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Shame won’t stop climate change

We get a lot of messages in a day imploring us to take action that will end climate change. But not all of these messages are effective. Recent research shows that making people feel good for doing good things is a better approach than making them feel bad for doing bad things.

This comes to no surprise to Jessica Correal, who was part of our first Agents of Change: Climate Solutions cohort. Her Random Acts of Green App gives people a list of simple things they can do every day to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that harm our planet. Each act is assigned a “Green Point” value, and these points can actually be traded in for real-life rewards from participating partners!

We talked to Jessica about what truly motivates us to make better choices for the planet.

Can you give us a brief rundown of the various communication approaches taken over the years to change individual behaviour to stop climate change?
Newspaper, television, inspirational speaking, protests, marches, social media, radio, word of mouth, civic engagement (writing to an MP, for example), blogs, articles, interviews, awareness campaigns … I think those are the big ones.

How do you think the current trend towards “pride” versus “guilt” will impact the movement overall?
I think pride is more important than guilt of course. If you catch people when they’re good — and doing something positive for the planet — it reinforces positive behaviour. By giving them a sort of “green pat on the back”, we come across as friendly, encouraging, and positive, rather than judgemental, ashamed, negative. No one wants to feel like that. The guilt thing doesn’t work, so let’s focus on being inclusive.

What is your biggest hope for Random Acts of Green? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?
I want every Canadian to participate in climate action in their own way. Whether it’s eating vegan or vegetarian, riding the bus more often, pedaling a bicycle to school, refusing single-use plastics, or buying more used clothing. I think all of this combined can really add up to make a big difference. For some people, buying a Tesla or installing solar panels isn’t possible but maybe composting in the backyard or carpooling with a coworker more often is. We need to give people more choice. I hope that our app can be used as a tool to bring awareness to simple changes people can make in their lives.

How has being a CSI member impacted your work?
Massively! I love being a part of a social enterprise community. The world needs more socially-minded businesses that focus on impact and purpose as much as they focus on making a buck. Before CSI, I felt I was the only social entrepreneur out there who put reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the centre of my business mission. But CSI has connected me not just to business-oriented people, but to people who understood that businesses are more than profits; they can also exist with purpose.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in what you do?
We have a volunteer program, called the Green Spotted Volunteer program which has 415 individuals across Canada who are ambassadors for our mission. They help us share positive stories, to focus on the good that is happening, and to inspire others to act with storytelling. We’ve had so many submissions from coast-to-coast and I’m always inspired by the cool Green Acts that are sent in to me from all over. We even have the Grandmas Going Green submitting stories for us! We love it! We also want help getting the word out about our app to grow our impact. It is really important to have app users who are logging their action to help us overcome the feeling that “I’m one person this won’t do anything”. We want to change that! It’s up to us to take action and we’ll show you how your actions add up to make big impacts on our planet!

BONUS QUESTION: What is the “Green Act” you hate doing the most and how do you motivate yourself to keep doing it?
I actually think compost is pretty smelly. But I am dedicated to taking it out all the time, and I motivate myself through Green Points of course! Every time I log on the App that I’ve composted, I earn Green Points. That’s so much incentive to do it!

Do you have an innovative idea to end climate change? Bring it to our Climate Ventures incubator!

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