Halfway There

And yes, I AM living on a prayer.

This week known as Reading Week, which is more like Writing Week for me as I try to tackle 3 research papers with my spare time, marks halfway through my time studying abroad.

As with any semester, every week feels like it drags on, but the weeks pass by very quickly, a strange phenomenon. My days are down to a routine, and I can get my way around campus quite easily. I have familiar faces around me now. It almost feels weird to think back being on my home campus despite also knowing that like the back of my hand. I can get used to change fairly easily, so any hesitation was more of first-day jitters.

Because at first, it definitely felt like I was a freshman all over again. Everybody else, being it halfway through the year, has established themselves here. Especially on a small campus, that is even more evident. These people have a closely knit community I really admire, but it’s hard for a “drifter” like me to get to their level. I was back having that same anxiety from my first year wondering if I was doing it all wrong, if I should be doing this or that instead. I think the kids call that FOMO: the fear of missing out.

A consideration I was hoping I wouldn’t have much to deal with was mental illness, but alas, but depression and anxiety have hit me hard. This semester has also been different in that I’m not invested in a lengthy schedule. I have free time now I never had before during the school year, and that was very hard to get used to. I’m not good with free time, but it was a challenge for me to tackle.

Now on to the more fun things. I am beyond grateful for my experience thus far. I have found a new place to call my own, a beautiful place with a landscape I have immediately fallen in love with. While it’s intimidating to have two fluent languages conversing around me, it is also exciting. My campus has some beautiful buildings and people in them. 

Should I also mention again how I saw Justin Trudeau last month? That alone makes the trip worth it. But I have also enjoyed exploring the nearby burough and downtown area. And yes, I enjoy being a spectator right now as I see the current state of America and where it might be heading.

This experience continues to teach me every day. I learn the value of what “home” means to me, which has never actually been a place, but the people I hold dear. Keeping up with contact as well as a long-distance relationship aren’t easy, but they are worth the effort. 

I have always prided myself on being independent, but studying abroad is a true test of that. Which admittedly, it’s intimidating. Simple things like figuring out the bus system or getting lost can become overwhelming, but I have truly taken this time as personal growth. I have been able to learn about myself like never before. I have been able to dig deeper and discover new passions. I can grow more comfortable with myself and the person I would like to be, all of which are very empowering. Obviously you don’t need to leave the country for four months to figure that out, but being in a new environment is so helpful. 

I cannot wait for what the next two months will bring and how I can enrich my time here even more. As I had expected, my travel bug is now buzzing at its loudest volume, making me really consider how I want to move forward into the coming school year, my last year. 

The things I have to come learn and appreciate I hope to carry with me back to the States and beyond. I want to look at any sight and be in awe. I want to see the goodness in people. I want to make time for the things I truly believe matter to me. I want to look at fear and hesitation in the face and just live.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Campus Safe Haven?

For my host country like Canada, universities need no special recognition for welcoming anybody regardless of citizenship or ethnicity. When Canada already has an administration known for accepting every person that enters its borders, the entire country is a safe haven. The country hasn’t seen many asylum-seeking immigrants before, but according to Canada’s National Post, officials need to start preparing for an influx of new people at the border.

American perspectives on immigration are a tad different. Since Trump has begun pushing for efforts to find and remove all undocumented immigrants from the country, the collective emotion rising among the American people is fear. If Trump were to deport every single undocumented immigrant, the New York Times says the total people affected would be up to three million. If his plan is carried out accordingly, it would require raids by a vastly larger federal immigration force to find immigrants and send them out of the country. This proposed policy in of itself leads to further complications and questions.

From the anti-immigration fear arose an increasingly popular title for universities to adopt: “sanctuary campus.” A Billy Penn article defines a “sanctuary campus” as any American college that adopts policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants. The term is modeled after policies implemented by “sanctuary cities,” a status that has been adopted by over 30 towns. The status suggest campus policies such as barring campus police from enforcing immigration orders, not sharing student information with immigration enforcement officials, and denying federal officials entry without warrants.

My home campus, the University of South Dakota, is considering actions toward becoming a sanctuary campus. If approved, the decision would be the first of its kind in the sparsely populated conservative state. While it’s honorable to consider such a title, the campus designation is just that: a title. The title might be even more problematic than helpful. All college campuses should do the most within their power to legally protect undocumented students. Going beyond legal means would be both risky and potentially detrimental to the entire student body.

