5 Environmental Terms That Gen Z Should Know

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Zero Waste Campaign Illustration

Gen Z Diary: 5 Environmental Terms We Should Know

UMN Consulting, Jakarta – As it’s publicly known, the Earth’s condition is simply getting worse. The climate is getting warmer and warmer. As Gen Z, a.k.a the generation that will probably live long enough to bear the impact, we’re freaking out. 

With the current rate, scientists predict that sea levels will rise by more than one meter by 2100. Furthermore, up to a fifth of ocean life creatures will die, and more than 200 million people will be displaced due to rising seas or the need to move to cooler places. The cherry on top is that prediction could be lowballing just how bad Earth will get. 

We’re not delusional. Looking at how these issues are already unfolding, it’s impossible to save the Earth or lessen the impact without collective efforts. Knowing that we have passed the ‘being aware’ stage, it’s time to take some action with some education!

If you’re a newbie and just started to get into the “I care about the Earth” gang, here are the basic terms you should know:


Sustainable Lifestyle Illustration

1.Sustainable Lifestyle

Simply put, a Sustainable Lifestyle is a belief that we’re morally and ethically responsible for our planet and its future. According to United Nations, the Sustainable Lifestyle is an “understanding of how our lifestyle choices impact the world and finding ways for everyone to live better and lighter”. 

To put it into context, an increasing number of people are unable to meet basic needs. According to Gallup, one in seven adults worldwide struggles to afford food and shelter without help. The Covid-19 shenanigans add more problems to those cases.

With various threats such as the loss of global biodiversity and climate change, our lifestyle decisions are putting the planet and the not-so-lucky people living in it at risk. Hence, the idea of we, Gen Z, implent sustainable living may help.


Waste Management Illustration

2. 5Rs

You read it right. For some, it’s even 7Rs or even 11Rs. But you know, baby step, let’s start from the smallest number. Those R’s stand for:

  • Refuse: Say ‘NO’ to items you don’t NEED. Change your mindset about mindless consumption, and you’re a step closer to contributing to Earth! For example, avoid fast fashion trends. 
  • Replace: Try to consume biodegradable and minimal carbon footprint products as much as possible. For example, switch to cloth bags instead of mindlessly using plastic bags for groceries. Bring your bags every time you go shopping.
  • Reduce: If you can not Refuse or Replace, try to Reduce. Minimize the frequency and quantity of non-recyclable materials you use daily. For example, you can always choose not to use straws. 
  • Reuse: Use items more than once, either in their original form or by changing them. It may save your money, but you can also contribute to saving the planet!
  • Recycle: Changing the original form to get the product back in action instead of sending it to the landfill. It can be tricky since not every material is recyclable. For instance, composting can be a new hobby if you have the time and area.


Industrial Complex Illustration

3. Carbon Footprint

Everything we do on this Earth leaves a trace. We leave traces from activities such as transportation, electricity, food, clothing, and other goods. Those traces are what we call The Carbon Footprint.

According to Nature, the carbon footprint is the total of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) that our actions generate. The average carbon footprint worldwide is close to 4 tons per person. For comparison, US’s average carbon footprint per person is 16 tons, one of the world’s highest. In Indonesia, the average carbon footprint is 2 tons. 

To have the best chance of avoiding a 2°C rise in global temperatures, the global average carbon footprint per year must drop under 2 tons by 2050. As carbon is the greenhouse gas with the highest atmospheric emissions, it contributes to urban air pollution, acid rain, ocean acidification, and melting glaciers or polar ice.


Greenhouse Effect Illustration

4. Greenhouse Effect

Typically speaking, The Greenhouse Effect is a good thing. It’s the gasses in the planet’s atmosphere that hold heat, making the average temperature on Earth 15 degrees Celsius. The more greenhouse gasses trapped in the atmosphere, the warmer it gets. This is what makes Earth livable. Without it, we’d literally freeze to death. 

In the last century, human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation caused an increase in greenhouse gasses by 35%. Simply put, humans trap extra heat and raise global temperatures. The primary gasses responsible for greenhouse effects are: 

  • Carbon dioxide: Once released, 40% of it will remain for the next 100 years
  • Methane: Its impact is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years
  • Nitrous oxide: It remains in the atmosphere for a little more than a century
  • Water vapor: It is not linked directly to human activities but emits from other greenhouse gasses we release.
  • Fluorinated Gasses: The artificial gasses from manufacturing and industrial processes traps more heat and, in some cases, last tens of thousands of years.


Zero Waste Product Illustration

5. Zero Waste

Zero waste is born based on a movement trying to reduce the trash we produce. It’s part of sustainable living by preventing resource extraction, reducing the amount of trash we send to the landfill, and reducing pollution. 

Look, we fully understand that living a zero-waste lifestyle is impossible. Fortunately, we’re here to inform you that is not the point of this lifestyle. It’s more about consciously consuming materials in our everyday life. It’s the belief that everything we do will affect other people, the Earth, and future generations.

Besides conscious consumption, it’s also about prolonging our resources. We’re too caught up with the comfort of cheap non-recyclable products that will eventually destroy our planet. Sure, some renewables are ‘limitless’ but remember, excessive consumption never ends well.


What Now?

Now that we’ve covered some basic terminology, it’s time to take action. We’re in the middle of a climate crisis. With decades of increasing carbon emissions, the threat to natural and societal systems is right in front of us. To further deepen your knowledge and take action, visit the climate clock where scientists, data, and people worldwide gather to save the planet. Or. You could also check our other articles, premium content, and upcoming Zero Waste Lifestyle report to know more about the relation between Gen Z and environment.


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