Climate change is happening. Greenhouse gas emissions are changing our environment and temperatures are rising. The results are already apparent: rising sea levels, increasing heat waves, melting snowpacks, more floods and droughts. It’s a worrying prospect – and many people feel helpless or unsure of where to start.
But there are things you can do in your own neighbourhood.
Urban forests can help. A healthy urban forest will be vital in a hotter, unpredictable future to protect human health by cooling during heatwaves, reduce our reliance on air conditioning, reduce flooding, absorb carbon, and provide habitat to wildlife. Trees also increase property value and happiness. Our gardens can further help us adapt to climate change by growing food, reducing reliance on imported produce, and by soaking up stormwater in rain gardens.
Retrofitting your home can also help. Changes to existing buildings can make them more comfortable and energy efficient. Because most buildings today will be around for the next 50 years or more, increasing their efficiency is a crucial step to low-carbon resilience, lower energy bills, and meeting community greenhouse gas reduction targets of 80% by 2050.
But what changes should you make? How can you know which retrofits will work, and which plants are most likely to do well in future climates?
UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning knows that it’s hard for people to make the translation from theoretical scientific knowledge to its practical application in our daily lives. In order to bridge this gap, CALP created the Citizen’s Coolkit full of fun tips, activities, and suggestions on how you can help make changes to your home, your yard, and your community that will address climate change. Activities range from individual actions to neighbours working together on the block – like harvesting rainwater or replacing lawns and hardscape with more shade trees and native shrubs – giving all of us a concrete way to take action to help mitigate climate change, right in our own backyards.
“Scientists and researchers who are working on the frontlines of climate change know there are many things that citizens can do to help – but we also know that many people in our neighbourhoods feel unsure of what to do,” said faculty member and Director of CALP, Stephen Sheppard. “We created this Coolkit with help from stakeholders to translate our knowledge into easy, actionable items that everyone can access – and we’re grateful for our supporting partners who recognized the need and helped make it happen.”
The project was funded by a private grant-making foundation which gave just over half the funding. Contributions were also made by a number of other local organizations, including the Vancouver School Board, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, Project Learning Tree (PLT) Canada, Eco Canada, and the UBC Work Learn Program.