Four important ways individuals can take action for our planet


Despite the role played by corporations, citizens still have power to create change

graphic of women mending clothes for environment
File graphic by Chorong Kim

In recent years, the impending threat of climate change has grown increasingly more severe, with a string of governments and media outlets across the globe accurately labelling the issue an emergency.

In 2017, the CDP Carbon Majors Report released that 100 major energy corporations are responsible for approximately 71 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 1988 to 2015. This number can make it seem pointless for individuals to take action given that a substantial part of the problem is out of our control. 

Even with public awareness of the disastrous impact of fossil fuel production, many of these corporations are making little change. Rather than seeing this as a sign of defeat, however, individuals should be moved to fight harder. 

Though one person can change little on their own, there are many steps one can take to reduce their carbon footprint that, though seemingly simple, can have a large impact.

1. Forget fast fashion

Modern fast fashion production has many serious environmental impacts such as increased water consumption, waste production, and the release of harmful chemicals.

Only buying new clothing when needed is the simplest way to address this. Buying second-hand clothing is a great way to shop that does not feed into the production industry, and is also much cheaper. Or, for an even more wallet-friendly option, clothing swaps are a fun and environmentally conscious way to refresh your wardrobe.

2. Rethink transportation

Another way to minimize your environmental impact is to reduce daily fuel emissions. Many everyday tasks, such as driving, have dire consequences for our planet. 

While simply refraining from driving is nearly impossible in Canada, there are several ways to reduce the use of automobiles without sacrificing convenience. Walking and biking whenever possible not only helps the environment but is also great exercise. If driving is necessary for distance or weather, carpooling and public transportation are other effective ways to limit the number of vehicles on the road. 

3. Power in numbers

Though individual action is important in addressing this issue, it still remains true that the heart of the problem lies in the hands of corporations and governments. While individually we have little influence over the actions of these groups, there is power in numbers. 

When engaging with climate activism communities, it is necessary to amplify and listen to Indigenous voices, as their communities and preservation strategies long precede colonialism. It is important to recognize that, for many of us, the land we stand on is not ours. We must learn from those with better knowledge of the land, who are disproportionately impacted by climate change and corporate action, and implement those strategies into the fight.

One way to get involved is by participating in protests. Large groups of people unanimously pushing the same idea sends a strong message to decision makers. 

Though protests are more difficult due to the pandemic, there are similar ways to participate. Places across the globe have been holding socially distant sit-ins and strikes. There are many ways to get involved online as well, such as signing petitions and sharing information, allowing a global community of activists to come together. 

4. Vote!

It is also important to engage in politics.This includes learning candidates’ environmental policies before voting in elections and writing to your government representatives.

In a time where a seemingly hopeless description of irreversible climate damage is pushed at us from all angles, it is important to take a step back and recognize the power that we, as citizens, hold, and that it is our responsibility to exercise this power, not just for our benefit, but for that of generations to come.