Jessica Correa is challenging the way we think about, and take action on, climate change.
As a Masters of Sustainability Studies student at Trent University, Ms. Correa is researching the attitudes and perceptions of millennials as they relate to buying cars, but her findings go far beyond the thoughts that influence the purchase itself. Ms. Correa, who will defend her thesis next month, says that while millennials may want a more sustainable future, they're not always willing to stand up for, and make the changes that are required.
"Millennials need to take on a stronger leadership role and demand a different future, instead of just adopting what's already there," says Ms. Correa, who also completed her undergraduate degree at Trent in the Environmental and Resource Science/Studies program. "If we can't stand up and take action, then we've got a real problem. We don’t have time to waste."
Ms. Correa believes the problem lies in the public perception of environmentalism. But unlike most of her fellow millennials, who may be content with the status quo, she has turned her findings into motivation for action. She has launched a new social enterprise called Random Acts of Green, and has set out to capture and share on social media examples of community members living sustainably.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Ms. Correa highlights "moments" that she hopes will eventually equal momentum on climate change action. To date, she has featured a local business owner recycling running shoes, a local professional riding her bicycle to work, and a mother who car-shares with her daughter.
"We're not going to go anywhere until we change these perceptions about environmentalism. Environmental action isn’t just for hippies and tree huggers," she says. "Climate change affects the planet. It affects everyone living on it – the conversation needs to be louder. Why aren't more people acting? We need to think green, act green, be green and live green."
Since Ms. Correa has launched her social enterprise, she has had strong support from Trent’s FastStart program, a youth entrepreneurship training partnership between Trent, Fleming College, and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster. Her followers are growing, as she continues to capture community members committing acts of "green-ness" on a weekly basis. She works with a photographer, Pat Jilesen, and says she has developed "a formula" that helps her harness the power of social media – a great photo, a hook, and a catch phrase.
“Trent University has a really unique sustainability vibe that is very progressive,” explains Ms. Correa. “My Trent experience empowered me to uncover my entrepreneurial spirit and engage people in climate change action.”
Ms. Correa has recently been accepted to a Ph.D. program that would see her explore whether online environmental action translates to offline action. But first, it is her intent to grow her social enterprise until the day that she can turn to researching the effectiveness of Random Acts of Green in bringing about environmental change.