidly, and within the next century, other coastal cities in the rest of the United States will start facing similar threats.
Even though it’s still appears to be a big controversy, a majority of scientists have agreed that humans have contributed to the warming planet. How much man-made carbon emissions have contributed to that change is another debate. Either way, with the state of the planet currently, we cannot afford to continue to add fuel to this fire. We need to continue moving towards renewable energy sources by investing in them and divesting from the oil and gas industries. It’s also imperative that we reduce our waste in order to save our safe, natural food resources that will continue to be threatened as ocean acidification becomes a larger problem.
I will always talk about my home and I will always do what I can to protect it. Unfortunately, I cannot do this all by myself, nor solely with the twenty-one other Arctic Youth Ambassadors. It’s going to take a major global effort amongst individuals everywhere to create a change that will make a difference. So as an individual, I will continue to advocate for such sustainable changes with my knowledge and experiences to educate a broader audience and hope that they will be inspired enough to do their part. Let’s do something big, together.
Macy is a US Arctic Youth Ambassador and university student. She is from Kotzebue, Alaska, and has spent a large portion of her 20 years at her family camp in Sisualik, AK where she has grown in her culture, as well as in her love of the outdoors and the ocean.
“Eat local” is a phrase commonly thrown around in our generation, but what does it actually mean and why should you do it? There are many benefits to eating locally, and here are just a few:
1. Supporting local farmers
The consumer has so much power. By deciding how you spend your money, you are indirectly voting for what you think is right and what is wrong. By buying locally, you are supporting local farmers and food producers, as well as their families. You can rest assured that the money will not be kept by a ‘middle man’ with the actual producer receiving very little. Additionally, local and small farms are already struggling to compete with big farms who mass produce their goods and can afford to keep their costs low. Therefore, local farms need as much support as they can get to stay in business.
2. Reduced carbon emissions
In a world faced with climate change, primarily caused by increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a result of man's activities, the transport of goods is a significant contributor to rising CO2 levels. Globalization has meant that we can buy any vegetable/fruit in stores, regardless of season. However, this is only possible by having food produced in other countries where climate is suitable for growing a given crop. The produce then needs to be transported via plane, ship, rail or trucks, all of which emit CO2 either directly or indirectly. Perishable produce needs to be shipped quickly. By buying locally, carbon emissions are reduced, as the produce is no longer shipped over long distances, and therefore you are reducing your impact on climate change!
3. Less plastic
In big supermarkets, fresh produce is often sold in pre-packed plastic bags to facilitate transport and selling in stores. However, plastic is a major issue in our world. Plastics are produced by fossil fuels and they take thousands of years to decompose, with most plastic living indefinitely. This means more waste in landfills or more carbon emissions from burning of waste (incineration). When buying locally, produce is not wrapped or packaged in plastic – a win-win!
4. Greater variety
Large supermarkets often offer a limited variety of local fruits and vegetables, depending on consumer demand and availability in large quantities. In contrast, local farmers produce a greater variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, providing you with a larger range of nutrients and vitamins.
5. Better tasting
Fruit and vegetables that are grown elsewhere and transported over large distances have to be harvested before they are fully ripe to prevent them from going bad. Locally produced fresh food can be harvested when ripe, as it is sold in close proximity to where it was grown. Fruits and vegetables that have had the time to ripen naturally taste better and will also have more nutrients and vitamins!
So how do you go about eating locally? Let me share with you my story pertaining to doing so while living in the UK. I used to buy fruits and vegetables at Tesco, but soon realised they only sold British onions, potatoes, carrots and parsnips, with the majority of their vegetables sourced from elsewhere. I got bored very quickly of the limited choice of relatively ‘local’ produce. Also, it was all wrapped in plastic. It was then that I decided I needed to find a better alternative. I started looking at the local market halls but even the greengrocers there sold vegetables and fruit bought from large suppliers, with foods coming from all parts of the world. I was getting frustrated with the situation and was beginning to feel hopeless, so I decided to search for local farms on Google. Many results came up, and after having a look at the websites, I emailed one of the farms. Soon after, I ordered my first fruit+veg box from 'The Paddock' and since then have been receiving them weekly at my doorstep! I always look forward to receiving the fruit+veg box every week, as it makes me happy knowing that I am contributing to the five benefits listed above.
