It’s easy to feel powerless when it comes to topics like climate change and the destruction of nature. We are in the midst of unprecedented environmental crises, and the science is clear: unless we take action today, the future of our species and life on earth is in jeopardy.
To address this, transformative change must happen at the policy level - but also at the level of businesses and individuals. These are all intertwined and feed into larger systems, which can be influenced by collective action.
But what role can you play in this? What are the three most impactful ways that you can help to tackle issues like climate change?
1. Use your voice
Your voice is more powerful than you might think when it comes to driving impactful change. While many of our environmental issues require large-scale systems changes to address, most governments rely on the votes of their people to stay in power. If enough of us can signal through our votes, calls/letters to representatives, and other actions (see points 2 and 3) that we care about these issues, we can help drive environmental policy shift.
As an employee or shareholder, you can also use your voice to encourage your company to do its part to address environmental issues, helping to drive change upstream and downstream. The good news is, sustainable practices benefit the bottom line of most businesses, helping to save energy, reduce waste, boost productivity, and increase consumer loyalty, so the business case is already there to help your voice be heard.
We all live and work in various communities, and can inspire our friends, family, and co-workers to tackle topics like climate change together. In fact, one of the most important things that you can do is spark effective conversations to drive awareness and inspire further positive action. The more people you involve, the more your impact multiplies!
2. Use your dollars
Or, put another way, ‘put your money where your mouth is’. The market is ruled by supply and demand; what we buy (or don’t buy) sends an important signal to marketplaces and the businesses operating in them. This could mean purchasing a greener version of a product, purchasing environmentally friendly products such as smart thermostats, or just not purchasing at all.
These signals then influence what governments and businesses invest in and the types of innovations they fund. They also have an important impact on upstream supply chains, helping to tackle things like indirect emissions from international suppliers.
3. Use your everyday behaviours (aka, the 'ripple effect')
Our individual behaviours may feel minuscule in the grand scheme of the 8 billion other people emitting carbon and waste on the planet. However, they actually play a larger, more important role in helping to drive impactful change. Every behaviour we make is a form of communication and sends a signal to those around us; one that invites others to join.
It can be easy to get lost in the hustle & bustle of life, but everyday actions like planet-conscious eating are small reminders and help us stay focused on the bigger vision of the world we want to create. Just by behaving more intentionally, we start to create an identity for ourselves that then influences our future actions.
The cumulation of these smaller behaviours, leading to larger behaviours, done at scale, is where impact happens – otherwise known as the ‘ripple effect’.
Finally, research shows that an average person can lower their emissions by around 25%, simply through behaviour adaptations. This is something that we can all do today to help buy us time to flatten the curve of global emissions. Reducing your emissions and waste also has various monetary, health, and social co-benefits. What's not to like?
To bring this all together, there are a number of ways that you can leverage your impact and help to create a better future on our planet. Outside of simply ‘doing your bit’ by reducing your own waste and resource use, individuals play an important role in helping to drive aggregate demand for policy changes, inspire collective action, and change social norms.