Becoming a sanctuary campus is less about practicality and more about viral headlines. Especially in the conservative Midwest, the term depicts a defiance of law and serves as a trope for unauthorized immigration. When such a “sanctuary” is tinged with racist and anti-Mexican sentiment, the term becomes even more poisonous. One person’s safe harbor is another person’s harboring. The real authority here, no matter how public universities try, is the state government funding it, a government that could easily decide to cut funding if such “sanctuary” actions are taken. Federal action could even potentially threaten to withhold federal funding for colleges refusing to issue student loans to students at sanctuary campuses or withholding federal research grants.

The sanctuary campus movement mainly aims to protect those under DACA, or Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals. American organization Immigration Equality says that on June 15, 2012, President Obama created a new policy calling for deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. After already deporting some recipients of this designation, according to the BBC, Trump seems to be disregarding DACA already, going on the basis of young people committing crimes worthy of deportation. Ultimately, however, DACA is a temporary deferment. Student visas are available, but to get a Green Card requires employment and there are a limited number. With any executive action to further deportation efforts, DACA would inevitably see an end altogether. At this point, all Trump has to do is stop renewing permits and stop deferring deportation.

The deportation matter is one we need to tread lightly and cautiously. In protecting students, universities should do anything legally possible for students who, after all, are not lawbreakers. Institutions should automatically provide support and services, as they would for all their students, especially vulnerable ones. Exacting pledges that cannot be kept will do no one any good.

Several major campuses have already decided to avoid claiming themselves as sanctuaries, including Stanford and Notre Dame. Both universities see the symbolic weight of moving forward as sanctuaries, but officials from both campuses see a greater fear in federal retaliation and increased exposure for vulnerable students that public institutions cannot protect them from.

Whether a university declares itself a sanctuary or not, American students still have basic rights that can protect them. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), for instance, prohibits schools from releasing a student’s personal information without the student’s consent. Also, the federal government has a long-standing policy to not attempt raids or arrests at certain “sensitive” locations like college campuses. Although there is obvious  concern that the Trump administration could reverse or even revoke those policies, immigration advocates say that the policies have been in place for so long that changing them would be extremely difficult.

As a public university, is moving forward into unknown territory with unknown repercussions smart? Universities can continue providing education and a location where immigration agents likely won’t go, but we’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist yet. The sanctuary title is nothing but another form of protest, a protest that would cause more harm than good. Choosing to be proactive is respectable, but it’s more respectable to have truly clear, legal standards to protect students.

The real action needing to take place is at the federal level to allow greater accessibility for immigrants to become citizens, a hope that probably isn’t feasible under the Trump administration. I wish I could end on a more hopeful solution, but legally, there is none at this point. To show support for all students, USD’s SGA bill works just fine, but we cannot expect USD to get involved otherwise. The government is still in charge. We just need to keep protesting and voting. We cannot stand behind a public university to face our problems. If this is an issue we are concerned about–and rightfully, we should be–this is our battle to fight.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Strain on Eyes or Trees?

Since I have midterms coming up next week, the impending doom of what those tests (and anxiety) might entail, my reading has certainly slowed down from past month. Another key reason is that it keeps snowing (cough, Spring, you can show up any time now…) so it’s near impossible for me to make it to the used bookstore I love.

Although there is an avenue I have considered to help in this dilemma, except my own preferences get in the way. I’ve tried to do the whole ebook thing. I’d love to be able to do it. My eyes just do not appreciate reading from a glowing screen for hours. 

I already spend so much time in front of a computer or phone screen, reading is my little escape from the technological overload to wind down and feel like I’m not just wasting my mind away to mush. Yes, this is legitimate concern for me. 

And especially knowing the big environmentalist that I am, you’d think I’d be all on board for more ebooks. Not only do they save trees from succumbing to the publishing industry, ebooks are cheaper to begin with and you can usually read them from multiple devices. Heck, if a book is old enough to be free domain, you can just read online for free, no questions asked.

Yet I still cling to the idea of holding a book in my hands, flipping the pages to see how long a chapter is, judging my progress from the depth of a bookmark. Reading is an experience, and having a slim little device takes away all of that joy.

Call me dramatic. I should just appreciate the literature and writing itself that I’m reading. But I truly do feel a difference in my interest and retention of what I’m reading when comparing the two scenarios. If I have technology in front of me, usually it’s not to read. Having your eyes staring at a YouTube video or TV episode is very different from reading.

