This Sustainability Student Reveals the One Thing You Need to Do Before ‘Making the Shift’

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Whether you’re already well into your sustainability journey or you’ve only just begun, we’re sure that the words ‘sustainable lifestyle’ conjure up images of bamboo toothbrushes, reusable cutlery, and shampoo bars. Well, contrary to what most people may think, the first step to making the shift isn’t exactly a purchase. 

We recently talked to Anica Araneta, a 24-year-old Filipina with a master’s degree in Sustainable Development from the University of Sussex. She is currently a junior geospatial product manager at a data science consultancy firm. Like most sustainability advocates, Anica’s interest began through sheer curiosity: She simply caught sight of a poster promoting the master’s program and decided it would be worthwhile.

She embarked on her journey with nothing but basic background information from her previous environmental science class. Now, she’s currently living out the sustainable lifestyle she envisions for herself, but it isn’t without its challenges.

Below, she shares with us her story as well as some tips for those who want to get started on their own sustainability journey. She also reveals the one thing everyone needs to do before getting started! 


Can you describe what your sustainable lifestyle is like? How did this all start and was there anyone or anything that influenced you?

I’d describe my sustainable lifestyle as a work in progress. It hasn’t always been pretty or consistent and it still isn’t. It’s a constant learning, unlearning, and relearning experience for me. I find some things work like consuming less and supporting local, while others might just be trendy fads.

My journey started back in college when I saw a poster for a minor program in sustainability. I don’t know what it was but something clicked, and that sparked a calling for me to go further, which brought me to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable development at Sussex.

What did your master's degree teach you about sustainability?

My learnings in master's really drove home my passion for it. I think it really embedded my commitment for the work and opened my eyes to how political sustainable development is and how much decolonizing work we need to do. 



What were some hurdles to achieving this kind of lifestyle? How did you overcome them?

Convenience is definitely a major hurdle. When you’re used to certain practices that you later learn are unsustainable, it can be really difficult to unlearn them especially when you know that the problem could be bigger and more systemic. I’ll let you know once I’ve overcome them. :P

What are some easy tips you have for those who want to make the shift?

Maybe think about why you want to make the shift and what impact you want to make, and from there start local and start with what increments of change you’re comfortable with then grow from there.

What does a “sustainable lifestyle” mean to you?

I guess for me a “sustainable lifestyle” is conscious and social. You don’t just do it for yourself or as a performance, but because you think of and engage with others and the environment.

Photos courtesy of Anica Araneta

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