“Give people hope.”

The perception of the younger generation is that they are disconnected with reality due to the technological boom they were born into.

But the youth has never been keener on the urgent issues happening across the globe. Several reports have shown that the demand for corporate responsibility has increased especially among the younger generations.

One of those studies found that 68% of young adults born from 1996 to 2010, also known as Generation Z, prioritize their environmental impact, both positive and negative.

The trends of sustainability among the youth specifically in the Philippines has yet to be published but a Nielsen report found that the Philippines has one of the strongest demand for sustainability worldwide.  

Through their eyes

For Arellano University’s Supreme Student Council President, Chester Juanillo believes his position requires him to set an example for the student body.

The senior in AB English says, “As a student leader, I believe that I have a bigger audience and influence that I can address and speak these kinds of subjects [sustainability] to… How can you possibly help the community if you can’t help yourself? I believe that as an individual, I can start from there.”

Chester minimizes his environmental impact through proper waste disposal and water consumption. Being aware of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the 19-year-old understands that sustainability is not without respecting other people’s opinions, educating oneself in urgent issues, and showing love and acceptance despite of age, gender, or status.

For Icka Nepomuceno, a junior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Development Management in Ateneo de Manila University, individual micro-actions are meant to be a steppingstone to a certain mindset that invokes action. 

“If you keep up these small actions and you wholly believe in them and integrate them in your life, eventually it will build up. And then maybe that’s when you find the inspiration or the motivation to do so-called ‘big things’ like lobbying for environmental policies or getting positions in organizations,” she says.

Some of Icka’s micro-actions are joining student organizations that advocate for the environment, avoiding restaurants that provide single-use plastic, and owning organic toiletries and household products.  

Authenticity is key

Not only is Generation Z concerned with making their environment a better place but also being authentic in doing so. A report by CNBC showed that they seek brands and companies that not merely use their advocacies for marketing purposes or “goodwashing” but rather engage with causes that align with their brand and follow through with substantive actions.

With sustainability, there has been a risk of reducing it to amassing green products to lessen one’s plastic waste. Both Icka and Chester use green products but are aware that these serve as an avenue for bigger actions. 

“I definitely do think that it should not stop there,” Chester emphasizes. “I mean, it’s a good way to start it, which means it should not be the end of it yet. It [Sustainability] does not only tell you to stand for growth as a single person, but it aims to achieve a goal for a bigger scope.”

“Trends can come and go – metal straws for example,” Icka says, critical of some of her schoolmates that continue to use plastic cups along with their metal straws.

“Once you’re exposed to these things and you learn more about, if you feel like it’s a cause you can uphold… you should really try to apply it as much as possible. There’s the effort in being authentic and consistent.”  

Bigger is better

Moving onward from micro-actions, Chester shares that the school has big part to play in getting the youth involved in sustainability.

He explains, “We spend most of our time in school. Let’s say in a 24-hour day, we spend most likely half of its time, which means that we are engaged more in school activities than indoors at our homes.”

“Schools have a bigger chance of getting a bigger audience and make them understand how important the sustainable development movement is. So, they really should take advantage of it and really start producing programs and activities where they can educate students to join the movement,” he continues. 

But for sustainability to truly have an impact, government agencies should solidify policies both on a national and local level.

Upon observation in her own local government unit (LGU), Icka states that these policies should not merely stay as a reactive response towards problems. 

She says, “I feel like it’s a matter of becoming proactive instead of reactive. A lot of the policies of the government is in response to what’s happening instead of trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. You have these LGUs promoting segregation of trash, but they all end up putting it in the same landfill anyways. It still feels kind of superficial.”

It’s easy to get lost and feel hopeless in the misguided efforts or lack of overall initiative towards sustainability.

“A lot of the narratives about the environment that it’s a hopeless case. But I think it’s still important for people to see that there’s still something you can do about it,” Icka shares.

Chester believes that these efforts should be holistic and tackle different sectors as well.

“Our generation must also be involved in different activities which promotes good quality education, gender equality, good health and well-being, cleaning the environment and many more. In that way, we pass it to the next generation up to the next and the next until we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” he concludes.

Whether it’s creating more accessible and authentic programs for students to get involved or even changing how the media portrays the issue, 19-year-old Icka urges anyone who is listening: Give people hope.

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