It’s never too early to start saving the planet.
One great example is the efforts of Vancouver teenagers Leeza Udovenka and Jacqueline Louie to promote the use of reusable coffee cups in their city. The 16-year-old high school students, who call themselves Lou & Liz, have started a blog to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of our everyday actions and promote sustainable alternatives.
Their project started as an assignment when the duo participated in the YouthPolitik civic programme in their hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Their idea to promote reusable coffee mugs was so well received that they decided to turn the idea into reality. In addition to the Lou & Liz blog promoting sustainability, the girls have made a promotional video explaining their cause, and aim to partner with local government to run a large-scale advertising campaign in Vancouver to promote reusable coffee cups in the city.
Lou & Liz want their blog and campaign to remain down to earth and accessible for all people. “We are trying to challenge people to think differently, but not with overwhelming amounts of information or in ways that sound preachy”, the girls explain. “Our goals are to make our city more sustainable through small, easily achieved actions that people can be easily motivated to do. The simple action of remembering to bring a coffee mug to get your coffee can make a huge impact if it becomes a habit.”
Liz & Lou have learnt a lot as their project has progressed and share the following sage advice for those of us who are starting community projects or sustainability initiatives ourselves:
1. Simple ideas are best. Not only are simple ideas easier to plan, they are easier to get other people on board with.
2. Make a plan. “Plan your work and then work your plan! Having a plan is the best way to stay on the right path, no matter how long it may take to get from one goal to the other.”
3. Be patient and persist. Good things take time: “We didn’t know how slow it would be once we started, and that seems to be our hardest challenge but we just keep going because we know that what we are pushing for is something worth doing and putting time into.”
4. Back yourself. It’s important to believe in yourself, your ideas, and your plan. Someone will always disagree. Try not to sweat it. Liz & Lou confide, “there are still moments of stress and confusion when we get commenters that entirely disagree with everything that we say.” Remember why you are doing what you are doing, and this positive motivation should overcome any negative thoughts and doubts the comments have created. Besides, they argue, “no one who hasn’t been reasoned into an opinion can be reasoned out of it.”
5. Ask for help. After taking part in the YouthPolitik programme, Lou & Liz worked with mentors from the programme who had experience in the business world and were able to help them turn their ideas into a realistic plan of action. Both girls stress the importance of asking for help – “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, a favour, or a mentor. You don’t have to do things all by yourself when other people have resources that could potentially help you.”
Both girls devote great efforts to the campaign but stress that they are normal teenagers, with a range of interests and extra-curricular activities. Both are still full-time students, with particular interests in social justice and creating environmentally sustainable futures. They sound like remarkable young people to me and if their generation is half as engaged in community and environmental issues as these two then we should indeed be able to achieve their vision of a sustainable and healthy future.