Obviously people have preferences. If you have young people who don’t like reading in the first place, ebooks are a great compromise. For others, me included, the screen results in visual fatigue. Plus, especially for those who enjoy reading before going to bed (a great option for people with sleep problems. Again, I fall into this category), the artificial light transmitted from the screen will have the reverse effect on sleep. 

When it comes to college textbooks, I prefer finding them online, which seems counter to everything I’ve said thus far. Yes, I retain way more information with a paper copy, but textbooks are also ridiculously expensive. Regular books can be very expensive too for what they are, too, but you have to find where the deals are: used book stores and thrift stores. 

I already talked about the used book store I stumbled upon a short walk away from my university, and trust me, the prices would make any college student giddy. Plus, it eases my sustainable mind knowing that the system is recirculating titles already in print. My books can go to a good home, and I can find some unique books myself. 

If you’re into the idea, of course there is always the library. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve never been big on libraries. Is it because I don’t like feeling like I have a strict deadline to enjoy a book? Or is the building just too eerily quiet for me? Who the heck knows, but despite my immense love for reading, it has never really appealed to me. Obviously if you aren’t as picky as me, it’s a great option. Just listen to Arthur and grab a library card.

So the premise of this post: you can still be sustainable whilst enjoying the sensory experience of reading. It’s easier to say we aren’t attached to such nostalgia and can enjoy the latest technology in literature, but if I can still have a peace of mind while having a growing stack of books on my desk, that is my go-to. That stack is a representation of my love for reading, a visual way to show the progress and knowledge I’ve gained. An ereader, no matter how advanced, will never have that same sense of accomplishment for me. Maybe I’ll try reading some classic novels online to get used to the idea more, but I’m stubborn in my ways. I say if this is the one aspect of life I can at least modify, find a middle ground between very wasteful and very efficient, I gladly will. 

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Drawn to Faith

I am very glad at how inspired I have been recently to get in touch with my spiritual beliefs. Even when I was at my local church for confirmation classes, I don’t know how much I thought about what was being taught to me beyond just going through the motions. I appreciate now that this is strictly self-governed interest into learning more. 

While I admire the discipline of people who can just sit down every day read some of the Bible. Admittedly, I’ve been trying my hand at that with my phone’s Bible app, but since I’m not involved with an actual church body, I feel like I’m lagging behind. Obviously faith isn’t a competition, but I would like to expand my relationship with God further.

While my random searches on the internet, I came across a community of sorts: people who partake in Bible journaling. At first I assumed it meant writing long prose about a page in the Bible, which doesn’t necessarily speak to me despite the prose I write on my blog regularly. Instead, Bible journaling is more artistic. I highly recommend you look up Bible journaling and Illustrated Faith for some examples of what I mean. The pictures are all over Instagram and Pinterest. People who open the Bible to a random page, find a verse that speaks to them, and illustrate it.

Now some people go all out on this stuff, basically a makeshift scrapbooking operation. I am more interested in the creative interpretation of Scripture. You are inspired enough by God’s Word that you want to create it into a work of art. I think that is so beautiful.

The important aspect here is that Bible journaling, no matter how talented some people are, is that this activity is just for you and God. It’s an individual experience. Nobody is going to end up with the same end result. It should really illustrate your own journey, how your “entries” evolve over time, what verses you gravitate to. Plus, I see it as a very innovative way to grow in your faith.

You can’t just pick up a random Bible and scribble in it. They make Bibles now specifically designed with wider side margins to give you some creative liberty, along with slightly thicker pages so any “art” doesn’t all bleed into each other. And when it comes to art, the possibilities are endless. Want to stick to the margin space, or expand the art onto the words themselves? Want to stick to colored pencils and pens, or take out some paint and stickers? Want to just do some fun word art or get into drawing? Lots of decisions. There is no wrong way to do this. You can’t screw up. The biggest accomplishment is just letting your heart take control. Cheesy, I know, but think of how often we find ourselves on social media or Netflix with no specific purpose? This is what I consider a hobby.

Might I add that if you’re into self-care, this might be a fantastic new idea to incorporate. It’s basically a step above coloring books, except the colors stay inside God’s lines. Perhaps you can find an even greater sense of peace and calmness. You can escape the hectic, anxious world into a place that provides stillness and strength. 

