Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has taken the world by storm, inspiring millions of people to take climate action. She gained recognition when she started staging protests outside the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) during the weeks leading up to the general elections in August 2018. Thunberg sat outside the Riksdag every day for three weeks while holding a large wooden sign that stated, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” ("school strike for the climate") and handing out flyers with facts about the climate crisis. Thunberg announced she would strike every Friday after the elections, coining the term FridaysForFuture (FFF) and rallying students around the world to hold similar protests in their own communities.
Over the past year, Thunberg was nominated as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, addressed the United Nations, testified before the United States House of Representatives, met with numerous world leaders and has been featured in myriad mainstream publications including Time Magazine, which named her one of the 100 most influential people of 2019 and also featured Thunberg on the cover. Her message is, "I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action."
In addition to striking every Friday, Thunberg has taken steps in her personal life to reduce her personal carbon footprint. She will not fly due to the emissions that result from air travel—she sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emission sailboat to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York! She is a vegan. And she is also on a “stop-shop,” only buying new things if she absolutely has to. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman asked Thunberg, “In terms of clothes, you don’t buy new clothes?” and Thunberg replied, “No. Either I buy second-hand or I receive clothes from someone else...” Thunberg also stated, “And just these small things I can do in my everyday life, apart from activism and highlighting the problem.”
“Either I buy second-hand or I receive clothes from someone else...”
Our collective choices make an impact on the world. In addition to urging our governments to take climate action, our consumption habits must also change. We can all take a little inspiration from Greta Thunberg. Even if you won’t completely forgo air travel, consider flying less often. If being a strict vegan seems out of reach, consume fewer animal products and incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet. When you want or need new clothes, #swapbeforeyoushop or shop secondhand before buying something new. These small choices add up, and right now we need all hands on deck to deal with this massive problem.
Have you made changes to your lifestyle to lower your carbon footprint and live more sustainably? Please share in the comments!