Ellie is a high school freshman and the student commissioner for the River Forest Sustainability Committee. She has presented to the District 90 School Board about implementing a new sustainability unit into the science curriculum. Younger generations are taking inspiring action around sustainability as part of a global movement. I'm thrilled to have Ellie's voice as part of The Fact Sheet. -Bob
By Ellie Raidt
The world is evolving, previously hidden viewpoints are surfacing and progressive habits are becoming more popular by the day. While there are many new things happening, one thing nobody can deny is the increase in citizens who live a more plant-based lifestyle, citizens who refuse single-use plastic, and a growing wave of sustainable behaviors. Plant-based options and paper straws are making their way into more restaurants, mainstream grocery stores and the lives of millions. So why is this seemingly sudden change happening? According to Business Insider, Instagram has 700 million monthly users. Could this recent increase in sustainable behavior be the result of disquieting news on social media such as the Fairlife videos, evidence of a more dangerous or inhospitable future due to climate change, or first-hand photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
It is no secret that social media has an effect—positive or negative—on most all of its users. So perhaps social media is changing habits and lifestyle. This is what I like to call “Trending Sustainability.” In other words, people, particularly youth, are changing the way they live to be more sustainable due to what they are seeing on social media.
Examples such as the posts below are pushing youth to live more sustainably, often resulting in behavior such as eliminating meat and dairy in their diets, boycotting plastic straws, and the growing trend of thrifting clothes rather than buying firsthand items.
For years, parents and teachers have been concerned about social media because of its effects on adolescents. Reasons for the concerns range from cyberbullying to the negative impact aspirational body images can have on kids’ self-esteem.
However, over time, things change and rules change. It is becoming easier to track and prevent suspicious or harmful online activity. As the rules surrounding social media develop and expand, many users are taking advantage of these platforms for good and increasingly using them to fight the biggest threat to humanity yet: the climate crisis.
A collective message can be heard by harnessing the attention of hundreds of millions of users. People naturally want to fit in. They naturally want to be accepted. Social media can sometimes make that difficult. Maybe as a digital generation we can use social media to open minds to positive new ideas and to more beneficial participation. Trending Sustainability is an emerging landmark in the digital era. Due to the natural urge to fit in, perhaps people can expand their mindsets and help solve the climate crisis that we simply cannot ignore.
Nations like Canada are banning single-use plastics, and areas of California, Arizona and Illinois are banning plastic straws and bags. The world is evolving, and the way we use our resources is evolving with it.
Social media and engaged audiences could easily be the key to preventing a devastating future and replacing it with a promising one. Trending Sustainability is an opportune door to a greener planet.
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