Sustainability is not a simple topic, and there are many ways that you can help create a better world for current and future generations. Individual actions, such as lugging a mug for your morning coffee, taking shorter showers, and bring reusable bags to the grocery store are all positive actions that can reduce waste and energy usage while inspiring others to think and live more sustainably. However, the nature of our climate crisis also demands bolder actions that occur on a scale beyond that of the individual. So, in addition to saying no to plastic bags, here are some ways in which you can contribute to the broader fight against climate change:
1. Educate yourself on climate change and environmental issues before spreading the word. As much as possible, try to draw from reputable and peer-reviewed sources (this list of websites could be a good place to start https://www.environmentalsciencedegree.com/climate-change/). Day-to-day conversations with your friends, family, and co-workers play an important role in raising public awareness about climate change, but be mindful to keep your arguments objective and non-confrontational.
2. Join a group that aligns with your interests. More can be achieved by working together! University Club Days are a great way of connecting with like-minded folks that are passionate about creating positive change. The magnitude and scope of environment and climate-related issues may seem overwhelming, but action is a great antidote to despair. Furthermore, solutions to these complex and interconnected problems require a host of people working from unique angles and offering varied perspectives.
3. Stay informed on political platforms without losing sight of the grassroots. Your vote matters and can have serious implications on a scale well beyond the region in which you’re voting. Many students in Ontario recently experienced this firsthand when their OSAP funding was substantially cut by the Provincial Government. Shake Up the Establishment (https://www.shakeuptheestab.org/) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit website that allows you to clearly review the major political parties’ policies concerning climate change prior to an election. That being said, regardless of what party is currently in power, it’s important to remember that real change starts from the bottom-up, and that the government must ultimately respond to the will of the people.
4. Follow the money. Money is the language of power and influence! If you invest in the stock market, are you financially supporting any of the major contributors to carbon emissions (such as fossil fuel companies)? Is your employer? How about your institution of education? On the flip side, there are many groups doing amazing work in support of environmental and social justice causes who could certainly benefit from contributions of any amount. Granted, most students are not in a position to be donating any of their income, but there are other ways to try and contribute. Maybe next Holiday Season you suggest that your family makes a collective donation instead of swapping material gifts!
5. Take care of yourself. Returning to the overwhelming nature of many of these issues, it’s important to make sure you’re staying in good health (mentally, physically, and emotionally). After all, you’re no good to any of the causes you care about if you’re burned out. Don’t feel guilty about saying no to some events or meetings! Sit at home and watch a basketball game or eat some junk food! Enjoying ‘normal’ activities that don’t cause you to think about impending ecological collapses can help maintain a positive quality of life, while giving you the capacity to truly be present and engaged when you need to be.