Written by Jacqueline Haycraft
Eco-anxiety is prevalent, especially among youth. A global survey of 10,000 young people found that 95% of youth are worried about climate change, and 60% are “extremely” or “very” worried. Worse, 57% reported that climate change made them feel “powerless.”
Climate change can feel like an overwhelming and even impossible problem sometimes. But when people have the knowledge and tools to contribute to positive change, it becomes much less scary and much more manageable.
Kids Cutting Carbon is a program that will provide virtual workshops to students from Grade 9 to 12. They will learn about the causes of climate change, calculate their own carbon footprint, and learn about ways in which they can make changes in their own lives to help reduce carbon emissions in Waterloo Region.
“We are delighted to receive funding from the RBC Foundation and Region of Waterloo in collaboration with Project Neutral to create green jobs and develop a program to empower students to measure their carbon impact and take meaningful action on climate change,” said Lisa Truong, Energy Programs Manager.
This program has been in development for nearly a year. In the early design stages, we gathered feedback and ideas from graduate students in the Master of Climate Change program at the University of Waterloo to ensure that we are teaching the most relevant information on climate change.
The workshop is centred around a “no shame, no blame” philosophy. Different households have different carbon footprints and they depend on a variety of factors.
“We understand that some aspects of our carbon emissions are not within our control. By learning about which parts of our lives contribute to climate change and switching the focus to what we can do to make a difference, we can have a positive impact in our community,” said Sydney Hennessy, Energy Programs Coordinator. “Our goal is to leave students feeling empowered to take action, and hopeful for the future.”
This project was partly inspired by a growing number of teachers who were reaching out, saying that they would like to be able to teach more climate education in their classrooms. Teachers said that they often lacked the background knowledge, resources and time to properly teach about climate change. Each Kids Cutting Carbon workshop will be taught by a Community Animator who has been specifically trained in facilitating climate education workshops, and will use the Project Neutral platform to help the students measure their own footprints.
Reep Green Solutions has been working with Project Neutral since 2018 to bring their online carbon calculating tool to the community in Waterloo Region. We’ve used the tool at community events, hosted workshops, and engaged businesses through an Employee Engagement Challenge. Through Project Neutral, community members have discovered their carbon footprints and been able to take tangible actions to reduce them, contributing to Reep’s intended impact of 10,000 meaningful actions by 2030.
While most children and youth have an awareness of the climate crisis, they do not have a clear idea of a solution, or how they can take positive actions to contribute to a solution. We are going to try to change that with the Kids Cutting Carbon workshops.
Children and teenagers are some of the world’s most enthusiastic and passionate climate activists. They hold amazing power for change.
“Whenever I’ve spoken to students about climate change I’ve been impressed by their wisdom and resolve. I love that this program approaches young people as equal partners in reimagining our shared climate safe future. Our entire team is so excited about this work and can’t wait to begin!” said Jake Miller, Director of Project Neutral.
We believe that education is one of the best ways we can support our kids. Providing background knowledge on climate change, as well as strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change can contribute to reducing eco-anxiety, and empowering youth to take action and build the world they want for the future.