Whether you’re into this idea or would rather stick to church involvement or whatever floats your boat, again, others have no right to judge you on how you follow your own faith. That is where we begin to fight wars over religion. We forget the very essence of heavenly commandments and allow human instincts to steer us away from love, respect and kindness. Heck, if you follow a faith, this is all blind. We cannot prove anything in the first place. So before looking at others’ actions with a critical eye, think a little bit about where it’s coming from.

Okay, this is where I’d like to add that no matter what you believe or not, take this post with what you desire. In short, I want one message to resonate above any other: follow your heart, wherever it leads. If this means being drawn to faith, service, or social justice, we should be spending more time on what we truly prioritize for ourselves rather than mindless activities. If you don’t refresh your social media feed every hour, it’s okay, you aren’t missing much. Devote your time and energy to activities that truly bring you joy and fulfillment. That time is never a moment wasted.

I’m in another country, so I’m not about to drop my money on art supplies and a Bible to tote back and forth, but if I still see inspiration for this project in the coming months, I would definitely like to follow through with it. I’m already excited about my daily prayers and Bible reading, and I look forward to seeing where else God will lead me. 

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

We Are Here!

A rendition of the Whos living on a dandelion, only when people actually hear an audible noise coming from the speck of dust did people actually believe Horton that these people existed.

And college and society in general is no exception to this notion. In such divided times, we only hear the voices of those from either end of the spectrum of ideas, a black-and-white picture. And yet there is still a vast majority of people never get recognized for their ideas simply because they might fall into grey territory, not loud enough to hear, not flashy enough to see.

Where is this ramble coming from? Recently at my home campus, the student population has become very divided over an issue regarding activity fees. In a decision by the Student Government Association, a select panel of representatives, they moved forward with raising every students’ yearly fees, a majority of the money going toward athletics, another argument in of itself.

And people certainly voiced their opinions. Students attended forums, they have been posting over social media, writing letters to the editor to publish in the student newspaper, the whole gambit. Essentially, the decision here was really not one the students had much say in to begin with: the administration was planning to raise fees, and the SGA followed suit. Now students are dividing themselves between pro- and anti-athletics, a division they really had no hand in creating.

We see a dilemma like this, where people are left in the aftermath bitter and outraged, unable to do much now, but this isn’t a precedent. When it comes to making decisions on campus, only people involved in SGA or are leaders of student organizations truly have a place to speak their opinions. The vast majority, since not everyone can be involved in either way, is stuck with no true opportunity to voice their concerns.

If a decision to raise activity fees was left to a student body vote, the result would have ended up very differently. The responsibility would fall back on all students, every one of which is paying their tuition and fees to attend university. When higher education lacks an open dialogue among all channels, from students, to student leaders, to the administration, the heaviest chain link–in this case, the student body–is cut off.

At my host campus, their Students’ Representative Council does just that: represent everybody. The SRC has their hands in virtually every place at the university. They have multiple large committees for students to join and visit. They publicize their actions biweekly to inform everyone about what is going on and regularly use student body-wide voting to make decisions on referendums. Students can even submit ideas and information in themselves for consideration.

And they are still trying to make their constitutional system even more dynamic and efficient. According to the website, “Undergoing a reevaluation of the association’s guiding documents and processes is integral to the success of the SRC. Over the past 3 years, the SRC has faced numerous challenges and setbacks, particularly in relation to policy and procedures. In order to advance the SRC in a positive direction – a direction that focuses on representation, dedication, advancement and outputs – it is important to review our governance, which sets the foundation that our student government needs. Needless to say, every proposal, consultation, etc. should have the best interest of the students in mind.”

Admittedly, yes, this council has a smaller student body to juggle, but nonetheless, everyone deserves input on how they want their education to look. Universities should respect all students, not just the vocal, outspoken minority. Those with power and authority need to reach out to the people affected by their decisions, not the other way around. Students are paying to take classes, most of which can be completed entirely online. And those interested in college are already divided: those there to learn, and those there to party. Somehow, we need more unity all around, a common ground.

An academic article from EDUCAUSE Quarterly added more to the importance of student input, saying, “Engaging students in making decisions, especially those that directly impact student life, benefits the institution and the students themselves. Students are often asked to evaluate faculty, courses, campus services, and their overall college experience, but their opinions are more rarely solicited for input about new institutional initiatives. While valuable information is derived through collaborative committee processes and extensive research, expanding students’ role adds an additional dimension to the decision-making process.”

