Climate Change: How One Kid (You) Can Take Action
Climate change is an overwhelming problem, but kids of any age can be part of the solution. For kids who are growing up hearing doomsday headlines almost every day, climate change can feel too big to tackle. However, one of the best ways to tackle climate anxiety is to take charge of what you can control. Even one kid can make a big difference when it comes to climate change.
Here are the best things to do to make a difference for the planet at any age, from reducing individual (and family) carbon footprints to becoming a youth activist. Then, read about more climate-saving actions you can take in our Earth Kids Guide and sign up for our Earth Kids newsletter for more ideas and activities every month.
When you pack your lunch, there are so many actions you can take that impact the environment.
The Five Rs of Climate Change
You may have heard of the Three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. These are great practices to help limit the garbage you put into the environment. But did you know that there are actually FIVE R’s to keep in mind?
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1. REFUSE to accept waste
You have the power to refuse things that will turn into garbage unnecessarily. This may look like choosing a banana with no packaging as a snack instead of a plastic bag of chips. It can also look like asking for waste-free presents for your birthday, like thrifted or handmade items, instead of gifts that come with lots of packaging. Just say no to things you don’t need!
2. REDUCE your garbage production
When you can’t refuse wasteful items, it’s time to reduce. Sustainable swaps like packing a zero-waste school lunch can reduce your plastic waste significantly. Taking public transportation and reducing air travel by taking buses and trains also reduces your carbon footprint.
3. REUSE what you can
Anything that can’t be reduced may still be reusable! From upcycled crafts like cardboard box costumes to using the same plastic bag for a few snack runs, reusing items limits your need for new stuff. Making ecobricks is a super cool way to reuse garbage that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It's fun, too!
4. Allow organic matter to ROT
Before tossing your waste into the garbage bin, ask yourself if it can rot! Composting keeps organic materials out of landfills and turns them into fertilizer that can be used in gardening and farming. Setting up a home compost system is a fun and rewarding project. Your local government or farmers market may also have compost pick up or drop off you can participate in.
5. RECYCLE what’s left!
After you’ve refused, reduced, reused, and rotted away so much of your waste, some of what’s left may be recyclable. Many cardboards, papers, and plastics can be recycled, keeping them out of landfills. Always be sure to check your local recycling policies to see what is accepted.
Slowing Climate Change by Limiting Your Carbon Footprint
We all release carbon dioxide all the time just by breathing. Normally, this is balanced by plants turning that carbon dioxide back into oxygen for us to breathe. However, things like cars produce large amounts of carbon dioxide that are harder for the ecosystem to offset. The extra carbon dioxide contributes to climate change by trapping heat and warming up the planet. There are many things kids, and everyone, can do to reduce the amount of extra carbon they produce.
Use less electricity
Reducing your electricity usage by turning off the lights when you leave a room or picking out what you want before you open the fridge can help reduce your carbon footprint.
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Choose people power over vehicles that contribute to carbon emissions whenever possible.
Limit your gas usage
The gasoline that powers our vehicles, from cars to planes, produces a lot of carbon emissions. Taking public transportation or using a gas-free form of transport like a bike, kayak, or your own feet can seriously reduce your carbon footprint.
Reduce your water use
Conserving water is a great way to be green. Turning off the water while you brush your teeth, only running the dishwasher when it’s full, and taking shorter showers are just a few good water habits you can implement.
Eat an eco-friendly diet
Your carbon footprint isn’t just about the energy you use directly. The things you eat also contribute to your carbon footprint. An apple that was grown down the road will have a smaller carbon footprint than one that had to be flown to your state by plane, then delivered to the store by truck. Eating locally is a great way to be eco-friendly.
Eating less meat also helps reduce your impact, as meat requires a lot more water and energy to produce than other proteins. If you're looking for delicious vegetarian meals to try, check out our kid-approved vegetarian recipes!
Get Educated About Climate Change
One of the best ways to help fight against climate change is to educate yourself. Learn about what climate change is, how it works, and how you can be a good member of your ecosystem. Armed with knowledge, you’ll be prepared to make the best choices you can for our planet.
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Figure out what can get recycled, composted, or reused.
Learn about trash
One of the major ways we impact the environment is through our waste. Whether it’s trash we are sending to landfills or wastewater going into the sewers, our garbage makes an impact on the planet and all the creatures that live on it. You can help by learning more about what happens when you throw something out, where it goes, and what alternatives you have to the garbage bin.
It’s especially important to learn about what your local community does with its garbage. Do you have an industrial composting facility? Does your local recycling plant accept soft plastics or only hard plastic? Knowing more about your trash will help you make good decisions about what to do with it.
Learn about climate change/carbon footprint
Knowledge is power when it comes to climate change. The more you know about how climate change works, the more you will be able to make informed decisions. Online resources like Climate Kids or the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions' Climate Classroom are great places to start. There are also plenty of amazing climate podcasts for kids and video series that can teach you about climate change and activism.
Learn about your ecosystem
Although we don’t often think about it, we are all members of the ecosystems we live in. By learning about your native plants and wildlife, you can be an ally to local flora and fauna. Planting pollinator-friendly gardens, sanitizing your bird feeders, and keeping an eye out for orphaned wildlife can all make a big difference in your ecosystem. You can even have fun learning with these outdoor activities for kids.
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Be an activist in your family, school, and community.
Speak Up Against Climate Change
At any age, your voice matters. By advocating for climate justice and eco-friendly action, you can make an impact on the people and the world around you.
Be a climate advocate at home
Even at home, your voice can make a difference. Advocate for making eco-friendly swaps around the house, from using reusable tote bags to switching to low-power light bulbs. If you feel strongly about composting (who doesn't?), take responsibility for being the compost master in your home!
If you're doing the hard parts like planning and maintaining new systems, it's easier for your family to get on board. You can also encourage your family to learn more about green initiatives, and invite them along with you to climate events like rallies and educational talks.
Get involved at school
School is a great place to make your voice heard. Bring green ideas to your school by forming an eco group and planning activities and events. This could involve inviting climate activists and scientists to speak at your school, planning clothing swaps, or raising money for climate organizations. Look into where your school can do better as an organization, and point those things out! Maybe it's time to start composting, or install solar panels. Working together, you can make a big impact in your school community.
Make your voice heard locally
Often, the biggest difference we can make is within our local communities. Whether it’s your town government or your building’s co-op board, every voice matters in a local setting. Look for ways your community can do better, like adding composting pick-up to the budget, and then advocate for those changes.
Be sure to listen to the wisdom of the people you share your community with, as they will often bring perspectives you haven't heard yet. Indigenous organizations like Indigenous Climate Action are a great place to start when looking for diverse perspectives on the climate crisis.
Reach outside of your community
Add your voice to the global community of youth climate activists. Whatever your strengths are, you can use them for good. Maybe you feel called to make art or write music about climate change. Maybe you have a story to tell about how climate change has impacted you. You can also focus on finding a green career, or dedicate yourself to activism.
Whatever you have to add to the global conversation, know that your voice has power. From the kids who are suing the government for not taking climate action to the kids of the Sunrise Movement advocating for greener policies, there are so many amazing youth voices to inspire you.