What can we actually do, as individuals, to fight climate change? And will any of it make a difference?
The conversation around the climate crisis has never been louder. This is a good thing, but it’s also making it increasingly difficult for us to get a feeling for what’s greenwashing and what is actually effective in addressing the crisis.
To help cut through the noise, here’s a few things that you can do to help fight climate change:
1. Do the small stuff, it adds up.
From riding your bike to work instead of driving, to reducing the amount of meat you eat per week, to recycling your waste at home — every little thing you do does matter.
Lund University ranked the personal lifestyle changes with the biggest impact on climate change. They found that if you want to make a difference, the best things you can do are: eat a plant-based diet, avoid air travel, and live car-free.
These aren’t strict rules, but rather recommendations that you can adopt based on what makes sense and is feasible for you. The world works in a certain way — and while we are trying to change it, we are also living in it, after all.
2. Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
The truth is the climate crisis is a result of the actions of big corporations, as well as governments. While we, as individuals, can take steps and play our part in fighting climate change, it is important to remember this.
It suits polluting corporations to try to pin the blame on individuals, ultimately because it helps downplay their own role and takes the spotlight off their inaction.
You probably know about the concept of measuring and reducing your carbon footprint. But did you know it’s a term coined by fossil fuel company BP in 2005?
So whilst you have a duty to do what you can, remember to also take care of yourself. It’s the only way we can truly fight the crisis.
3. Ask questions.
It’s so easy to get caught up in greenwashing. Nowadays, most brands and companies are very vocal about their climate efforts. These efforts, however, will often include things like:
- Clothing lines made out of recycled polyester from plastic bottles
- Net zero claims due to carbon offsetting schemes
- Companies doing beach clean up initiatives while relying on fossil fuels for their supply chains
- Fashion brands creating resale programmes while not reducing the volume of clothing they are producing
- Brands using recycled packaging while using mixed plastic materials for their products — which are not recyclable
And so many more.
As a consumer, you have a great deal of power. When a brand or company makes sustainability claims, you may not be able to control whether they are greenwashing or being truthful — but you can ask questions. Hop on TikTok, Instagram or Twitter and ask the company to explain itself. Generally, companies (like most of us) tend to behave better when they are being watched. Even if you’re not an expert, you can use your consumer power and scrutinise.
Better still: if you have the time, read up. Greenwashing can be complex and the methods companies use today to persuade us that they are taking climate action are getting increasingly sophisticated. A good place to start is by reading the NewClimate Institute’s Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, which assesses the transparency and integrity of 24 major companies across different industries.
4. Engage. And if you’re able to, vote.
Politics may well get on your nerves, but voting for politicians with the strongest environmental policies — and those who reject polluter lobbying — is one of the best ways to ensure we’re on the right track. As citizens we should ask questions, turn up the pressure, and engage.
But it’s not just about voting. If you can, write to your local politician. Pay them a visit in their office. Speak with them when they’re visiting the local school for a photo shoot.
Big companies knock on their doors every day — let’s make sure we do the same.
5. Create some change from within.
Your school, workplace and community are places where you can have a meaningful impact. Engage in conversations with your family, friends and peers – and, if you’re in a position where you feel comfortable and safe doing so, your employer.
As we keep saying, changing the way corporations and institutions behave is the key to tackling climate change. And as an employee you have the power to potentially influence the way your company behaves.
How? Work For Climate has some great resources on this topic. But, as any big or meaningful task, it starts with asking questions. Ask your boss about your company’s climate policy. Ask if they have Net Zero targets. Ask about their energy suppliers, and whether they use renewable energy. If your company manufactures products, ask about their supply chain — is it powered by fossil fuels? How do they regulate and measure its impact on the environment?
6. Join an organisation that can create change.
Nobody can change the world alone. That’s why Action Speaks Louder exists: to use our collective power to create systemic change. And we have already done so.
We sent nearly 9,000 emails to Hyundai to stop them from building a new Liquified Natural Gas plant in South Korea — and they did. We sent over 14,000 emails to Samsung executives to persuade them to switch over to renewable energy in their supply chain — and they did.
The power of the collective does work. Which is why the last effective way to fight climate change is to join a climate organisation by signing petitions, contacting company executives, and taking action on campaigns.
Action Speaks Louder’s plan is to create public and regulatory pressure to push companies to live up to their own climate change promises – specifically in taking solid steps such as committing to 100% renewable energy. And in so doing, use these companies’ influence to unlock clean energy policies in some of the world’s most polluting countries.
You can check out some of our campaigns here.
So — ask questions, scrutinise, put pressure on governments, regulators and corporations. Vote. Read. And in the meantime, do the small everyday things that add up.
We already have the tools to fight this. Let’s get on it.