If you would like to make a positive change in the world, why not try eating locally? Based on my experience, here are some tips for facilitating your journey to doing so:
Good luck with eating locally, and hopefully you will quickly see the benefits! If you have any other tips or advice on how/where to get started, please feel free to comment below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Apart from being a student at Durham University, she loves playing basketball and hiking.
Being conscious of your waste is completely possible whilst you’re in school y’all, and I am living proof! Here are a few of the things that I try very hard to do whenever the opportunity presents itself, and are things you can implement into your lifestyle as well.
Get some at a thrift store for $1-2 or reuse some old sauce/peanut butter/salsa jars and let them change your life. Take them with you when you bulk grocery shop, pack food to go in them, use them for water and smoothies and coffee (the handled ones with a cuppow lid do wonderfully for this!). Seriously, go find/buy some jars. Wash them. Use them. Again and again and again.
I bring my mason jar (outfitted for coffee), water bottle, cloth bags, and utensil kit with me everywhere. During the week I carry them in my backpack and if I go out exploring off campus I make sure to transfer it to whatever bag I am using. I accumulated my set by the way of gifts and thrifty finds, but if you want a brand new everything this is a good place to start.
Find your nearest thrift store and always check it first before buying something brand new. For me, this is a Goodwill that is about a mile up the road. It is where I bought pots and pans, some room furnishings, mason jars, and where I went when I splurged on a new dress for the holidays. Speaking of clothes (also outdoor gear, if you’re outdoorsy by nature like me), buy second hand! If you can’t get yourself to do that, then do some research into the clothes/gear you buy and make sure they are ethical and sustainable brands.
College Dining Halls
One good thing (look at me, finding a silver lining and all) about dining halls is that the food is sold to you without packaging (I try not to think about all of the plastic waste that results from the kitchens) for the main courses. I try really hard to not buy any of the ‘grab-n-go’ items that are packaged in plastic. Sometimes I will grab a drink in a glass bottle or a Clif bar (see below) and I’ve yet to rid my usage of paper napkins.
So as much as I hate to admit this, books do have quite an eco impact and they can add to the general clutter of your living space (although, do they really count as clutter if you love them like children?). This semester, I have been using the local library to borrow books--for leisure and school. It has saved me tons of money on school books and for my leisure books it allows me to know if I like a book enough to purchase it to have and to hold. Plus, the fleeting time you have with a book makes you appreciate all the more with the time you have. Ignore that sentence, I am just rambling and don’t even really know what is going on.
One of the reasons that I call my lifestyle low waste and not zero waste is because Clif bars are my weakness. They are DELICIOUS and VEGAN and CONVENIENT and just overall add to Things That Are Good In LifeTM. It is actually a bit ridiculous how many clif bars I consume now that I am reflecting upon this... ANYHOW, the point IS is that you can actually recycle the wrappers over at Terracycle, as well as a myriad of other packaging that no one really knows what to do with, besides contributing it to the massive piles of garbage from this consumerism-driven-society-that-ruins-every-green-place-in-this-world.
I am lucky to live in a place that has city-wide composting (go you, Portland!), but if you don’t have this privilege, then make your own compost bins and smile because you are making a difference for this wonderful planet!
Bulk Grocery Shopping
Bring your containers/bags/jars and get to your nearest store with a bulk section. Even more and more ‘regular’ grocery stores are starting to have bulk sections. Bonus: going into a grocery store and refusing to buy anything with packaging forces you to be healthy. Although, I’ve still managed to find bulk chocolate chips…and we all know how that goes.
