Youth in Action for Climate Change
Five Youth-led Solutions Advancing Climate Action through Innovation by Amy Au
Credit: Courtesy of aQysta/ Barsha Pump
What is the biggest challenge facing our world today?
If you are a young person, chances are climate change is at the top of your mind. Surveys such as the one conducted by Amnesty International have found that it is a major concern among young respondents. This comes as no surprise as millions of youth have taken to the streets calling for climate action, especially since Fridays for Future took off last year.
The youth climate movement is not only about making youth’s voices louder in the global dialogue on climate change through schools strikes and marches; there is also a relatively “quieter” movement happening in the solutions space, where young people are working on innovations to tackle the climate crisis.
And there is no lack of such youth-led climate solutions.
At SDSN Youth, our team has been mapping some of the most impactful initiatives created by young people for the planet and its people. Among thousands of submissions for our Youth Solutions Report published annually since 2017, we have seen climate-friendly technologies and practices for energy, water use, building, food system, waste management, and so on. The ingenuity and practicality of these innovations have strengthened our belief that the climate crisis is solvable.
Credit: Courtesy of Liter of Light
(Em)powering communities with solar lights
Over 0.8 billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity. Most solutions bring technologies to energy-poor communities, but without the knowledge for maintenance of such technologies. When batteries or parts fail, they become too expensive or difficult to repair, thus end up as trash.
Liter of Light redesigns solar lighting tailored for the developing world. Through producing easily repairable solar lights with locally available parts, and educating the community on repair and upkeep, Liter of Light increases communities’ self-reliance while reducing the cost of production and assembly. Its grassroots nature has inspired and empowered young people to take part in reducing energy poverty. So far it has reached 15 countries on 5 continents, providing electricity to over 350,000 households worldwide.
Delivering water with fuel-less water pumps
Irrigated agriculture remains the largest user of freshwater, accounting for 70% of water use globally. Yet access to freshwater remains a global challenge. It is estimated that 1.6 billion people face economic water shortage, where they lack the infrastructure to obtain water from water sources.
The Barsha Pump is a hydro-powered water pump that transports water from rivers and canals by the energy of flowing water itself, eliminating the need for electricity or fuel to operate. The absence of operational costs makes it 65% cheaper when compared to diesel pumps over its lifetime. Operating in 8 countries on 4 continents, the Barsha Pump has already improved agricultural yields for more than 5,000 farmers while cutting 100 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Slashing emission with net-zero energy housing
Close to 70% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050. Meanwhile, building and construction account for 39% of carbon emissions in the world. When combined with population growth, this poses an urgent need for affordable, sustainable, and durable housing.
Modulus-Tech tackles the housing challenge through a low-cost, net-zero energy flat-packed house design that can be assembled in as little as 3 hours by 3 workers using simple hand tools. The house also comes with its own plumbing and electrical utilities run on off-grid solar energy. Modulus-Tech’s houses can be applied in various settings, from schools and offices to refugee camps, offering inhabitants security and comfort while leaving a low carbon footprint. Compared to concrete structures, it generates 52 times less carbon emissions.
Rescuing food with just one tap on the phone
About one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, constituting about 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Too Good To Go helps restaurants and food businesses reduce food waste through a smartphone app. It connects them with consumers close by who can come over to pick up surplus food just before closing time at a lower price. This way, restaurants and food businesses can earn money on what would otherwise be thrown away, while consumers can spend less on food. To date there are 22 million users across 13 countries in Europe, saving as many as 100,000 meals per day.
“Growing timber” out of plastic waste
Today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, posing a threat to both marine species and human beings. Meanwhile, we lose about 18.7 million acres of forests per year, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute.
EcoAct was set up to fix two problems with one solution: Through the development of a chemical-free, energy-conserving plastic extrusion technology named “Waxy II technology,” it recycles and transforms plastic waste into durable, long-lasting “plastic timber.” As an affordable alternative to wood, plastic timber can be used for building and construction, as well as furniture making, thereby reduces the need for wood and helps preserve forests. In just one year, EcoAct removed over 5.5 million kilograms of plastic waste and saved an estimated 450 acres of forests.
Youth-led climate solutions already exist across the globe - what they need is to be recognized and scaled for wider adoption and bigger impact. As we raise our voices for the climate, let us not forget to help make these youth solutions seen and heard!
About the Author
Amy (@eimii_au) is the Communications Lead at SDSN Youth. She has worked in Copenhagen, and now in Stockholm, as a digital communications expert focusing on sustainability and human rights. She is passionate about SDG storytelling, supporting the UN SDG Action Campaign as a storyteller and ReGeneration2030 (a Nordic and Baltic Sea youth initiative) as a Communications Advisor. Before she moved to Scandinavia, she was a journalist in Hong Kong. Amy holds a Master in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, and furthered her studies in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University.