An article on Edutopia focuses on the term “Student Voice.” While its message leans toward classroom work, the mentality can easily apply to a college campus. Why is a true student voice important? Simply put, student achievement and engagement will increase when students have more ownership of their school environment and community. Students have untapped expertise and knowledge that can bring renewed relevance and authenticity to classrooms and school reform efforts. This goes for every single student, not just the leaders.

Even professors at Harvard agree: When schools find ways to welcome student opinions — to partner with students “as stakeholders in their own learning”— they wind up creating programs and policies that are more effective at meeting the schools’ own goals for supporting young people.

How do we achieve this goal, especially after hearing opponents toting that students will not engage in online polls and elections for student officials or decisions? For students to care, they need to be cared for first and treated as individuals. We don’t all fit into a cookie-cutter mold; there should be different models for how to interact with different students. The situation would end up being quite complicated, but just putting in some effort toward finding common ground is necessary and much appreciated.

Personally, I’d rather not end up in a cage or almost pushed off of a cliff like Horton to get this message across. We might not feel comfortable in the spotlight, but students are here, and we are begging you to listen.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

What About Now?

I love spirituality and religion and all of the things beyond mere visibility. So when I stumbled upon Eckhart Tolle, my mind was slightly blown.

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I had never heard of this guy before now. He is a best-selling author. The most famous spiritual teacher today (I mean, beyond religious leaders like the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis). Oprah raves about him. And I can see why.

I have not read any of his books, but I just found some conversations he’s had with Oprah on her Soul Sunday radio program. The way he talks alone is so…peaceful. He has an aura about him that is so zenned out, you wonder what the heck his secret is. And apparently he spent years suffering from depression, so for someone who struggles to get out of bed most mornings, whatever he’s doing, I’m interested.

It’s not like I haven’t heard a form of his main message before. Essentially, he promotes the importance of staying present. We often get so lost in our thoughts, dragging us back to past or forward to the unknown of the future, that we feel so much more than we need to. We over-complicate our lives from identifying with and believing these racing thoughts. We don’t listen to each other as we think about what to say next. Really, we either rush through life or dwell in moments already past that we forget to truly live.

We have two separate forces within us competing for our attention. We have our current presence, just living life in this very second. Then we have the “ego,” the thoughts, the figurative person we create in our head. Please refer to Tolle for an understandable definition because I will not do it justice. Basically, to see the difference, think of a mundane task that we maybe find annoying or boring, like doing the dishes. Why do you feel like it’s annoying or boring? There isn’t anything necessarily bad about the task. But we take the thoughts we conjure up and identify with them and feel them.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you take a peek at Tolle on YouTube or wherever else. Listen to what he has to say with an open mind. Compared to how we typically live, it can feel very foreign to think otherwise, but I truly think we would all benefit from a change. For me, I constantly feel like I’m just going through the motions of a class schedule without really being mentally there. I easily lose motivation because beyond listening to a lecture, I wonder, “What is the point?” Such a monotonous cycle, especially one with lots of free time I don’t know how to utilize, drags me down. Not to mention the constant snow last week.

Does he realize that his advice is much easier said than done? While I’m so inspired by his tranquility, I don’t see myself getting to his level. I don’t think anybody can. But I do think that small moments throughout the day can make a huge difference.

So how we can we be more present? In therapy terms, I call these moments “grounding techniques.” For me, I dissociate a lot (if you ever have times your eyes lose focus on anything and you feel like you’re not really thinking, that’s what I mean), so remembering that I am in a present moment, alive and breathing, can be very helpful. This can be as simple as taking a task like showering or brushing your teeth and actually noticing your senses during the experience. The textures, sights, smells, feelings, tastes, sounds, everything.

Another great form of remembering your presence is meditation, a practice that isn’t as intimidating it sounds. Take a moment, even a couple of minutes, close your eyes, get in a comfortable position, and just go through your body. Focus on every individual part and how it feels at this current moment, toes up to your head. Feel yourself inhale and exhale. Finally opening your eyes is like a reintroduction into a brand new world. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic, but whenever I do it, I feel rejuvenated. I do wish I remembered to meditate more often, but you don’t even have to sit and do it. You can always do a walking meditation (with your eyes open…please) and really “meditate” wherever you are. It is just a fancy term for grounding yourself in the present moment.

Tolle says that time is again, a structure created from thought. All we have is right now, the present moment. Whatever has past and whatever is to come has no true control over the present. We have the freedom, is this very moment, to choose how we react, which is very empowering. We don’t have to feel so tied up in possibilities and worries. Again, easier said than done (I’m talking to you, anxiety) but the reality is, when I talk about depression or anxiety, they are not me. They do not have to define me or everyday life if I refuse to let them do so. I mean, I’d say that’s an ultimate goal for myself to live a truly free life, but it takes work and is a constant battle.

