This year’s dos and don’ts for back to school

Probleme sociale

Redactor: Bianca Dumitrașcu & Daria Dana

Design: Amalia Popa

Articol realizat în colaborare cu Intercept Hub Magazine

If until the ’70s plastic waste was relatively manageable, in the ’90s that amount of waste had tripled, and today we squander over 400 million tonnes of plastic every year. And, as you can imagine, it all goes into our rivers and oceans, polluting our waters, dwindling our species, and changing our climate. If that doesn’t sound shocking enough for you, you should know that more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution each year, most baby turtles have plastic in their stomach and 8 million pieces of plastic are thrown into the ocean every day. So yes, plastic pollution is a very serious and threatening problem all around the world, especially since 71% of our planet is water. This is one of the greatest issues we’re facing at the moment! 

But the good news is that you can still take action! If we would all reduce at least a small amount of plastic waste in our daily lives, there would be a much bigger change worldwide. And you can actually start with your back-to-school shopping list. So, here are our dos and don’ts for this school year! 

Our first and foremost advice would be to shop your own home before going to any kind of stationery store. You might not even realize how many things you still have left from the previous years that you can use. We know that school supplies shopping can be addictive. And we get it! Pens, notebooks, washi tapes, or desk accessories are fun! But sometimes you just have to cut off the list all those highlighters you won’t be using and save some turtles! 

Another easy step you can make, as a student, is to reuse your water bottle. However, don’t reuse your plastic water bottles, because such bottles contain chemicals, and those chemicals can leach into your water. Plastic leachate can have detrimental health effects on consumers. At certain levels of exposure, some of the chemicals in plastic, especially the chemical known as bisphenol A (BPA), have even been implicated as carcinogens. Instead, you are very welcome to use a reusable water bottle. When it comes to the materials they are made of, glass is the best choice in the reusable water bottle category. It is the safest and best way to store both food and liquids for several reasons. Water in glass bottles isn’t affected by any flavor from the container, giving it a “purity of taste” benefit compared to the plastic ones, or other options. Overall, choosing a reusable water bottle is clearly better for the environment in countless ways. They use less oil, release less carbon dioxide, won’t pack landfills, and they’re good for water in general. It’s a no-brainer!

A bit more uncomfortable step you can make is traveling to school by public transportation. Compared to driving alone, taking public transportation reduces CO2 emissions by 45%, decreasing pollutants in the atmosphere and improving air quality. Improved air quality in a community means greater health benefits for those who live there. That can mean fewer cases of respiratory ailments, such as asthma, and even cancer. Plus, people are also more prone to get out and exercise when the air quality is better. When it comes to green spaces and natural rivers, more cars mean more roads need to be built, which causes water run-off that contributes to ground and water pollution. Fewer cars in favor of active transportation, such as bikes mean more bike paths and lanes which are more sustainable. If you live in an industrial city, noise pollution is certainly annoying. Less driving will make your neighborhood quieter to everyone’s benefit. 

     One more trick you can do in order to be a sustainable student is to move your class work as much as you can on a phone, laptop, or tablet. Although this alternative might seem more expensive, it can make a difference in the long run. If a notebook can be used for up to three months, a digital document can be used for years and, by taking care of your device, you are able to constantly increase its durability. 

       You can also join clubs and NGOs that aim to make the world a less polluted place, by advocating for climate change, marine conservation, or plastic waste. Some of our favorite associations would be “Greenpeace”, “Tinerii verzi” (who have a branch in almost every county), ASAP, Declic, and “Let’s do it, Romania”, but you can always start your own project and help your community! 

As you are probably expecting to gain some practical tips and tricks for your studies as well, we won’t let you down! As we see it, time is one of the most important factors during the school season. If you aren’t able to manage your time properly, it is nearly impossible to get your tasks done. So, stop procrastinating and write a to-do list! We all know that every year you set a goal to be productive and finish your homework in time, so this year actually achieve that goal! A to-do list will help you keep track of all your deadlines, so you won’t miss a thing. You can even set “fake deadlines” if you’re worried that you won’t be able to finish your assignments in time. 

However, sometimes it might be hard to keep up with your work if you can’t see the reason why you’re studying all those long hours. Therefore, our recommendation would be to set small-term goals and to give yourself rewards after completing them. It could be anything that gives you satisfaction (“after I finish my French homework, I’ll get a snack”, or “I’ll go out with my friends if I manage to complete this project”). Plus, you can always put up a dream board with the job you want to have or the university you might want to go to. It will give you motivation, and it might even work for manifesting your way there ( 😁)

We know (and hope) that this article motivated you to get involved in your community, by advocating for the causes that you believe in, and not fall behind with your work, but remember that mental health is also crucial for a productive school year. So, in order to manage your stress, try to get as many breaks as you can (maybe try the Pomodoro method if that works for you). Use that free time to put your thoughts in place, spend time with your family and go out with your friends. And don’t forget to sleep either. You should be getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. So don’t pull an all-nighter because you’ve left your work last minute! 

It was a long read, we know, but we hope it was also interesting and motivating. Maybe not all dos and don’ts are applicable to your lifestyle, however, we encourage you to make that first step that feels most comfortable and continue making a change for both your and your society’s well-being. Don’t forget that big goals are tackled by small steps, as they get us started. Because success breeds success, every little achievement will bring another one, creating a positive domino effect. When you do a task regularly, may it be using a reusable water bottle, setting small-term goals, a dream board, or joining an NGO, it slowly adds to benefits and it becomes easier to do in time. 

      Good luck!

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