As of 2014, Canada ranked 9th in the world for its total greenhouse gas emissions. And, most shockingly, if you look at total greenhouse gas emissions per person, Canadians rank #1 in the world! If you take all total emissions and divide that number by how many people are in the country, each Canadian is responsible for a whopping 20.96 tons per person every year.
Experts recommend that by 2030, that number needs to drop down to 2.5 tons per person. That is a huge collective reduction in greenhouse gasses that we need to achieve in just ten years.
To be honest, these numbers can be a little misleading. All emissions from the big industries are wrapped up into the per-person average. We surely can’t be held responsible for all of the greenhouse gasses that industry emits every year. In 2017, over 27% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the oil and gas industry alone.
All the same, we have to come together collectively through our own individual actions to do what we can to help prevent global warming. As young people, we are the ones that will have to live with the consequences of inaction.
As university students, we are the future leaders, policymakers, educators, and professionals of Canada. We are the ones best positioned to advocate for effective change
So, what are some ways that university tudents can help prevent global warming before you have your degree in hand? What are the most effective individual actions that you can take to add to this collective effort to preserve our future?
Here’s a brief list of the four most impactful actions you can take to get you started.
1. Maintain Hope
Without hope, what’s the point?
It can be incredibly depressing to grasp the “big picture” of what is happening to our planet. The scale of ecological catastrophe we are currently witnessing is understandably disturbing.
But don’t lose hope. I really like this quote from Steve Easterbrook, who runs the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment.
“…no matter how bad things look, we have to act as if there is time and that we can fix our climate.”
We have to act. And we have to believe that our actions will have a positive impact. We also have to transmit hope to those around us. If, or when, you have children, we have to spread that hope to them. We can do this. We can take on this problem.
2. Reduce Air Travel
This is one of the most effective ways that you can reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions.
Different factors weigh into how they calculate the carbon emissions from flying. This has to do with the kind of plane you’re on and whether it is a high altitude or lower flying flight. How many people are on the plane (among other factors) is another consideration.
It’s estimated that one flight from London to New York emits about as much CO2 per person as a person living in Ghana does in an entire year.
Traveling by train or by car is a better option if it is an option. If you are studying far from home, think about alternative ways that you can make the journey back and forth. Train travel in Canada is affordable for students due to discounted rates and multi-trip passes.
Alternatives to air travel exist. Don’t be afraid to take some extra time to enjoy the journey along the way when you need to get from point A to point B.
3. Go Vegan or Consume Less Meat, Particularly Beef
Vegan, for those of you who might not know, means eating a diet free of all animal products. Switching over to a vegan or plant-based diet is one of the major things a student can do to help prevent global warming.
The thing is, most animals (particularly cows) require a LOT of lands to be raised on, while actually providing a very small percentage of our food needs
It really boils down to a land use issue. Cattle need a huge amount of space to roam. Additionally, they eat a lot of feed, primarily grain that also requires huge area of land for growing.
By lowering the demand for beef and other meat stock, we can use productive farmland to grow food for people. We also support reforesting efforts and conserving land that is not suitable for grazing.
If you cannot fathom going vegan, try lowering your consumption of meat. You can also consider other protein sources that have a lower carbon footprint such as pork or poultry.
As a meat-eater, take your climate activism a step further. Buy from local producers. If you choose to eat meat, know your farmer and buy from those who specialize in sustainable animal husbandry.
4. Go Car-Free
Another effective decision that you can make in your quest to help prevent global warming is to leave your car parked. 58% of transportation-related emissions in Canada are from passenger vehicles.
If you don’t have a car, you have most likely figured out alternative ways to get around. Biking has become a year-round sport. Public transportation is available in most major cities. Trains and carpooling are great options for trips home.
And if you really can’t do without the occasional use of a car (especially those of you who come from up north or in more rural zones) think about renting a car. You can rent a car for the time that you will need it and return it when your trip is over.
If you absolutely need to have your own vehicle, consider switching over to an electric or hybrid model.
Over 80% of electricity in Canada comes from non-greenhouse gas emitting sources. You can feel confident knowing that neither your car nor the energy you are powering it with, are major contributors to our collective emissions.
5. Become a Politically Engaged Citizen
Your representatives need to hear from you. They need to know that there is strong citizen support for dramatic initiatives aimed at reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
The most effective ways to prevent global warming are actually matters of national policy.
If we want the oil and gas industry to clean up their act – we need to pressure our representatives to make rules and regulations that force them to.
If we want to decrease our reliance on coal-burning power plants – we need our officials on board to increase investment in renewables.
If we want to see fewer cars on the roads, our national government needs to know that we support investing in nationwide public transportation.
You get the idea.
Writing letters to your representatives is the most basic way to become an engaged citizen.
But you can also take it a step further. As a university student, you are in a privileged position.
You have access to a broad community of like-minded individuals all looking for ways to help prevent climate change. You have access to networks of professionals and politicians just waiting for proactive students to get involved.
Consider forming a student group. Become a “citizen scientist” by volunteering for a research project at your university. Research political candidates to understand their positions on climate policy and help educate other voters. VOTE.
Becoming a politically engaged citizen is one of the best ways that students can help prevent global warming.
These four ways that college students can help to prevent global warming are just a starting point.
The journey to reducing our carbon footprint starts with simple actions. As you realize how easy it is to implement these changes, you will become inspired to continue looking for ways to deepen your commitment to a pro-active climate saving lifestyle.
Author’s bio. Daniela McVicker is a contributor to TopWritersReview. She has a master’s degree in English Literature, and she is truly passionate about learning foreign languages and teaching. Daniela works with the students helping them to discover their writing talent.