On August 10, 2021, Conservation Allies collaborated with Leaders 20/20 to host a virtual event about personal sustainability, highlighting the Conservation Allies project #WhileImHere. Leaders 20/20, a network of young professionals who are sustainability leaders, is committed to civic engagement in the San Diego region. #WhileImHere tells the stories of how people contribute to conservation in their homes and communities. Discussing personal sustainability with such driven conservationists dedicated to improving the quality of life in San Diego set the stage for inspiration, energy, and action. During the course of 90 minutes, Conservation Allies had the opportunity to hear the voices who are making a difference in their community and advocating for a brighter – and greener – future.
What does personal sustainability mean? How can one person make a difference in their actions? Can one person affect change in a community? Each participant developed a #WhileImHere statement; this short but powerful statement provided insight into visions for the future and articulated the legacy each person wanted to leave. The thought-provoking responses included:
While I’m here, I want to make sustainability efforts something that they WANT to do, not just something they need to do.
While I’m here, I will look at sustainability through a lens of equity across all aspects of society.
While I’m here, I will focus on communication and inspire others to start a chain reaction.
What emerged from this component of the discussion was a desire to communicate the criticality of sustainability while making it accessible as part of everyone’s daily lives. Equity is paramount in conservation education and with a focus on the next generation’s actions, the Leaders 20/20 network is committed to ensuring that there are fewer barriers to understanding how to save the planet.
Another theme of the event was purchasing power – the impact of your spending habits on sustainability. The economy and the environment are deeply interwoven, giving meaning to our everyday buying actions. Using reusable water bottles and flatware, shopping at thrift stores or buying capsule wardrobes, and supporting companies that use sustainable ingredients and packaging are all small but effective ways to contribute to positive change. Sharing the different ways we vote with our wallet expanded each of our options, giving us new ideas and companies to look into.
#WhileImHere is a movement to share ways to promote sustainability at a critical time, encouraging people to leave a lasting legacy to protect the earth. The event with Leaders 20/20 did just that. It was an invigorating discussion that left us with something more than insight into an inspiring community – a sense of promise and actionable plans that we knew this committed group would carry into the future.