Get Involved

Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges that we, and our children, will face in our lifetime. Almost every day, we hear more alarming news stories about it. Weird weather is the new normal. These changes are impacting our families’ and our communities’ health and safety. Preparing for the impacts of climate change will help us protect our families and our communities. Cutting carbon pollution is the most important way to keep climate change from getting worse. No one can do this alone. But when people support action, we can make a real difference. Together, we can Make It Better.

What You Can Do

Choose what kind of action you want to take to protect your family and community from the impacts of climate change.

Carbon emissions come from a variety of sources – transportation, generation of electricity, creation of consumer goods, industry, home heating and cooling, home energy use, food production and food distribution – some of which we can influence. In Canada, the biggest sources of emissions are from the oil and gas sector (26%) and the transportation sector (25%).17

We can make choices that, collectively, can add up to change. And while it’s understandable that some actions aren’t possible for everyone, there are lots of different things to pick from so that everyone can find at least on action to take. Check out the ideas in the list below and choose one that resonate with you:

Talk about your support for action on climate change

Tackling climate change will take large-scale unified action with involvement from businesses, governments, and communities. An important action that you can take is to talk about your support for strong action on climate change to protect your family’s health. The more people show they care, the more seriously our community, businesses, and government leaders will take our concerns. You can become a change-maker in your community by sharing your support for climate action directly with political decision-makers.

To learn more about how to get more engaged in climate conversations in your community, here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Climate Action Network Canada hosts and posts webinars and workshops on community climate action, including Kitchen Table Climate Conversation.
  • Greenpac is a good source for learning about environmental leaders and candidates across the political spectrum.
  • Evergreen’s Community Solutions Network helps bring community residents together to plan for the sustainable future of their cities and towns.
  • WWF’s Living Planet @ School program is a great resource for teachers who want to bring discussions about nature and the environment into the classroom.

Walk, cycle, or take transit instead of driving

Transportation is a significant contributor to carbon emissions in Ontario with most emissions coming from passenger vehicles. You can reduce your emissions in the following ways: 

  • Minimize driving when you can
  • Take public transit
  • Ride a bike
  • Car-share/car pool
  • Telecommute/work from home
  • Choose low-carbon cars (like hybrid or electric) or fuel-efficient vehicles
  • Fly less and try to fly nonstop (as landings and takeoffs use more fuel); if you do fly, consider offsetting your emissions (you can find out more at www.climateneutralnow.org)

Here are a few sites you can check out to learn more about active and sustainable transportation: 

Use energy wisely

About 25 percent of carbon emissions in Ontario come from heating and cooling of our homes and buildings. You can reduce your emissions in the home by doing the following:

  • If you own a home, you can make your house more energy efficient:
    • Make your house more energy efficient
    • Do a home energy audit to find out what needs to be done
    • Improve your insulation
    • Replace an inefficient furnace 
    • Install energy efficient windows 
    • Winterize your home to prevent heat from escaping
    • Consider adding solar panels to your roof, if you own a home, or investing in community solar or wind projects
  • Get a smart thermostat to help lower your energy use and energy bills 
  • Lower your heating by a couple of degrees
  • Turn off your air conditioner when it’s not needed
  • Wash your clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water
  • Hang dry your clothes if you can instead of using a dryer
  • Change to energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use
  • Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances
  • Look into utility programs that give incentives or can help you to cut energy consumption and save on bills

To learn more about how efficiency can help save energy (and money!), here are a few places to start:

Limit your consumption and waste

About 5 percent of carbon emissions come from the waste sector. To help reduce waste you can:

  • Buy less 
  • Reduce and reuse before recycling
  • Share, make, fix, upcycle, repurpose and compost
  • Limit your purchases of fast fashion; consider buying second-hand, vintage or recycled clothing 
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store
  • Reduce your consumption of products with excess packaging and plastic 
  • Consider buying more bulk and reusing containers 
  • If possible, don’t use straws, and bring your own reusable travel cups 
  • Minimize purchases of new products, especially heavily-packaged products
  • Buy local whenever possible
  • Minimize food waste by pre-planning meals and only purchasing what you need.
  • Grow your own food where possible

Want to waste less? Here are a few sites to check out: 

Choose a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet

Food production and climate change are inextricably linked. According to Canada’s Food Guide,  there is evidence that eating patterns higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods have a smaller environmental footprint.

Here are a few sites to check out to learn more: 

Follow Canada’s Food Guide which recommends that when choosing protein foods, consume plant-based more often.

The information above was found in these sites, where you can learn more:

What You Can Do in Your Community

Like any health emergency, while the impacts of climate change can be serious and devastating, there are things we can do within our local communities to plan for and reduce the health risks. 

These actions can help build healthy, equitable and climate-resilient communities today, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases to lessen the impact of future climatic changes. 

