Healthy CommunitiesYMCA Green TeamYMCA Youth Programs

An activity challenge for young leaders taking action against the climate crisis

14 May 2020 - by Nicole Meredith
We’ve all seen the headlines (even if they’ve been a little buried by the landslide of other COVID-19-related updates): worldwide lockdowns are cutting emissions. Rush-hour traffic is dissipating in cities around the globe. Skylines are appearing that haven’t peeked through the smog for years. And some governments want to support low-carbon industries in their recovery plans.

If we’re going to live in a “new normal,” perhaps this is our opportunity to make it a little more green, responsible, and sustainable.

What’s the Y’s role in the climate crisis?

When people think of the Y, “climate resilience” isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. More often (and in normal, pre-COVID times), they think of kids squealing with delight in our bouncy castles, families splashing around together in our pools, and teenagers shooting hoops together on Saturday nights in our gyms. Because the Y is about all of these things — and many more — climate change is a huge concern for us, as it is and should be for the rest of the world.

Historically, the YMCA has thought of itself as a youth-serving charity focused on health and well-being. Today, the climate crisis poses a serious threat to youth, health, and well-being. So, we are serious about making a positive contribution in this area.

Since 2008:

  • We’ve reduced the carbon footprint of our owned assets by over 40%

  • We’ve reduced our energy spending by 25%

  • We’ve created our own community resilience strategy and contributed to the City of Toronto’s

  • We’ve targeted LEED Gold certification at all new YMCA Centres of Community

  • We’ve enhanced over 50 acres of outdoor spaces through green roofs, natural play spaces, and, at YMCA Cedar Glen, an organic farm.

These are just a few highlights. And we’re only getting started. There’s a long road ahead — for everyone. Our Y will step up to do much more.

How you can make a difference — right now, from home

All of those youth programs our charity’s known for have bred some serious leaders, including youth who want to do something about the climate crisis. If you’re looking for something productive and meaningful to do while you’re staying home, try this activity challenge designed to help you think about how our everyday actions can reduce our carbon footprint.

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of factors that contribute to the climate crisis.

Step 2: Pick just one of those problems and come up with two creative ideas that could help address it.

Step 3: Reflect on how you, personally, could help solve one of those problems or make a contribution to alleviating the climate crisis.

Step 4: Share the ideas you’re most proud of with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @YMCAGTA so we can get a conversation started!

Everyone, of every age, has a stake in the health of our planet. But young people are the ones who will inherit our communities’ future; you should feel empowered to help build it! We hope you’ll take the challenge and start thinking about the role you can play in supporting more responsible, sustainable communities.


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