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Young people recycle, avoid meat to combat climate change

Solar panels at Middlebury College, Vermont (YJI)

When it comes to taking personal action to combat climate change, young people named several individual habits, including recycling, that they take to protect the planet.

Separating plastic, paper and other recyclables, and using biodegradable bags could bring change on a big scale, said Reina Joyce Ignacio, a 20-year-old in Manama, Bahrain.

Landing Ceesay of The Gambia

“I encourage everybody to do that,” Ignacio said.

Landing Ceesay, a journalism student in The Gambia, said he is not doing much personally about climate change, but said he is directing his efforts toward organizing youth.

As the president of a youth association he initiated in his community, Ceesay said, he tries to promote the welfare and well being of the community.

He and his colleagues engage in clean up efforts to prevent malaria in the community, but especially to protect pregnant women and children from the disease.

Jonathan Lynch of Dublin, Ohio

Jonathan Lynch, 16 and a student at Hilliard Davidson High School in Dublin, Ohio, said he’s not doing anything new.

“I haven’t changed anything, but I’ve recycled my whole life,” said Lynch. “It’s not like I’m going out and burning plastic like all the big corporations.”

Gaelle Honein of Bahrain

Gaelle Honein, a 17-year-old student at the French School of Bahrain, said she – and her family – recycle and try to minimize the use of plastic.

But more than that, Honein said, as part of the student council at school, she promotes recycling and other helpful actions.

“If students aren’t starting with their personal lives and within their families,” said Honein, “we believe it’s important for them to start somewhere which is, in our case, the school. Promoting such behaviors also sets the example for other schools so they end up wanting to follow our footsteps.

Several of those interviewed cited a dietary commitment to reducing or eliminating the amount of animal products they consume.

Robin Gage, a 20-year-old art student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said she is a vegan and wishes everyone else were, too.

In addition, Gage said she doesn’t have a car. She bikes or uses public transport instead.

“I try to be vegetarian,” said Abby Blades, 19.

Blades, who studies at the University of Edinburgh, said she tries to avoid buying plastic. She favors reusable bags and cups and buys fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded decades ago that the combustion of fossil fuels – powering vehicles, industries and power plants – is the major cause of climate change.
Agriculture contributes to the problem by releasing methane and spurring deforestation, scientists say.

Oliver Smith of Scotland

Eighteen-year-old Oliver Smith, a student at the University of Edinburgh, said he recycles and takes the bus.

“But individually, I’m not doing much,” Smith said. “I don’t think climate change will be solved by individual lifestyle changes. People need to vote, not become vegan. The crisis needs government intervention, like making flying or driving harder.”

Gabriella Benavides, 17, attends Hilliard Davidson High School in Dublin, Ohio. Asked what she does on an individual basis to combat climate change, she said she recycles.

Smith sees a crucial role for governments to play.

“The Scottish government has said they will be carbon neutral by 2050,” Smith said, “but the whole world needs to be carbon neutral by then. If only one of the most eco-friendly governments is, that won’t be enough. It feels like the government is doing the right thing, too late.”

Youth Journalism International Correspondent Joanna Koter and Reporter Hanna Johal reported from Edinburgh. YJI Reporter Lina Temzini reported from Bahrain. YJI Reporter Danish Bajwa reported from Dublin, Ohio, U.S.A. YJI Reporter Marianna Barry reported from The Gambia.

Read the main story in this special collaborative report on climate by YJI reporters: Youth say they’re angry, scared and sad about climate change

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