The global outbreak of COVID-19 has made us reevaluate our lives in every way. Things that used to worry us don’t seem important anymore. The pandemic has also cast a spotlight on what we are doing to our planet and has magnified the need for us to save it.
Young activists all over the planet have joined Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, the unofficial face of the environmental movement, in their demands for a better future. We spoke to five of the most inspiring among them about their tips on living and traveling sustainably—when we’re allowed to.
Tolmeia Gregory, Cheltenham, United Kingdom
Tolmeia is a 20-year-old sustainable fashion blogger and youth climate activist.
What are your tips on sustainable travel? We need to subsidize public transport and ensure that less sustainable options are taxed. In terms of how we can travel more sustainably as individuals, I think limiting flights to only necessary trips (such as visiting family) and trying our best to use other modes of transport as much as possible, is a great step in the right direction. Also, make sure you’re speaking to your local representatives so they know you want them to focus on this issue. Demand climate action, in any way that you can!
How do you stay proactive in your daily life? I work with my local Extinction Rebellion [a non-violent environmental coalition focused on civil disobedience] group. I spend a lot of time working on things on a local level, organizing upcoming actions and thinking up ideas of how we can make a change. Also, with the circumstances of the pandemic, I have also been rethinking what climate action and activism looks like to me on a personal level and I’ve come to see my work as an artist as a pivotal role.
Monika Poppy, London, United Kingdom
Monika is an influencer and editor. She has an academic background in oil and gas as well as sustainable development.
What are your tips on sustainable travel? I think innovation and technology [are] the way forward. Push your government and council for developing and investing in emission-lowering technologies and clean energy. That’s fundamentally what’s going to save us as I think recommending “walking more” is not feasible for many people traveling for work. You can actively take part through voting or signing petitions. You can even help [to invest] through green tech and ethical funds.
How do you stay proactive in your daily life? I recommend going out in nature or reading up on sustainability. I think it’s important to connect with nature to remember what we’re fighting to preserve. This can be especially difficult living in metropolitan cities. [Ever since the pandemic started,] I kept educating my followers on products and services I deemed to be of high quality yet sustainable.
David Wicker, Turin, Italy
David is a 16-year-old climate activist from the Susa Valley, near Turin, Italy. For more than two years, he’s been striking for climate justice every Friday.
What are your tips on sustainable travel? The main thing to make travel more sustainable is to make sure not to fly but to take more sustainable means of transportation.
How do you stay proactive in your daily life? [My classmates and I] used to strike weekly [and] almost every strike is different, as we try to concentrate on many aspects of the climate emergency. In Turin, we also managed to have the Town Hall declare a climate emergency.
Due to lockdowns, I didn’t manage to remain as active, [because] I live pretty far away from any big city so it’s been quite hard to keep up. [Nevertheless,] I’ve kept going [online] and we are now thinking in what to do for the next international FFF summit.
Holly Gillibrand, Fort William, Scotland
Holly is a 15-year-old columnist and Scotland’s Rewilding Ambassador, a group dedicated to protecting native flora and fauna.
What are your tips on sustainable travel? [When things are back to normal,] limit your travel as much as you can but if you need to go away, taking the train or bus and walking or cycling are the greenest options. Leave your car at home and don’t go on planes or cruise ships: they are environmental disasters.
How do you stay proactive in your daily life? [We] should all be conscientious about the personal decisions that [we] make, such as the food you eat, the stuff you buy and how you travel. We also have a lot of power beyond our consumer choices and we need to recognize that power and put it into action in whatever way you can. Use your strengths. For example, I really enjoy writing, so I channel this to spread awareness and action as much as I can through columns, articles, and opinion pieces.
Livia Van Heerde, Vienna, Austria, and London, England
Livia has a BSc in Environmental Science and an MSc Climate Change at University College London. She divides her time between Austria and the U.K.
What are your tips on sustainable travel? I’d recommend [staying] at locations longer when traveling so that you really make the most of your trip and explore the place as much as possible to avoid going there again after a short amount of time because you haven’t seen everything yet. I’d also recommend [reducing] your consumption of animal products and packaged products like water bottles on your trip to reduce your carbon footprint. You can also offset your carbon emissions. There are lots of websites online where you can do that. Make sure to do a little research beforehand to find the best [website to help with that].”
How do you stay proactive in your daily life? [After the COVID-19 outbreak, we moved] Fridays for Future into our homes and people were encouraged to do their activism online. I took part in online panel talks on sustainability and continued sharing climate change related news on social media.
I’ve used the time to work on new projects and improve ongoing ones. I’ve been consulting with the Friday Nights [a charitable arts and music event series in collaboration with UNICEF] event management team to achieve their goal of becoming a sustainable event series.
A new project that is very close to my heart…is a Vienna and London-based nightlife experience called Climate Nights that aims to raise climate change while raising money for environmental causes.