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Youth Climate Strike: Hey hey, ho ho, littering has got to go!

Nobel Peace Prize nominee and 16-year old Greta Thunberg has inspired youth all over the world to hold their leaders responsible. The strikes send the message to the adults of the world that “hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go.” However, it remains unfortunate that the protest left a trail of litter as it moved around the streets of London.

Thousands of youth gathered for the second Youth Climate Strike in London on Friday, March 15th. However, under their feet lay litter they didn’t bother holding on to, making the hypocrisy embarrassingly apparent. A myriad of organisations working against climate change were present, handing out leaflets that ended up on the ground. Plastic bottles were thrown in the street. Paper plates of food handed out by volunteers were left uneaten on street corners, although 7.3 million tonnes of food waste was created in 2015, in the UK alone. Green smoke can hardly be said to help our ozone layer lay thick in the air. Should the standards we place onto our governments not be placed onto ourselves as well?

The amount of paper offered to me by seemingly anti-climate change organisations in the protest staggered me. Is paper pollution not a thing anymore? Although paper is recyclable, the production of paper pollutes the air we breathe significantly, but nevermind I guess.

Litter degrades natural areas and kills plants and animals, and billions of tons of litter are dumped into the sea every year. The average European produces half a tonne unrecyclable waste each year. That is the trash that actually ends up in a bin. I assume numbers would be higher if we counted the stuff we drop on the streets too.

The efforts of young climate strikers across the world is nothing short of commendable.  The message has finally even reached UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and being there on Friday was inspiring. But waste belongs in the bin only, and I expected the strikers to know that.

I am an environmental hypocrite myself; I eat the occasional burger and find myself seduced by fast-fashion prices on occasion. It is hard knowing how to be sustainable in every aspect of our lives. I tried switching dairy for almond milk for example, but almond milk is apparently even worse. Also, it tastes crappy. Avocados are terrible too, and too much fish consumption contributes to overfishing.

Being 100% sustainable should not be a prerequisite for joining the Youth Strike 4 Climate, as I doubt anyone would be able to participate if it was. Still, it became painfully obvious how much education on sustainability is needed for the average consumer. Yes, it is first and foremost the responsibility of our governments and leaders to save the planet. But we also need to lower our own consumption and waste in contribution.

The planet will not be saved if we chop down trees to make leaflets, nor if we subsequently scatter them outdoors. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones (I’ve probably thrown a few now, but someone has to say it).

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