Earth Day 2014, let me tell you my story.

When I was in high school I was flipping through the channels one night when I ran across the beginning of a documentary on ABC. It was called “Earth 2100.” I was intrigued and decided to watch the film. When it was over I was completely distraught by what I saw. The documentary followed the life of a young girl, Lucy, as she was forced to adapt her life because of climate change. As challenges appeared, corporations and individuals continued business as usual–exploiting natural resources for fuel, overgrowing farmland, expanding the population and over consuming. Toward the end of the film Lucy and her family were forced to leave their apartment in New York City because dangerous storms become so regular and flooding destroyed their belongings too many times. This isn’t the most popular documentary about climate change, but it impacted me so greatly. The changes I saw were frightening and I realized that this is a future we might face.

When I came into college as a freshman I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that I loved talking to people and I wanted to preserve the Earth. So I became a public relations major and I began taking environmental studies class (which I later declared as my minor). After talking to a professor my freshman year about my passions, he encouraged me to think about environmental lobbying. In that moment it made perfect sense-convince the politicians that change is necessary and it will happen! I wanted to go to law school and move to D.C. I was ready to conquer the world.

That was until I started working with the lobbyist at the Conservation Voters of South Carolina during my sophomore year. Our lobbyist would plan meetings and gather tons of research and put so much effort into stopping certain bills or encouraging representatives to support another, but the long days of work and long days in session would often end without success for conservation issues. I was so discouraged. South Carolina is not the ideal state to push for environmental issues and build a strong network of environmentalists. I became scared that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill this dream I’d been working so diligently toward. I became scared that we would never see change in my lifetime, and all I wanted at that point was to get out and be near people that actually cared.

That summer I traveled to Denmark to study renewable energy and it was the best decision of my life. Not only was the country beautiful, but I was surrounded by people that had passions similar to mine and were determined to make a difference in the world. I got to interview the founders of Copenhagen 2025 (plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2025), I climbed to the top of a wind turbine, I got to run the same simulations of the 2009 IPCC delegates, but most importantly I saw first hand that change is possible. I had the chance to visit a wind turbine farm in Germany during the summer and the owner told us that it all started with one group of 12 farmers that invested their money into one turbine to power all 12 of their farms. After the investment was paid and the farmers gained clean, free energy people began to notice. Co-op wind farms began to pop up all throughout the country side. Now Germany is one of the largest producers of wind energy in the entire world. That story is what encouraged me to continue my journey as an environmentalist and advocate.

After I returned home I knew that I was much more interested in working with people directly, and I wanted to know how to convince individuals to care about the environment–how to convince farmers in the U.S. to invest in a wind turbine or solar panels. So I started to do research with a philosophy professor on campus. Over the course of the semester I read over 1,000 pages on environmental philosophy, anthropology and sociology to find the answer to the ultimate question. How do you convince people to care about the environment? I’m very happy with our conclusion, but it is hard to admit that there is no one and definite answer. We created a framework to find discover an individual’s environmental consciousness (how much they know about environmental issues and how they choose to act on what they know) and then appeal to them based on their specific level of consciousness using basic motivational factors.

This research is something that I’ve shared with others and I think it can be helpful in the most basic settings, but it was much more important to me, because it is something that I can apply to my daily conversations as well as my future pursuits in the field.

At the moment I’m trying to decide exactly how I want to transfer this overwhelming passion that I have for environmental issues. I know that I want to travel the world and convince as many people the Earth is worth caring about. Maybe I’ll return to Denmark. Maybe I’ll end up in D.C. lobbying or maybe I’ll stay in the Southeast and work to convince the individuals here that they can make a difference.

Whatever it is that I do, I want desperately to be able to impact people’s lives. I want to help sustain our planet and I want to help ensure a healthy and happy future.

Eco-eggs and Newspaper Grass, make your Easter more sustainable!

The trees are blooming and women are itching to break their white shorts out of the closets to celebrate the warm spring weather and Easter weekend. Baskets of colorful eggs full of pre-packaged candy, egg-dyeing parties at the dining room table, and a fit of chocolate surprises left by the Easter bunny. How would the holiday stand in our minds without these warm traditions? In the 40 days leading up to Easter this year (Lent), I decided to forego buying any new products. And in this time period, I was left thinking about how I really wanted to celebrate the holiday, and how to make less of an impact once my regular purchases were reinstated. For all of you out there who are interested in celebrating the bright and colorful holiday, but with less of an impact, here are a few tips on how to make your holiday more sustainable!

Egg Dyeing

  • Try purchasing eggs from a local market or vendor-they may be more expensive, but the taste will be well worth it when you decide to finally peel the coloring and eat them!
  • Use natural ingredients to create a dye for your eggs. For tips on what ingredients create your favorite colors check out this link
  • Consider foregoing the dye and just painting your eggs! Especially the brown ones that you purchased locally, they’ll look great with a natural white paint.

Easter Egg Hunt

  • For a small egg hunt, search around your house for old jewelry boxes, medicine bottles and cardboard snack boxes that you could fill with candy and hide. The hunt will last even longer when you’re looking for these atypical “eggs.”
  • If you can’t resist the tradition, try buying some Easter eggs that are made from recyclable materials and are compostable, they sell them at your local Earth Fare or Whole Foods.

Easter Baskets

  • If you’re loved ones can’t live without their chocolate fix, opt for some organic and palm oil free chocolate.
  • Instead of filling the baskets with plastic grass, cut up old newspapers for fillings.
  • Consider painting an old shoe box instead of buying a new Easter basket, or use one from years past.

Every day has the potential to incorporate a lower-waste, more sustainable lifestyle. So try to incorporate some of these new ideas into your traditions for a celebration that’s good for you and the planet!