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Natural Awakenings NYC & Long Island

Teen Voices: Reducing Our Carbon Footprint Takes More Than a Light Step

By Erica Bender

“Carbon footprint,” a term that has gained popularity in recent years, refers to the carbon emissions given off by a particular individual or group. Many businesses, governments and individuals are trying to take steps that reduce carbon emissions as much as possible. Here are some New York organizations that encourage individuals to reduce their carbon footprint in the home and beyond, along with ways people can be part of the change to a more eco-friendly future.

The Safina Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Setauket, New York, dedicated to bettering the environmental movement. Since its founding in 2003, the Safina Center has aimed to inspire and engage the public to devote time and energy to reduce their carbon footprint and conserve the various ecosystems around the globe. 

Senior fellows, junior fellows and staff members create and spread ideas about being a better ally to the environment and preserving wildlife and wild places. According to the center, these ideas are portrayed “in the form of award-winning books and articles, scientific research, photography, films, sound-art, and spoken words.” The works “bear first-hand witness and then we speak up, we speak out, and we teach,” keeping the mission of the Safina Center strong. 

For more information about the fellows and staff at the Safina Center, visit SafinaCenter.org

Adelphi University is a world-renowned private institution in Garden City, New York, known for its research and academics. The Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) is a student-run organization at Adelphi “dedicated to education, sustainability, and environmental equity,” says President Kelly Andreuzzi. As a group, the EAC partners with several organizations on Long Island, such as FoodPrint Edu and the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, to educate students and faculty on how different agricultural practices influence the planet. 

“The single biggest thing a person can do to fight climate change is to advocate,” Andreuzzi says. “Any advocacy is important—whether it’s letter writing, calling your officials, communicating with your community and/or attending climate rallies.” Advocating is vital to reduce the carbon footprint of municipalities and not just one’s individual footprint, she says.

For more information about the work of the EAC at Adelphi University, follow their Instagram page @eacpanthers.

Climate Smart Communities (CSC) is a government-funded New York State initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of local communities. Becoming a CSC consists of 12 pledge elements that a community must display, ranging from decreasing energy use to enhancing community resilience. 

Out of the 28 certified CSCs on Long Island, five are bronze and one is silver, which is the highest possible honor. In New York, only 82 communities are certified bronze and eight silver, meaning that Long Island holds a large share of the recognition awarded by the program. 

For more information about the program and to discover if your local municipality is a member, visit their website at ClimateSmart.ny.gov.

Tips for shrinking our carbon footprint

With the ever-changing science of global warming, finding a place to start shrinking our carbon footprint can be overwhelming. Many significant ways to reduce carbon emissions include investing in a geothermal heating and cooling system, installing solar panels, donating to a carbon offset program or switching to an electric car. 

However, the smaller things we can do are just as important. Some examples are buying sustainably sourced meat products, avoiding cryptocurrency, carpooling, reducing water usage, avoiding single-use plastics and advocating for change at the local, state and national levels. 

As the organizations above have shown us, everyone can make a step in the right direction and preserve our planet by reducing carbon emissions.

Erica Bender is a 17-year-old currently finishing high school in Connecticut. She plans to study biology on a dual-degree track at Fordham University. She enjoys inspiring others to care about the environment through writing and advocacy and wants to ensure that wildlife and wild places are preserved for generations to come.