In addition to protecting our families and future generations from the health impacts of climate change, there are many other health benefits from taking these actions!

Consider the following community actions to protect yourself and your family from the impacts of climate change:

Take a few minutes to reflect

Reflect on what is important to you and your family when packing lunches or preparing for your day ahead! What is happening in your community? Is your neighbourhood impacted by flooding? Is there enough shade for protection from extreme heat and ultraviolet radiation from the sun? Are healthy and affordable food choices available in your community? Are there convenient and affordable transportation options available in your neighbourhood, so that you can walk, bike or take public transit to your destination? Is there plenty of green space for walking, relaxing and enjoying recreational activities?

Talk to your neighbours

Talk to and get involved in your community! What is most important to them and what change would they like to see take place in your community? Discuss how you can help support local climate change initiatives. Opportunities to address climate change at the local level abound, but they need your help and input. Research also shows that communities and neighbourhoods with greater social capital and connectedness recover better and faster from climate impacts such as extreme weather events, so building those connections is directly beneficial to climate resilience.

Do a quick web search

Research your city/municipality’s website to see if/how they are addressing that issue. You could also contact the city/municipality department that is responsible for this service. They work for your community and would be happy to talk about the city/municipality’s actions to address climate change. Some examples could include:

  • Community Climate Action Plans
  • Climate and Health Vulnerability Assessment and Health Adaptation Plans
  • Land Use and Development Plans
  • Low Impact Development Policies
  • Urban Heat Island Reduction Plans
  • Active and Sustainable Transportation Plans
  • Community Energy Plans
  • Community Greening Strategies and Green Infrastructure Plans
  • Green Building Policies
  • Local Food Procurement and Food Production Strategies
  • Waste Reduction Plans
  • Water Conservation Plans
  • Flood Mitigation Plans
  • Vector-borne Disease Prevention Plans

Contact your local councillor

Ask how you can get involved in local climate action. Attend local council meetings. Ask your municipal councillors to support policies and plans to address climate change. Ask if there is a Citizens Climate Advisory Committee or Environmental Advisory Committee that you can join or support. If an advisory committee does not exist, ask that one be established.

Start your own neighbourhood climate action group

It is a great way to meet your neighbours and work together on solutions that protect your family’s health and create healthy communities. The Clean Air Partnership is compiling resources on engaging communities for climate action. You can find some helpful resources, including information on Community Climate Hubs here. Ideas are endless, but you could consider community and climate solutions such as:

  • Community gardens and food markets
  • Food gleaning programs
  • Tree planting
  • Car-pooling or car-sharing programs
  • Walking school bus initiatives
  • Local trail improvement programs
  • Neighbour check-in programs during extreme heat events

Advocate for green investment in your community

Encourage your municipality, work place and school board to invest in:

  • Public transit and other forms of sustainable and active transportation, such as biking, walking, electric vehicles, ride-sharing, and telecommuting
  • Building neighbourhoods that are compact, complete, connected, cool, convivial (places people want to spend time together) 
  • Targeted programs in locations that need improved services to improve health equity
  • Local food markets, community gardens, local agriculture, and local food procurement policies at institutions such as schools, community centres, hospitals and government buildings
  • Built and natural environments, such as green buildings, parking lots and green infrastructure, that support healthy climate-resilient communities
  • Green buildings and energy efficiency retrofit incentive programs
  • Clean energy solutions to move towards carbon neutrality and eliminating investments in fossil fuels from municipal investment strategies 
  • Just transition policies to support workers impacted by the shift to a low carbon economy

Health Benefits of Climate Action at the Local Community Level

Many of the actions that reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, also produce other benefits to human health. These are referred to as “health co-benefits” of climate change mitigation measures.19

One of the most significant health co-benefits of climate action is the improvements to local air quality. This is because the same processes that produce greenhouse gasses (e.g. burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation) also produce air pollutants that significantly contribute to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and some forms of cancer.20

Here are a few examples of how health co-benefits can be achieved through climate action. The benefits listed below are in addition to the benefits they achieve by mitigating climate change through greenhouse gas reductions:

Transportation-related health benefits

Walking, cycling, taking public transit, car-sharing, telecommuting or using other forms of sustainable, low or zero emission modes of transportation such as electric vehicles can: 

  • Improve local air quality
  • Increase physical activity
  • Reduce noise
  • Reduce road traffic injuries
  • Decrease stress associated with traffic congestion and long commutes
  • Increase health equity by providing more affordable transportation options

Food and agriculture-related health benefits

 A healthy diet, rich in plant-based, locally-produced foods and low in animal-based and processed foods can:

