If you’ve been following environmental news lately, you’ve come to the realization that we need to take action now and in very big ways. As individuals, it’s not always clear where to put our time, especially when we have a full plate of work, family, and life responsibilities. This fall action guide will help direct where to put your energy to take climate action in a meaningful way.
For those of us just getting started making an impact, use this guide to set goals and find the best ways to make an impact over time (hint: every season is a great chance to set new goals). For those of us already involved in activist work, use this guide as a framework to take action in an efficient way, feel good about the work you’re putting in, and encourage your network to take action in a manageable way.
Note: I struggle with feeling I need to do more all the time. It can feel like I’m not doing enough even when I’m putting in a lot of time into climate activism. This is a very common feeling, and recognizing and accepting the feeling is important. This framework helps to move us forward in meaningful ways and make a difference short-term and long-term…with less risk of burn out.
Learn * Engage * Act
GOAL: Learn one new climate-related topic or skill this fall.
There are so many topics related to the climate crisis, and it’s impossible to become an expert on them all. What we can do is focus on learning key areas that are important to us, so we can interact with others on the topics, support policies that impact the topics, and make the most difference possible for the areas impacted.
How much to learn this season? Learn enough to have a casual conversation about it. Or, if it’s a skill, learn enough to understand the basics. By focusing on learning one topic or skill each season, it makes our learning more fun and more permanent (because we’re actually putting time into learning so it sticks). Since one of the reasons we don’t talk about climate is we feel we don’t know enough, learning gives us the power of knowledge and confidence.
Spend 10 minutes brainstorming climate-related topics or skills you’d love to learn more about. Then, look over the list and see what options stand out. Pick the topic that resonates with you, and find a book, class, or event to get you started.
Note: if there’s a topic you feel you should know because it’s a major topic in conversations or debates and you feel less than confident about your talking points, that might be a great topic to pick (example: Green New Deal).
Examples of topics: backyard composting, carbon tax policy, renewable energy, Green New Deal, urban sustainable development, sustainable coffee, zero waste.
Examples of skills: solar oven cooking, foraging, vermicomposting, bike riding, interacting with your representatives.
GOAL: Engage with your community on climate topics.
Polls show that the majority of Americans understand the climate crisis is real. We have the majority who understands substantial climate action must be taken, but it’s still not something most Americans talk about it with their family, friends, or community. We need to talk about the environment if we want substantial action to be taken.
Make it a priority to engage on climate issues this season. What does that look like? It could be having conversations with your family when you’ve previously avoided the topic. It could be staying engaged around politics by watching the debates, talking to your network about it, and even campaigning for a candidate with strong climate action policies. It could be holding presentations on climate action for your work or community groups. Climate Reality Project holds trainings to teach the skills to present for your community, so keep an eye out for free trainings from them (I’m a trained Climate Reality Leader and feel empowered by the network).
Other ideas to engage with your community:
- Host a climate documentary watch party.
- Engage with your representatives. Find out who they are, follow them on social, join their newsletter, and go to an event where they’ll be. Write or call their office and encourage them to support a climate policy or initiative.
- Join (or start) a sustainability club at your office or school.
- Encourage businesses, churches, and other community groups to commit to stronger climate action goals, such as committing to 100% Committed by 2030 or starting an organics recycling program.
- Join a climate-related campaign to get talking points and volunteer. Examples of organizations with campaigns: Greenpeace, 350.org, Sierra Club.
- Start a climate action book club with a couple friends.
GOAL: Find a longer-term volunteer role or volunteer once a month.
Giving our time to take direct climate action is one of the best things we can do, both in terms of our effectiveness in making a difference as well as reducing the feeling of hopelessness. We need to take action and we need to do it now.
Just start volunteering, with the goal of finding a longer-term role (this is where we make the most impact, because we become trained, reliable, and unstoppable forces for our organizations of choice!).
If your goal is to find a longer-term volunteer role with an organization that speaks to you, start by getting on the mailing list for organizations you like and seeing what opportunities there are with the organization. Go to one-time volunteer events to see if it’s a good fit and/or connect with the organization to find out how you can get more involved. If you want to volunteer more sporadically until you find a good fit (or can’t commit to something long term with your schedule), decide what areas you’re most interested in helping with and join in on volunteer events.
Great areas to get involved include: joining a political campaign, phone banking with organizations like 350.org, joining the environmental committee for your neighborhood, participating in clean up events or tree plantings, and joining climate strikes.
The climate crisis is overwhelming and it can feel like we need to do everything and learn everything all at once. But, to create long lasting difference, we need to move forward and get others to join in to demand critical changes from our cities, states, and countries. As individuals, if we LEARN * ENGAGE * ACT this fall, we can make the most difference possible and help others join the climate movement so we become an unstoppable force together.