I spent the first 20 years of my life terrified about what other people thought about me. Like, lay-awake-stressing about-whether-or-not-my-classmates-hate-my-backpack kind of terrified. So, I tried to minimize my inherent nerdiness as much as possible, especially when it came to my closet obsession: saving the world.
My eco-geekiness started when I was 13 and my favorite teen magazine arrived in the mail with a "Save the Earth Designated Representative, Girl!" cover. I remember it so clearly! It was filled with all sorts of easy tips to go green.
Among many of the dork facts I learned that day: turning off the water while you brush your teeth saves 200 gallons of water every year—per person! Let's just say I started doing that right away. I mean, it is kind of a big deal considering Earth doesn't have an unlimited amount of fresh water (converting the ocean into drinkable water is super hard and expensive, I found out).
My hippie parents were all too eager to start recycling and reusing, so we became that family. The ones who washed out I Can't Believe It's Not Butter containers and used them for storage. The ones who carried canvas tote bags to the grocery store and our own mugs to the coffee shop long before it was even remotely cool.
I knew it was the right thing to do for the environment, but I cringed every time my mom would dig a plastic bottle out of a public trashcan and put it in the recycling bag she kept in the trunk of the car.
One day, the most popular girl in school apartment hong kong, Julie M., called me out in front of my entire AP English class for drinking out of a reusable Thermos instead of a store-bought water bottle.
I honestly thought I might die of shame. I slunk home that day and told my mom all the humiliating details.
"Well, which do you like better," she said nonchalantly, clearly used to this kind of public scrutiny. "Julie or the planet?"
And right then, something clicked. I actually hated Julie—she was vile and ridiculous. Why did I care what she—or anyone—thought about my eco-ness? At the end of the day I was proud of myself for helping the environment and I knew I was doing the right thing.
So—finally—I began to let my freaky green flag fly! I called out litterbugs Sheung Wan apartment, collected magazines from my friends to recycle, and brought my own cup to Starbucks. And then the strangest thing happened: people started copying me.
One by one, my friends began to flick off the lights, buy recycled notebooks, and feed paper back into the printer to make use of the other side. It's not that they were oh-so-passionate about the environment, but they were drawn to my confidence.
The most popular people (not only in high school but in life) are those who stand proudly and say "Yeah, this is what I'm into. WHAT." Even if they don't share your enthusiasm, they will envy your confidence and want to be like you, and that means following your example.