As I am a first-year student, I live in a dorm. Among many other things (kitchen cleanliness anyone?) the paper towel waste in the bathroom is something that really bothers me. My environmental club, Greenboard, is trying to get campus-wide paper towel composting and/or switch to real towels, but in the meantime I either use my clothes as a towel or make sure I take the paper towels I use to the compost bin nearby in the kitchen. Portland allows for paper towels to be composted, but definitely check with whatever system you are using to be sure that this is okay. Or just use a regular towel--bonus points: this might help with making your dorm seem less like a prison and more like a home as well.
That’s all I have for now folks. Sometimes it’s hard to live a low waste life and you have to make some compromises, but let’s just remember that by implementing earth-friendly habits we do make a difference, no matter how small it may outwardly seem! We are keeping plastic out of the oceans and coffee cups out of the landfills and helping the animals and the wild places and I suppose the human race by default. If we stick together, together we can do something big!
Mahalia is a college student living in Portland, OR and enjoys eating vegan food, wandering the wild and petting ALL the animals. She is going to save the oceans.
My first experience of the tragic amount of food that supermarkets waste was a couple of years ago on an adventure to the Co-op with my Mum (exciting I know) to buy food for my Grannie. But it’s not every day that you go to the shops and come back wanting to change the world just a little bit. It was all because I attempted to buy some Love Hearts from the reduced price section. I was actually pretty excited by the prospect of getting a bag of Love Hearts for 29p as I always love a good bargain. However when I got to the till the cashier told me she couldn’t sell them to me because they were 2 days out of date. She said they’d have to be binned. My mum asked whether they could go “in her bin” but the cashier refused. It probably wouldn’t have bothered most people but I came out of the shop annoyed. I would have understood if they had been 5 or 6 years out of date, but 2 days past an over-cautious best before date was just ridiculous. I know that one packet of love hearts wouldn’t solve the world’s hunger crisis if it was given away instead of binned, but it made me stop and think about how much food is being wasted and about how many people go without food every single day.
So here are a couple of positive things we can to do to combat the problem of food waste:
FoodCycle – I signed up to help out with Food Cycle in Durham, a charity that cooks meals for people at risk of food poverty, and am so glad I did. Here are a couple reasons pertaining to why it's a great thing with which to get involved:
The reduced section – If you are a student reading this, I doubt you need any help at understanding the concept of the reduced section! Look for the yellow labels and buy them up (otherwise they’ll be binned by the end of the day!).
Be creative with your meals – If you see something in the reduced section that you wouldn’t normally cook with, buy it and make something different. 'BBC GoodFood' is a life saver for figuring out what you can make with what you have. Just type in the rogue ingredient, sift through a couple recipe options and try to make something different! If you don’t have something from the recipe, Google alternatives for it and you may find that you already have what you need! For example, you can use 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or a banana to replace 1 egg. Multiple other substitutes exist for things you might not have in your refrigerator/pantry; don't be afraid to pop the ingredient in a search, you may be amazed with what you find!
The freezer – The freezer is a fantastic way to reduce our own personal food waste. You can freeze almost anything! Cook or roast vegetables that are beginning to turn and then save for another day.
These are only a couple of ideas of how we can promote a culture of food use not food waste, although there are many more out there (feel free to share your tips in the comments below)! So why not take up the challenge of implementing some of these habits into your lifestyle? Have fun whilst cooking, eating with friends and feasting on great conversations!
Roseanna has lived near the sea in the UK for most of her life, which has grown her love for walking along the coast and swimming in the sea. Exploring and finding beautiful places in both the countryside and in towns makes her super happy too!
I awoke today to the calm after the storm. Snow drifts lay piled three to four feet high, shining in all their glory--the effects of the worst storm of this winter in Wisconsin, so far. What last afternoon and evening was the tremendous howling of wind and whiteout conditions of snowfall, now lay in silence; with only the occasional chirping of the chickadees, junkos and cardinals at the snow-ladened bird feeders breaking the peaceful dawn.
