By Parrys Raines, UOW Australia
It is easy to become pessimistic about the future when we hear about the current and predicted impacts of climate change, but it is important that as a global community we remain optimistic that we can turn the tide and rise to the moment.
I have spoken at four United Nations conferences over the past 10+ years, and after each conference I have walked away inspired and optimistic that we are working on innovative and ground-breaking solutions to halt climate change, as a global community. This reminds me that, considering the scale of climate change, every one of us can positively contribute and be part of the solution– whether it’s developing a new technology to capture carbon, launching a social enterprise to support climate refugees, or making changes in our everyday lives to support a sustainable future.
Global Climate Change Week (12-18 October) is a great time to take the opportunity to make a change and contribute towards a more sustainable future. While the number of actions you could take to make a difference may be overwhelming, I have outlined the top actions in this article to focus on amplifying your impact.
Action 1: Energy source and usage
Moving your electricity contract to renewable energy or installing solar panels on your roof will help Australia decarbonize at a rapid pace. According to the World Economic Forum, the cost of generating renewable energy has significantly reduced over the past decade, dispelling the myth that it is always a more expensive alternative to traditional energy sources. Buying renewable energy, consequently increasing demand, also supports the renewable energy industry to create jobs and increase capacity within our energy grid.
We can also save energy in our homes through a number of strategies – switching to LED lighting, limiting heating and cooling temperatures, investing in better insulation to improve efficiency, and using cold water to wash your laundry.
Action 2: Superannuation investments
Superannuation is a large investment. Therefore, it’s important to understand who is investing it, and where it is being invested. For example, your money could be supporting deforestation, without you even knowing.
Take the time to understand your superannuation investment strategy. There are a number of sustainable options in the market now, so you can ensure your money is contributing to the sustainable future you want to create.
Action 3: Buy consciously, or don’t buy
To reduce our emissions, we must halt overconsumption – everything we buy has a carbon price tag that we cannot see, from the raw materials, production and manufacturing, and transporting products. We must change our attitude and be more conscious in our purchasing decisions, and rather than always buying something new, consider how we can buy less, shop second-hand, repair and recycle.
We have the power to choose the types of companies we support by purchasing sustainable products, particularly those with certifications and verifications (such as BCorp or Fair Trade) who have demonstrated sustainable credentials. I encourage everyone to do your own research to clarify which businesses are verified sustainability leaders and support them with your dollars.
Action 4: Edit your diet
Eating less meat and dairy, and increasing your intake of vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, can significantly reduce your impact. This is because plant-based foods produce less greenhouse gas emissions, and don’t require as much energy, land, or water resources during production.
Staying on the food theme, reducing food waste can have a significant positive impact. Firstly, throwing away food also wastes the resources and energy used to get the produce from where it was grown, all the way to your house. And secondly, rotting food in landfills produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and contributes to climate change. Rather than wasting food, use what you buy and set up a composting system.
Action 5: Educate your circle
This action can arguably be the most important action to amplify impact. Once you have taken these actions, it’s important to share with your friends and family. This is the most effective way to influence others to also act, and while no single person can do it all alone, together we can make a significant positive impact.
If we all take these actions to tackle climate change, our global community will be on track to create a sustainable and low emission future. There is no better time to take the first step than during Global Climate Change Week, when, as a collective group, we can all reflect on how to contribute to the defining issue of our time. I wrote the motto ‘habits made today will help life tomorrow’ over 10 years ago, and it still rings true today, as we rise to the moment and act on climate change. The actions we take today will have implications for the future, so it’s important to make them count.
Parrys Raines is a Gen Z sustainability leader with over 13 years’ experience advocating for climate action and an equitable future. She undertook her Bachelor of Laws and is currently completing her MBA at the University of Wollongong. Over Parrys’ career, she has been a four-time Australian representative to the United Nations, an international public speaker and workshop facilitator, guest university lecturer, entrepreneur and start-up advisor, Founder and CEO, non-for-profit ambassador and non-executive director. At the age of 14 Parrys founded Climate Girl, an educational storytelling platform spreading awareness of environmental issues and sustainability and mentoring other young sustainability leaders. Since then, Parrys has educated thousands of people from the schoolyard to the boardroom about the importance of sustainable development, and the risks associated with climate change to planetary boundaries, humanity and the economy.