Time to admit the hard truth about the environment

It’s no secret that we’re facing an environmental crisis. Our 2022 YouthX Changemaker of the Year in the category Social Good & Sustainability: Environmental Solutions, Catherine Constantinides, has been a social and environmental activist for more than 20 years – a journey she started in her teens. She has a deep understanding of the threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation, so we asked her what she thinks the most pressing issues are, and what we can do to make a difference.

Losing the wasteful mindset

According to Constantinides, waste is a huge challenge that affects us all. ‘We throw things away so easily,’ she says, ‘but have we ever paused to ask ourselves where away is? Consumerism is a part of the lives we live, but we need to become conscious consumers who ask the right questions and challenge the brands we love, because we need all aspects of the value chain to become more sustainable and focused on zero waste.’

Waste, unfortunately, is part of a bigger problem. Our attitude towards the environment needs a major rethink. ‘Understanding our connection to climate change is ultimately the bedrock where the changes need to come from,’ she adds. ‘As an over-consuming world, we have disconnected from the responsibility we each have as individuals, let alone our collective responsibility, to safeguard and protect the place we call home.’

Small changes can make a big difference

Once we admit that we’re all contributing to the problem, what can we do to make a positive change and be part of the solution? Constantinides believes that the answer lies in the small things: ‘Becoming more aware of our plastic consumption and being more deliberate is as easy as buying local and seasonal fruit and veg, as opposed to strawberries and oranges all year round.’


Stop thinking that somebody else will fix it or pick it up


As a country, she says, we’re also faced with both an energy and a water crisis: ‘We need to focus on lessening our water and energy footprints. Investment in renewable energy is costly, but there are many ways for us to take that plunge and fight our way out of the darkness.’

Some practical suggestions include:

  • Not using plastic bags.
  • Unplugging unused appliances because they still use electricity – even if they’re in sleep mode.
  • Carpooling with colleagues and friends if possible to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Being conscious of ‘fast fashion’ and avoiding it.

How environmental issues affect you directly

If you’re still wondering why you should care about environmental issues at all, you obviously haven’t grasped how they are already affecting you directly. ‘The cost of food, the cost of living and the challenges associated with water and energy are more real than ever before. It hits us in our pockets,’ Constantinides warns.

She believes the worst is yet to come, but there is still time to act and reduce the effects of climate change: ‘Stop thinking that somebody else will fix it or pick it up. It’s making time for recycling and being conscious of your levels of waste and consumption that will make a difference.’