By Alli Kane
Climate action mirrors the complex and dynamic nature of the crisis it serves to combat. Matched with two host-sites that work on climate and sustainability, my service, too, was complex and dynamic. Climate projects typically change by season or region based on the needs of a community and this year they shifted to meet the moment and address COVID-19.
When I started last Fall, I thought I was ready for how dynamic my service would be, but this past year has really strengthened my ability to compartmentalize and fully commit myself to a range of projects with overlapping timeframes. I consider my service term to have been a climate action bootcamp.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to support a hospital sustainability program, assisting in managing the reduction of the environmental impact of healthcare within the hierarchy of an organization. At the same time, I’ve supported a climate action nonprofit that collaborates with community members, businesses, and government agencies to develop plans, policies, and programs aimed at catalyzing a transition to a resilient and equitable community in the face of climate change.
Projects I developed or helped out with span the broad chasm that is sustainability: building resilience, fostering justice and equity, promoting clean and alternative transportation options, reducing waste and plastic use in healthcare, strengthening local ecology and green space, promoting renewable energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, community building, and educating the public on heat, wildfire smoke and healthy solutions.
I couldn’t have done any of this without collaborating with green teams, local government, environmental organizations, my fellow energy corps members, and internal departments like the engineering team, supply chain, and food services in order to develop and strengthen goals and ensure success.
I wrote opinion pieces and letters to the editor, engaged in conversation with nurses, presented campaigns on zoom calls, collected, separated, and weighed medical supply donations (and often wayward trash), filmed and edited videos, organized volunteers, developed a strategic plan towards sustainable transportation, tracked and analyzed waste, energy, and climate data, wrote a sustainability report, conducted background research on projects that never got off the ground, and spent months pulling together program success stories to apply for prestigious hospital sustainability awards (We were awarded 4!).
I’ve learned that this is what it truly takes to get sustainability work done and build community resilience. There is no one size fits all program or policy. Each person and each community’s needs are different and each voice is necessary in order to reduce vulnerability. I feel armed, more than I ever have, to fight the climate crisis and be a part of the large scale transformation necessary to ensure a just and equitable future for each of us.