HomeVolume 9January 2024 How can one person make a difference

ERIN SHULTZ shares the experiment she has been doing to create a more sustainable lifestyle. It involves small, manageable changes that still make a difference, especially once they become everyday habits. 

With so much information at our fingertips, it is hard to decide what to do, what to believe, and how to make an impact. Sustainable actions to help combat the climate crisis definitely fit into this arena of information overload. Many of us feel that it is pointless to do anything, because how can one person make a difference? 

I have found peace and solace in the idea that making my life and choices more sustainable can be as individual as the way I take my morning tea (or coffee, if you prefer). The idea that social media influencers, authors, documentary hosts, or even me have the single right answer is both limiting and detrimental to our progress. 

So, take what works for you from all that you see (including me), and leave the rest. Maybe it will fit into another time or way, but the best sustainable action is the one you are willing to take right now, and hopefully more often in the future. 

The best sustainable action is the one 
you are willing to take right now, 
and hopefully more often in the future. 

First, take stock of your life. What habits do you already have in your day? What is your morning routine? When and how do you get your groceries? Where do you shop most frequently? Consider if any of these habits could be just one bit more sustainable, while still fitting into your life and routine. 


Tea and coffee drinkers: 

Ask your favorite caffeine shop to put your drink in your reusable mug. Across a year (with 3 drinks per week), this will save 156 plastic cups, lids, and straws. 



Carry a bag (and maybe a glove) when you walk, and grab some trash along your way. You may just save a bird or another critter, and you are definitely making your neighborhood more beautiful. 



Commit to checking out a thrift store or secondhand store before heading to the mall or Amazon to grab a new pair of jeans. Reusing clothes reduces the resources consumed to make new products. 



Buy cleaning products that come in glass or metal containers. These are infinitely recyclable, unlike plastics. 


Whatever you choose, make sure it fits into your day, and make sure you are committed to doing it for a month. Then, add another activity in the following month. Sooner than you know, you will start seeing simple, sustainable swaps all around you, and the changes will not be daunting after some early wins. 

When I began this process of simple shifts, the people in my life noticed. They saw me constantly toting around my favorite sticker-covered water bottle (one friend even named it my “emotional support water bottle”), they saw fewer products lining my shower, they saw reusable cloths in my kitchen instead of paper towels, and they definitely saw the five different recycling bins! 

They had questions. So I shared with them the changes I had made and explained my perspective of seeing a better future when we lower the demand on the resources that are essential to keep our Earth happy and healthy. 

Today, I hope you’ll find a minute to take one small sustainable step. Nurture it, and watch it grow into a habit. Whether you realize it or not, that habit could actually help save the world. 



Erin Shultz

Erin Shultz

From a young age, passions for the ocean, science, and community have defined Erin’s path. In 2021, she was acknowledged by the North American Association for Environmental Education in their EE 30 Under 30 program, recognizing outstandi... Read More