Green Behind the Ears: Climate Action Challenges for Ordinary Folks

daisy on trowel - green behind the ears - climate action challenges for ordinary folks

Probably like you, dear reader, I’ve always cared about the environment and the future of this planet, but I’m also an average person living in the West and consuming an inordinate amount of the planet’s resources.

Most of us busy folks would happily greenify our lives, but when we’re also struggling with rent and mortgage payments, mental health, the demands of children, partners and other relationships, not to mention what to make for dinner, it can be kind of daunting to squeeze more activities or mental efforts into our already limited capacities. Especially when fighting climate change feels like taking on the white walkers.

In the face of such an immense challenge, it’s SO HARD to feel like anything we as individuals do is going to make a meaningful difference. But I recently read a smart and empowering piece, “A Field Guide for Transformation” by Leah Cardamore Stokes, and it got me thinking about spheres of influence and living our lives in what Stokes calls widening circles.

At one level, there’s what we can do to help the planet within our individual or household spheres (shutting the lights off, composting, recycling). Then there are collective spheres (working together to clean up garbage, community gardening, talking to others about climate change action). Finally, there’s advocacy (voting, protesting, writing to MPs, lobbying for change in your city)—and onward and outward.

This made me think, OK, let’s see if I can be maybe just 5-10% more effective than I am right now.

I mean, like you, I do what I can. I bike in warm weather, I try to conserve energy, I’m vegan and I use toilet paper made from recycled materials.

Why am I driven to kick it up a notch now?

Well, for one thing, the IPPC has given us ’til 2030 to reduce carbon emissions globally by 50% in order to stop the planet warming by 1.5 degrees. But also I recently became a mom, which for me personally has made me emotionally more invested in the planet’s future than ever before because it’s home to this precious tiny being and I want to give him his very best chance to thrive.

When I look into his big wondering eyes and his drooly toothless grin, I know there’s nothing in this world I would not do for him, including throwing a green gauntlet into the mirror. And whether or not we have children, I’m betting most people can think of someone for whom they’d stop at nothing when it came to protecting that person’s future.

My Climate Challenge Series

street art saying if not now then when, if not us then who - green behind the ears - climate action challenges for ordinary folks

So, here’s what I’ve got. I’m gonna do a green challenge every month—something within my household, my community, or beyond—and I’m gonna to tell you about it here. And I’ll offer you ways to try my challenges at home, at different levels.

I’ll be tackling things like getting informed about climate change, agriculture, fashion, energy, transportation, compost (reader, I’m already weirdly excited about deep-diving into composting).

I’ll investigate problems and possible solutions. Each month I’ll give you some background info on the topic at hand, let you know about the difference I tried to make, tell you how it went(!), give you a sense of what it cost me in terms of time, money and labour and rate how rewarding I found it on a scale of 1-5 sprouts. Who doesn’t love sprouts?

Like you, I only have so much time in my day. So my efforts will never be flawless, and may not even achieve my desired outcome, but they will be sincere. They’ll also take an intersectional feminist and social justice approach, because that’s how I roll.

I gently hope that you, dear reader, are also inspired to challenge yourself in the same vein. Your own challenges, like mine, don’t need to be epic—but, hey, go for it if that’s what you’ve got in the tank! And I hope that your engagement (even if that’s just reading along here) brings you a little more hope, a little more agency and a little more momentum in your own circles with respect to fighting for our home.

Because I mean, it’s underway: Earth’s average temperature is increasing, our climate is changing, biodiversity is plummeting, and the planet is going to look very different for our children than it did for our parents.

We are also learning that individual action is not particularly effective in halting or even meaningfully slowing global warming given the options available to us as consumers, and that hope for the Earth resides in massive policy change and international collective effort.

But we can’t do nothing. Not only would doing nothing mean giving into despair, letting ourselves off the hook and telling younger generations that we just weren’t willing to fight for their future when it mattered most, it also would mean that we miss this crucial window to put the brakes on climate change, to give life on this planet a fighting chance and to know in our heart of hearts that we actually really truly tried to try.

The more conversations that are happening about climate change, the better chance we have to collectively shift the crash course we’re currently on as a species. So even if that’s only my mom telling her neighbour about my challenge, that’s one more conversation about whatever problem I tackle. And just to be clear, there’s nothing “only” about my mom; she is a force of nature (Hi, Mom!).

I invite you to keep me company on this anti-perfectionist journey I’m taking, whether that means you read along with my adventures in manageable climate action or take up your own mini, medium, or mega challenge. It might just feel good…or at least 5-10% better.

Feature image: Charlie Seaman; Image 1: Rod Long

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