One passionate and down-to-earth Peterborough woman is quickly making it hard to shrink behind excuses when it comes to crushing climate change. As someone who’s made some pretty huge life decisions herself in support of what’s best for the environment, Jessica Correa is putting out a message that is thawing the stiffening effects of the excuses so many people use when it comes making choices that benefit the environment.
“There is just a lot negativity or excuses about (acting on climate change), excuses like, ‘I’m just one person,’ ‘There is nothing I can do,’ ‘I’ll be dead before the problem matters,’ all the doom and gloom types of approaches,” Jessica tells Electricity City Magazine.
About three years ago, the then-newly minted postgraduate was especially attuned to that negativity. She had just completed a thesis on car-sharing. For her studies, she delved into what it takes to get people to change their behaviours.
Urged by a desire to apply her research in the “real world,” Jessica had decided to complete a PhD. She imagined eventually teaching people how to empower individuals to embark on more low-carbon choices. She’d already been accepted into a program at the University of Waterloo on a full scholarship, had a professor lined up and was looking at apartments.
And then something tweaked inside. While she holds a deep respect for the work of professors and believes there is great value in research, Jessica couldn’t ignore a pull she felt to create a path for action, “a feasible way for people to actually feel like they can make a difference and combat climate change and feel empowered,” right away. She decided to decline the PhD program offer.
Instead, she designed a Facebook page.
In the two-and-a-half years since that time, her social media platform has evolved into what is now Random Acts of Green, a social enterprise dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through behaviour changes.
Among many other achievements, the organization has attracted 23 local businesses keen to attach and align themselves with the Random Acts of Green brand and community. These businesses both support the social enterprise and tell their stories of how they are helping to generate positive environmental change through the Random Acts of Green network.
Earlier this year, Random Acts of Green launched a nation-wide volunteer program that has already pulled in 300 volunteers from 90 municipalities. Dubbed “Green Spotted,” the program sees volunteers exchanging stories of how they and others in their communities are doing green things.
A newly created Random Acts of Green app is the latest undertaking of the organization. Jumping off the successes of, for instance, fitness apps, the app inspires engagement by giving users a way to log, track, record—and then be rewarded for—their acts of green. For example, someone might choose to compost, wash laundry in cold water, bike to work, or commit other green acts. Those acts can be logged in exchange for green points. The green points can then be redeemed for real-world products and services—like a bamboo toothbrush or a reusable bamboo straw. The app is set for release on Oct. 1.
While all of these efforts—the local business network, national volunteer program and app—are pretty huge and diverse achievements on their own, the core intent with all of them is very much the same—to “connect the dots” between the many small actions and the many seemingly lone individuals and lone businesses actively taking steps to reverse climate change.
“The idea … is basically to eliminate that feeling that I’m only one person and this problem is too big,” Jessica says.
“When we connect the dots between one person doing something to all those hundreds of thousands of other people doing something, it increases this feeling and critical mass of individuals that are actually working toward collective change—and that has a culminative impact.”
In other words, Random Acts of Green is making a pretty strong case that every person matters, every business matters and every action matters in the quest to do the best for our Earth.
So no more excuses about things and people being “too small,” “too few,” or “not enough.”
A related element in the Random Acts of Green message is to invite people to see that they have choices in how to go about “doing green.” Jessica likens it to losing weight; in order to be successful long term, each person has to find the actions and approach that suit their preferences and lifestyle.
Being kind to others, while being kind to the planet, is also an important thread. For example, the new app offers ways for people to give away their newly acquired green points.
“My vision for Random Acts of Green has always been about being a symbol, a prompt and a reminder for people,” Jessica says. “For instance, when they exit a room, they would think, ‘Ok, Random Acts of Green, it’s time for me to turn off the light.
“It would be something that connected the dots between composting to eating less meat to planting a vegetable garden to washing your laundry in cold water. We would connect all of these different actions and allow people to understand that their day to day actions actually have an impact on our entire planet.”
What can people in Peterborough do?
Random Acts of Green always welcomes additional local businesses to be part of the network and support the initiative. One of the key ways businesses can provide support is through offering incentives for local individuals who choose to do green acts.
Jessica also asks for support from Peterborough residents in spreading the word about Random Acts of Green.
“Learn more about Random Acts of Green and how to get involved, whether that be as an advocate for green behaviour changes through our Green Spotted program, or whether that is as someone inviting a friend to the app.
“I want to see a ripple effect, like (that seen with) the ALS ice bucket challenge or Movember,” Jessica adds. “Random Acts of Green could become that (same kind of social movement) for reducing our impact on climate change.”
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