  • Reduce the risk for chronic disease (learn more about-plant based food recommendations in Canada’s Dietary Guidelines
  • Help to conserve soil, water and air (learn more about sustainable diets in this systematic review
  • Improve economic opportunities within the local agricultural sector
  • Increase health equity and food security by improving access and availability of healthy and affordable foods

Urban planning-related health benefits

Compact, green, climate-resilient and healthy communities and natural spaces can:

  • Improve local air quality
  • Improve local water quality
  • Increase physical activity
  • Increase access to healthy local foods
  • Provide natural shade for protection from extreme heat and cancer-producing UV radiation
  • Reduce flooding and related health risks such as injuries, disease transmission, unhealthy housing conditions such as mould, and poor mental health
  • Increase social cohesion and connections for mental and physical health benefits*
  • Increase opportunities for recreation
  • Increase health equity through increased access to services and decreased transportation costs

Extra Tip

*Improving social connections and building local communities also has direct mental and physical health benefits. One recent meta-analysis of the impacts of social connectedness on health indicates that increasing social capital helps people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health.21 

Energy-related health benefits

Energy conservation, home energy efficiency measures and investments in renewable, non-polluting forms of electricity generation can:

  • Improve local air quality
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Reduce heat-related illness through climate-adaptive housing and green building design
  • Increase health equity through reduced home energy costs and other housing improvements
  • Improve economic opportunities through green jobs across various sectors e.g. building retrofits, renewable energy generation

The information above was found in these sites, where you can learn more:

  • World Health Organization. (2018). COP24 Special report: health and climate change. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/276405
    • The COP24 Special Report was a collaborative effort within the public health community written at the request of UN officials, to be presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The document offers insights on the connections between climate change and health, a review of ongoing initiatives to support healthy communities and recommendations for maximizing health outcomes during climate change.
  • Green Communities Committee. (n.d.) BC Climate Action Toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/toolkit
    • The Climate Action Toolkit is the result of a partnership between the Green Communities Committee and the Fraser Basin Council. The Toolkit serves BC Communities by providing up-to-date news, best practices and advice to implement the Climate Action Charter commitments.
  • Rudolph, L. et al. (2018) Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Departments. Retrieved from https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/topics/climate/climate_health_equity.ashx?la=en&hash=14D2F64530F1505EAE7AB16A9F9827250EAD6C79
    • This guide was co-produced by the American Public Health Association, Public Health Institute, and Center for Climate Change & Health to provide information and guidelines for communities working towards the mitigation of climate change related health effects.
  • Haynes, A., et al.(2009). Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: overview and implications for policy makers. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2809%2961759-1
    • This academic article discusses the ways in which policies attempting to reduce the impact of climate change also have implications for community and individual health.
  • Haynes, A. (2017). Health co-benefits of climate action. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2809%2961759-1
    • Health co-benefits of climate action highlights the ways in which regulatory climate action can positively impact public health.
  • Patz, J.A, et al. (2014) Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2809%2961759-1
    • Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities is an analysis of existing literature exploring the relationship between health and climate change. The report was published by the JAMA Network, an expansive network of journals and online resources for practising doctors.
  • Smith, K. et al. (2014) Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WGIIAR5-Chap11_FINAL.pdf
    • Human health is an excerpt from Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability. The chapter was produced for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of the United Nations.
  • International Panel on Climate Change. (2019) Climate Neutral Now. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/climate-action/climate-neutral-now
    • Climate Neutral Now is a United Nations initiative to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
  • Environmental Defense. (2018). 11 Actions You Can Take to Fight Climate Change. Retrieved from https://environmentaldefence.ca/2018/03/29/11-actions-fight-climate-change/
  • Environmental Defense – a Canadian advocacy organization – curated a list of tips and actions Ontarians can integrate into their daily lives to help the planet heal.
  • Government of Canada. (2019). Canada’s Food Guide. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/guidelines/section-1-foundation-for-healthy-eating/
  • Canada’s Food Guide is a document released by the federal government to help Canadian make healthy dietary choices.

What you can do to be part of efforts across Ontario to address climate change and protect children’s health

Climate change is something that affects us all and there is power in working together for a healthier future. Join the conversations that will help to shape the future! 

Here are some things that you can do to support action addressing climate change across Ontario:

View List

  • Learn the basics of climate change. Get the facts about what it is and how it will impact your region.
  • Debunk the myths. There are so many different opinions about climate change that it can get confusing; stick to facts that are evidence-based and be able to spot the myths.
  • Find out what’s happening across Ontario to fight climate change, what’s working, and where improvements are needed.
    • Here is a report that the federal Government releases biennially, as required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to report on climate finance and actions to reduce emissions in Canada and internationally: Canada’s Second Biennial Report on Climate Change.

Connect with the Make It Better team directly at info@makeitbetter.ca to get more involved, contribute to this initiative or to give advice and feedback.