After casting a look outside at this snowy abyss, my stalwart husband proceeded with the morning watering of the pigs and lighting of the outdoor wood stove. He was led by our cocker spaniel, Mocha, who trail-blazed through the mounds of deep snow, and was further accompanied by one of our german shepherds watching out for him in the new landscape. He plunged into the whiteness, and came back 20 minutes later, covered with snow from head to foot due to misjudging a drift, and tumbling into it.
Later in the morning, I repeated the hog watering with the faithful dogs by my side. The pigs were more interested in playing in and eating snow, than worrying about the warm water I poured for them. They hopped and squealed and rooted in the snow drifts within their pen.
My next morning chore was to remove the six inches of snow and ice from the solar panels on our farm. Plodding slowly and carefully through the mounds of cresting white waves sculpted by lasts nights wind, I made my way to the panel framework across the yard. It took genuine effort to remove the caked snow and underlying ice from the slick black surface. As the snow chunks fell toward the ground, my companion, our older shepherd, jumped around, biting at them in the air whilst barking joyously.
Pigs watered and panels cleared, I headed back to the warmth of our home. There, I relished the warmed floor in our kitchen while drinking steaming hot tea. This is living!
Organic farmer, artist, and mother of four--this fabulous woman has seen it all.
Do you want the world's oceans to become cleaner? You can start by creating your first one clean meter right now! 'One Clean Meter' is a project that encourages people all around the globe to make a difference together by cleaning one square meter of contaminated coastline. It's a great way to share all our love to the sea, the ocean, lakes and rivers all over planet Earth!
What is One Clean Meter?
One Clean Meter is a global non-profit volunteering project that was created to motivate people to look after the world’s beaches. The project works as a link between tourism and ocean-cleanup. Anyone, anytime and anywhere can join our community and support the idea. The project started in March in 2015, and now it is truly developing a wonderful community of people all around the world. The project is primarily based in social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. One Clean Meter is absolutely certain that just a small step forward will help the oceans!
One Clean Meter is an active community that is raising awareness around the global problem of ocean pollution. The organization posts facts, motivational pictures, videos and other people’s 'clean meters' to encourage people take action. The community is very responsive and it has more than 960 people involved with the project already.
The ‘One Clean Meter’ page has been translated to three languages: English, Russian and Chinese. This supports people from different parts of the word and makes the information more accessible so that everyone can join in and understand the concept of the idea. From the very beginning, One Clean Meter has received massive support from all around the world that was absolutely amazing. Now there are more than ten new clean meters from different places in the world and we are looking forward to get many more in the future!
How to make a One Clean Meter?
1. Go to the nearest beach.
2. Measure 1 meter of any contaminated area. Outline the area using your foot or a wooden stick.
3. Take a picture of the place “before” and “after” cleanup.
4. Send a photo to us, to inspire others!
5. Specify the location where you did your cleanup. Done! You've joined the game.
Get Involved with the project:
Official hashtag: #onecleanmeter
This is a really exciting project in which you can get involved wherever you are in the world! Join the community now, and let's start cleaning this planet up together. And always remember that, together, we can do something big.
Kate is from Minsk, Belarus and is currently studying at Durham University in the UK. She enjoys travelling around the world and exploring new cultures. She is the founder of the One Clean Meter project.
Sometimes it’s hard.
Sometimes it’s hard to care so much and feel so connected to the environment. Sometimes convenience almost wins over doing the 'right' thing. Sometimes, it sadly does win over. But ultimately, it is worth it to be a mostly-plastic-free, minimalist, vegan. It’s worth it for the EARTH, for the animals, for the future human generations (if you’re into that sort of thing), it’s worth not generating new trash that sits around for eons.
