InsightOut: Investing in Our Planet

InsightOut: Investing in Our Planet

Lauren Amaral is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of St Michael’s College pursuing a double major in Environmental Science and Global Health with a minor in Environmental Studies and a Certificate in Sustainability. She is the current President of Clean SMC, a sustainability-focused group at SMC that strives to promote environmental initiatives among students at the University of Toronto. As a graduating student, she hopes that Clean SMC continues to gain recognition among students in order to promote ways of making sustainable changes accessible to everyone.

When we think about Investing in Our Planet, we are looking at ways to put pressure on companies to reduce their pollution in order to enact societal and economic change. The goal is to reshape our economies away from our current consumption-focused one to an economy that supports and benefits from circular and recycling economies. This seems like a difficult feat, but there are ways we can make small, reasonable changes to our individual lifestyles that will allow us to support this initiative without feeling the pressure of the world on our shoulders.

Each year, Earth Day has a different theme that brings awareness to important issues currently facing our world, and the theme for this year is #InvestInOurPlanet. To make real change, it is imperative that we hold companies accountable for their pollution, yet we often feel the pressure to “fix” climate change ourselves. Making drastic changes to live “zero-waste” with a carbon neutral footprint, however, is an unlikely reality for most people. When we are unableto execute sustainability “perfectly” we can find ourselves feeling discouraged and eventually lack the desire to make an effort entirely. Sustainability does not have to be an all-or-nothing effort. Making small changes wherever we are able to, can lead to significant reductions in our environmental footprint and lead us to living sustainably in a manner that suits our lifestyles.

Clean SMC club members
Lauren Amaral (right) is the current President of Clean SMC.

The easiest way to make changes to our lives is by learning about the issues that are most relevant to us. This can include reading the “About Us” pages of your favourite clothing stores to learn about the measures they are taking to create sustainable products, or intentionally finding brands that align with your values before shopping there. Beyond looking at the companies we support by buying their products or services, we can also make changes to our daily routines that can have a significant difference. Some of these changes can include taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when it is not in use, reducing meat from your diet once a week, or ensuring your trash is disposed of properly. These changes can seem insignificant, but when everyone makes little changes, big effects can be seen.

There are also ways to implement larger measures of change to our lives as well. These can include things like taking the time to learn where our banks are investing our money, learning about the University of Toronto’s divestment plan, and even finding ways of getting involved by attending rallies or signing petitions. Finding ways to take local action can be very helpful when looking for ways to make change that go beyond our personal environmental footprints.

At Clean SMC, we have run a number of events this year to promote local action. From the informative posts we have created and uploaded to our social media to promoting conversations around the environment through a documentary screening, opening the discussion around sustainability with fellow students has been great. We also organized a Spring Campus Clean Up in March. It was extremely rewarding seeing students come together to make sustainable changes and collect numerous bags of litter from around the St. Mike’s campus. At our events, we have been giving away products that hopefully encourage students to make small changes like using a reusable straw or produce bags, or even planting seeds to grow their own flowers or vegetables. Change does not have to be huge in order to be significant.

Another important initiative we have been working on is in collaboration with LEAP UofT. We have started a petition of support for the University of St. Michael’s College to divest from fossil fuels. Our hope is to show the college how much we, as students, care about where the money that supports all of the things we love about SMC, comes from. We are hoping to collect signatures over the summer and into next year to teach students about what divestment is, and hopefully place enough pressure on the university to make real environmental change, and follow the University of Toronto’s footprints in the road of divestment.

The most important part about making sustainable changes is ensuring that the changes are sustainable for your personal lifestyle. Oftentimes the pressures we feel to live sustainably can make us feel overwhelmed and hopeless. When this happens, it’s important to focus on the good that is being done by our small changes, and the good that is being done around the world. In recent years, strides have been made to increase climate change awareness, activism, and action which is a very hopeful sign for the future of climate change solutions. The most important way we can #InvestInOurPlanet, is by ensuring that we are prioritizing our mental health so that we are able to continue to do the work needed to make an impactful difference against climate change.

For more ways to get involved this Earth Day, visit the official website.

St. Michael’s is a charter member of the University Network for Investment Engagement (UNIE), a collective of Canadian universities under the SHARE umbrella whose role is to engage corporations on questions of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing sustainable finance, responsible climate policy, and just transitions through the initiative. Additional information about how sustainability is being woven into all aspects the University of St. Michael’s College culture is available in the 2021 President’s Report

Read other InsightOut posts.