What You Can Do as a Young Person to Move Mountains in Climate Change

paris-cop21An anonymous author once said, “All those in favor of conserving gasoline, please raise your right foot.”

At this very moment, my right foot is most certainly raised – not because I’m typing on a laptop and driving (which would put an interesting if not horrible spin on texting and driving) – but because my right leg is dangling from a stool as I’m resting my current mode of transportation: my own two feet. In some ways, it’s by choice. Early last year, I made a decision to trade my Texan suburbanite, car-dependent ways for that of a foot massage-craving city dweller to live in the expensive city of Washington, D.C., and in the process I went “green”. Should you have stumbled upon me while writing my other articles for this column, you’ll notice I’m in one my usual haunts: a coffee shop between my apartment and a consulting firm I work for. Today in particular, I’m smiling not only because they made my chai tea with milk just right but there’s also something pleasing about writing on “going green” in a place that has recycled wooden tables and a recycled glass panel as my backdrop. All in the name of this particular piece, of course. (I’m kidding, but it’s a beautiful coincidence.)

All jokes aside, today I’m writing on a more serious matter that’s been at the top of this week’s headlines: climate change. This week, world leaders met in Paris for the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21), also known as the Sustainable Innovation Forum, to discuss the concept of sustainability and hopefully, in a matter of speaking, “move mountains” on environmental policy overall. As of this writing, a final draft of the agreement was posted online just 4 hours ago by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and news outlets are already buzzing it. A BBC article on this “landmark climate deal” says the new draft proposes the following points:

  • “To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century
  • To keep global temperature increase ‘well below’ 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
  • To review progress every five years
  • $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.”

While these changes haven’t yet taken full effect in each country, they will affect all of us and future generations. While I’m no environmental expert, I do know that these new international agreements can only take effect when we each do our part to promote sustainability in our own communities today, though it’s not always easy to see the bigger picture. There’s no end point or “end state” to all of our activities that affect the environment, and sometimes I, too, fail to feel the effects of climate change in my day-to-day life. However, they are there with the weather and air quality I interact with everyday; recently in Chennai with the floods; and in Paris, as world leaders have brought their own home countries’ perspectives and stories to the climate talks.

Recognizing that climate change exists, that environmental policy matters, and that sustainability measures need to be adopted is like recognizing that you’re part of something greater, that your world exists within an ecosystem, and that your time and legacy are measured not just by the here and now but by the world you create for subsequent generations.

Inspired to do more? Below are some initiatives you can further explore and bring to your own community to talk sustainability, make a difference as a young person, and be a part of something greater.

Check out “Act Now for Tomorrow”, and learn about the youth voices in climate change.

As a young person, tell your story of climate change with Act Now for Tomorrow, “a digital map to dread the daily realities lived by the young people worldwide, according to the impacts of the climatic disorder on their community.” Also check out this feature on youth advocates at the COP21 Climate Talks.

Aim for a limited waste or “zero waste” lifestyle.

Try to reduce the amount of single-use items and packaging you use in your life by choosing items are re-usable, multipurpose, and won’t immediately end up in the landfill. Some simple ways to get started are to limit or altogether replace”disposable”, plastic utensils for your next event; choose refillable water bottles; to read the blog Zero Waste Home; and look for “zero waste” organizations in your community, such as community centers, advocacy groups, and even grocery stores.

Stay informed, and advocate for climate change in your own community.

Talk to your younger siblings about climate change, and talk to your community. Read this article from the Environmental Protection Agency for a “few small changes in your home and yard [that] can reduce greenhouse gases and save you money. Also, check out this previous Bucket List piece to be more aware of your water usage.

“Bucket List” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador’s Chief Operations Officer Audrey del Rosario. Every Saturday, we will feature events, conferences, and happenings that spark conversation and ignite your inner activist. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #bucketlist or #EAinspired on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.

Image Credit: GettyImages

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