When we think about heaven, we envision a future paradise in the sky. In reality, there is a heaven within ourselves, on earth. Past the fog of overthinking, there is nothing but stillness. We can create our own paradise within ourselves. What a wonderful way to describe the present moment as a gift.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Goodbye, Waste

With my ample free time, I end up researching a lot. I go down rabbit holes I never expect to venture down, but here I am.

I started with some YouTube videos about minimalism, a lifestyle I admire but don’t see myself following. Another lifestyle, on the other hand, is now an eventual goal, and that is to live zero-waste. It means what it seems: reducing the waste we produce every day to very small amounts, if anything. Nothing you use has to go to a landfill or incinerator. You can truly reduce, reuse, and recycle everything. By choosing to live without waste, you will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

 

When I say everything, I mean everything. If we look at the amount of waste we produce every day, the number of products and items we use that are in some sort of packaging, it’s slightly alarming.

What are the benefits of living without waste? Firstly, you’ll be racking in some dough. Since waste is a sign of inefficiency, the reduction of waste can reduce costs. On a larger scale, we would see faster progress because a zero waste strategy improves upon production processes and improving environmental prevention strategies which can lead to take larger, more innovative steps. Obviously zero waste supports all three of the generally accepted goals of sustainability – economic well-being, environmental protection, and social well-being. Also we would see overall improved material flows because a zero waste strategy would use far fewer new raw materials and send no waste materials to landfills. Any material waste would either return as reusable or recycled materials or would be suitable for use as compost.

How do we transition toward zero waste? The change doesn’t even have to be all-encompassing: if we each even chose to make a few small changes, the impact would add up exponentially. For example, never use or buy plastic water bottles or disposable coffee cups. Bring your own metal canteen or thermos with you. Bring your own canvas tote bags to stores so your answer to “Paper or plastic?” is neither. They even make cloth produce bags so you don’t need those flimsy plastic ones that are frustrating enough to open. Ask for your bills to be online and to reduce down junk mail. And, of course, we all know how I feel about thrift stores…buying second hand is best.

Once you start there, then you can do even more. Don’t use plastic silverware or straws by bringing your own metal/bamboo versions. Use mason jars or other take-away containers instead of plastic tupperware (even take these containers with you to restaurants for leftovers). Buy from the bulk section whenever possible, again using reusable bags. Admittedly, not every town has a grocery store with a decent bulk section, but at least avoid the extra plastic packaging because no matter how much “cleaner” you think food is when it’s covered in multiple layers of plastic, that isn’t true. Use cloth napkins in your kitchen instead of paper. Make your own cleaners with vinegar and baking soda rather than ten different chemical cleaners for the house. Learn how to compost food. Avoid plastic wrap like the plague (soft plastic is some of the worst when it comes to waste). Switch a plastic toothbrush for a sustainable version.

And if you think that’s enough, there are people out there making their own everything to avoid packaging. They make their own toothpaste. They buy soap (including face wash, shampoo, and hand soap) only in bars. There’s even recycled toilet paper out there. The potential a zero-waste lifestyle really stems into every aspect of life. If we become very conscious of everything we do in our lives, I can see why people would just get plain frustrated and want to change things up, especially to benefit the environment.

Because no matter how “zero waste” you’d ever want to go, we desperately need to change our current habits. We must look at every item we own and use and ask ourselves, “Is this item necessary? Can I make it myself? Is there a more sustainable version out there?” The changes involved aren’t so far-fetched anymore, in my opinion. This isn’t just a hippie, tree-hugger issue.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to the environment. Reusable energy sources are more popular and efficient now. All of the recyclable and sustainable products out there are more widespread and easily accessible. But now it’s time to take action to an individual level. We must act in optimism and awareness. I do believe we can continue to make a difference and reverse the damage already done, but it’s a group effort.

When I’m not stuck in a dorm and use up my current products, you bet I’ll start the process to produce less waste. I’m starting with reducing my overall use of plastic and going from there. It’s something I plan to keep you all updated on as I plan things out. I don’t see myself being very strict with every single product in bulk, but those little changes are definitely feasible. Call me a nerd or hippie, but this stuff makes me super excited. I hope you will all consider taking this venture with me to truly show the world some love.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie