Little Things Make Big Things Happen: Our Individual Impact on Climate Change

 on January 12, 2024

There isn’t a day that goes by where we are not presented with so much information on the climate crisis. Greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, global warming, electrification, carbon capture etc., etc. Maybe we should call this climate chaos as the type and volume of information and opinion being regularly communicated probably makes many people tune out of the discussion. But the situation is very real and now more than ever, there is so much focus and debate globally on our environmental impact. We hear many forecasting doom and doubt but also hear a strong voice of hope that says that our efforts will result in positive change.

My personal interest in the whole climate issue stems from my involvement and responsibility in environmental improvement, energy use reduction, and stewardship throughout my working career in industry. From my experience, I saw how previous attitudes towards the environment and climate impacted our world negatively. I also saw how quickly conditions started to improve once the environment took on a bigger priority and focus. My belief is that although technology drove a lot of change, the biggest impacts came from the involvement and individual actions, choices and behaviours of people towards energy use reduction and waste reduction.

The industry I worked in used a lot of fuel, water, and electricity over multiple large locations. I was fortunate to be able to work with many talented teams that developed innovative solutions to reduce energy use and waste. These resulted in real and significant reductions in overall energy use and environmental impacts over time. All of this began as cost saving measures but quickly moved to sustainability as we realized that reducing our carbon footprint and overall environmental impact was necessary and was the right thing to do.

As work progressed, the pace of change really started to pick up when we involved more and more people at all levels. Individual behaviours changed as we shared information on things like daily energy usage and waste levels. People quickly started to rally around the information and look for ways to contribute to the overall effort. Soon we had many minds focused on improvement and contributing their ideas. It was amazing how the rate of progress picked up and how many new ideas came forward to further sustain the efforts. People were interested in the information, wanted to get involved, and celebrated achievements and results as a group. The goals were achieved and exceeded and today the improvements continue to move forward.

Recently I was involved in the Zero Emissions Churches initiative at our church where we went into a lot of detail to evaluate our energy usage and also characterise our building for further improvement opportunities. As we assembled all the records and did the measurements of the church building to calculate our carbon footprint, I asked myself “my God, how will we ever be able to reduce the carbon footprint of this building given that it was never designed for energy efficiency?” Since I was in the church building, I figured God was the best one to ask that question to at that moment! Technical improvements would no doubt be very challenging along with the financial realities. But I was reminded that the people of the parish, not just the physical building, are part of the whole effort and their individual behaviours, ideas, and involvement would help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the church community.

There is a common saying that says “Many little things make big things happen.” When we look at what we can do as individuals to impact climate change, remember that although it may seem like a little thing, collectively it will contribute to a bigger result in our communities. I’m sure that the Climate Justice Niagara Facilitators at your church will welcome your involvement and contributions at any level. Get involved where you can!

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