By Ananya Singh
Happy Earth Day! Each year, as this time rolls around, people gather to celebrate the beauty of nature and our environment. It is the perfect time to learn more about the biggest environmental issues that we are facing and work on taking action!
I’ve gone vegan, learned about climate change, joined organizations to push for environmental action in politics, and worked on a school-wide campaign for stronger recycling. I’ve started making a difference in my own community, and now it’s your turn!
Being an environmental activist can often seem daunting, and the issues themselves seem hugely overwhelming, but once you get active it can be incredibly inspiring and even uplifting to see how many people really care!
Environmental activism is not just about protecting trees or animals. It is also about how people are impacted. We often take it for granted, but humans depend on our environment for clean air, water, and food, which we, of course, cannot live without. There is no way to separate the future of our planet from the future of humanity.
Communities that have been systematically disadvantaged by other injustices, like poverty and racism, are going to be disproportionately impacted by environmental issues like pollution and climate change, and we must organize for justice!
There is no shortage of opportunities to get involved and make a difference, but it can be hard to know where to start! Here’s a helpful list of 5 tips for getting more involved with environmental activism.
1. Go green in your daily life. Individual actions add up and it’s important to start with making changes yourself, like reducing your plastic use or eating plant-based. Be on the lookout for ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint, like driving less, buying less stuff, and making other eco-friendly swaps.
While we want to start with ourselves, we have to address large systemic environmental problems and the impacts of corporations and industries that have a far bigger impact.
2. Green your school or workplace. How could you help make your school or workplace more eco-friendly? Think of ways the school or office could help you and others take the daily actions above, like by having recycle bins, vegan options in the cafeteria, and no styrofoam or disposable trays. Anyplace you see something bad for the environment, think about a possible solution you could help bring about. You can organize with the support of friends or coworkers, and together tackle an important issue. It will take effort, but you will be more likely to see the change right in front of you and it is incredibly rewarding!
3. Green your community. There are unique ways that environmental issues are going to impact your community, and it’s a lot easier to create a visible change on a local level than on a federal level. Maybe there’s a lake nearby that needs to be cleaned up, and you could do community service. Or you could advocate for improved recycling or composting if they are not available in your town. Are there eco-friendly businesses in your town that you can support or is there a business in your town that is really polluting and that you can try to have held accountable? Another option is to work to pass a local climate action plan.
4. Get involved in politics. Learn about your elected officials and your political candidates’ platforms on climate change and environmental policy. It’s critical to get legislation and laws enacted to enforce climate action and transitions to clean energy. The 2018 midterm elections coming up are a great opportunity to make sure we elect people to Congress who will represent our concerns and interests. Support and vote for candidates that will take action and not accept money from the fossil fuel industry! Check out YEA Camp’s guide to how youth too young to vote can impact an election.
5. Do what you love! When tackling a huge issue like this, it’s important to focus on the aspects that you are called to. There is a role for everyone in environmental activism, whether it is through science and innovating tech solutions or creating art and media to tell powerful stories and messages. There are always ways to link up what you love doing to what is important to you. While activism isn’t always fun, and we need to pursue those ways where we can be most effective even when it’s challenging, it is important that we find ways to enjoy taking action so that we can stay involved for the long run!
All life relies on us having a livable planet, and it is up to all of us to work to protect our environment. How will you make a difference this Earth Day?
Ananya Singh is a high school sophomore in New Jersey, where she studies visual and performing arts. She is an activist for environmental and social justice, and attended YEA Camp in New York 2015, Massachusetts 2017, and is currentlyYEA Camp’s Blog Manager.
If you’d like to get more involved in activism for the environment or another social justice issue, and would like some community support and training to help you on your change-making path, join us this summer at YEA Camp! We have sessions for youth 12-17 and our first ever YEA Camp for Adults!