Blog post

Find your inner climate activist

COP26 will come and go in a matter of days but it will be the long-term actions by individuals and the collective that will carry the lasting impact in mitigating climate change.

By Jessica Gordon Calvert - 10 November 2021

There are lots of obstacles and privileges that can make it difficult – in some cases impossible – to participate in planet-friendly behaviour. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and we’ve all got to find things that work for us and support each other in that.

A common misconception about climate action is that you have to go in 100%. Remember, you don’t need to do something perfectly to be a climate activist (I don’t always remember my reusable bottle and I’m not vegetarian for every meal of the week). We don’t live in a society that enables us to live a completely eco-friendly lifestyle easily so don’t feel guilty or dissuaded from taking what action you can to help the planet.

I’ve created some of my own recommendations on how to be a climate activist and I’ve found a lot more inspiration on eco-focused social media accounts and blogs: there is a lot of great work happening all around us!

1. Be informed

Take the time to catch up on the news, check what goes into the products you buy or how your clothing is made. Research companies and have a look at where they stand on environment and sustainability issues. If we’re informed, we can make changes in terms of where we shop or who we support, and we can help inform those around us too.

2. Challenge

Although we’ve all got to do our bit, I believe that the main actions that need to be taken are government legislation and changes to practices from big companies and producers. It is their responsibility to source, produce and provide products that are Fairtrade and sustainable. You, as a citizen and consumer have the power to challenge.

So, write to your MP, sign a petition or tag a supplier on social media. There are plenty of ways to challenge and campaign for change so find something you’re comfortable with and go with that. There are many templates online that you can use for writing to your MP or to companies. Try to be constructive and solution-based where possible. Challenge should not equate to rudeness or aggression.

3. Try something new

It can be hard to do this when you don’t have a lot of time or money available and sometimes it can go against our routines but it doesn’t need to be a big thing. For example, you could try swapping out your dairy milk for a milk-alternative for a week. You could try introducing a meat-free meal into your diet every week and gradually experiment with different flavours and products. Ask your friends and family if there are any eco-friendly activities they like to do and give them a go.

4. Go out and vote

If you’re a student, consider running in your Union of Students’ elections either as a part-time or full-time officer and include sustainability-related points on your manifesto. If you don’t want to run in your Union elections, make sure you vote to ensure your views are represented. Outside of the University, perhaps more importantly – make sure you’re registered to vote. Your voice in local and general elections matters. Get to know who is standing in the elections, which party they’re running for and what their stances are in terms of protecting the environment.

5. Be kind

It’s important to remember that not everyone is in the same boat, not everyone is able to take individual climate action. There are big differences within communities as to how adversely affected they are and will continue to be due to climate change. Show kindness to your neighbours but also show kindness to the nature around you. And remember my earlier point? No one can be a perfect climate activist all of the time so offer support, not judgement, for the small steps those around you do take.

As part of my role at Derby, it makes me happy that I get to work with so many students and staff on the environment and sustainability agenda. We’ve recently launched our Derby Goes Green Project and Network which is to be led by students. We’ve created an opportunity space called ‘Enhance Your Planet’ on UDo and we recently hosted a Derby Goes Green Day bringing a variety of topics and activities to our learning community. I’m very much looking forward to the work ahead, particularly our Go Green Week which will take place between 14-20 February 2022.

It’s important to remember that climate action is not just for COP – it’s for life! Join the conversation via the hashtag #DerbyGoesGreen. If you're a student and you want to get involved with the environment and sustainability agenda at Derby fill in our form.

If you're a staff member or from outside the University then please email

About the author

Jessica sitting and wearing glasses.

Jessica Gordon Calvert
Student Engagement Project Officer

I'm a Derby Alumni and member of the Student Engagement Department at the University. I am passionate about empowering students to co-create green initiatives. I'm an advocate for environment and sustainability, and I love chatting to people in my personal and professional life to champion these causes.