But I have to admit, sometimes I just really want a cup of coffee, or a scoop of ice cream and the shop may not have reusable dishware and utensils, and I may have forgotten my cup or my bamboo utensils and I may may get bummed that I cannot (or rather choose not) to get the food. Sometimes I crack and I get a plastic-wrapped sandwich. But at these times I have to remember:
It. Is. Worth. It.
For the sea turtles that eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.
For the piglet who has a canine best friend.
For the oceans. The oceans that are choking with plastic.
It’s worth it to choose love and compassion.
Sometimes I get annoyed that people leave trash literally everywhere, and I get annoyed that I feel obligated to clean up after them.
But it’s worth it.
Worth it to have clean natural spaces.
Worth it to remove plastic so that wildlife won’t eat it mistakenly.
It’s worth it to choose love and compassion. Because Love Trumps Hate.
Mahalia is a college student living in Portland, OR and enjoys eating vegan food, wandering the wild and petting ALL the animals. She is going to save the oceans.
For the past year I have been learning more and more about the negative impacts plastic has on the environment and our oceans, about 'zero waste' lifestyles and people who put their values into action. Following this gradual process of environmental education I decided that I wanted to live according to my values.
In order to do this, I resolved to live for a month with limited plastic consumption, especially reducing my intake of single-use plastics. As I began I was met with a challenge much more difficult than I had expected, and started to notice plastic everywhere.
There is plastic on our food (milk, pasta, grains, pre-packaged foods, lots of vegetables, produce stickers).
There is plastic on our parcels.
We put our trash in plastic bags.
We put our groceries in plastic bags.
We eat our food with plastic utensils.
We get our plastic utensils wrapped in plastic.
We chew plastic in chewing gum.
And we love to throw plastic away.
As I plod along on my daily runs I see it in the river, on the river banks and in the streets. I see recyclable bottles tossed aside and I see a large majority of people who don't care. Many of us don't think twice about it, this normalized part of our society.
But would we think twice if we knew that birds and fish eat our plastic--filling their stomachs and leading them to starve? Would we think twice if we knew that the plastic we consume breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces in the ocean, making it nearly impossible to clean up? Would we think twice if we knew it was created from fossil fuels, feeding even further into the problem of out-of-hand CO2 emissions?
There are sources of plastic I didn't consider the difficulty of avoiding: gifts of plastic-wrapped chocolate from friends, plastic linings inside milk cartons and the packaging of online orders. I didn't expect that asking for the things you buy to be put in alternative packagings (i.e. bringing your own mug for coffee, your own cloth bags to put bread into, your own jars in which to put coffee beans), would be met with skepticism and sometimes outright refusal. But I also didn't expect the moments of recognition by others of an issue, and interactions with people that left me glowing with hope for the future.
Change will only come when we stand for what we believe in, and I believe in the benefits to our planet of adopting a plastic-free lifestyle.
If we believe in reducing our plastic intake, we need to approach skeptics with confidence and explain why adopting this lifestyle matters. After all, why feel embarrassed to be saving the oceans and reducing our environmental impact? That's right, we shouldn't.
Over the course of the past month I wasn't entirely successful in my attempt at a plastic-free me, but I have learned a lot and plan to implement plastic-free habits into my everyday lifestyle. Some simple things I've found that each of us can do to reduce our plastic intake are:
In conclusion, plastic has many negative effects on our oceans and the wider the environment, and it will only be when we collectively stop using it that positive change will begin to occur. Sometimes it is difficult to remain positive about the state of the environment, especially as we find ourselves living in a world seemingly so oblivious to the negative impacts we are inflicting upon our natural resources. However, there are people out there that care, and positive changes actions are being implemented every day.
For example, very recently France banned plastic cups, plates and cutlery. In order to work towards similar positive actions, get involved and write to your local government representative about why banning single use-plastics is important to you, your country and the planet.
Stay positive and determined, and remember that together we can do something BIG.
Mariama lives in the UK whilst studying ice and other earthy things. She enjoys running through wild places, going on adventures and learning stuff.