In recent years, there has been a burst of information and analysis on how an individual can leverage their own personal choices to positively impact climate sustainability - eating a plant-based diet, utilizing bikes and public transit, and reducing new clothing purchases are a few of the most impactful actions.

One of the elements that is often overlooked in this discussion is the importance of variety when it comes to individual action for protecting our planet. Even for those dedicated to sustainability, life’s changing seasons and the human capacity for dedication can often get in the way.

When it comes to maximizing individual contribution to environmental sustainability, a variable toolbox can facilitate a more consistent effort and even rejuvenate passion for positive change.

Finding and partnering with a like-minded community of sustainability advocates can lead to numerous meaningful impacts, both for the individuals and the mission. Dane County residents have access to many sustainability-focused organizations that facilitate different amounts and types of involvement. Organizations can range from something local like the Fitchburg Resource Conservation Commission or Sustain Dane to large national organizations (often with state chapters) like the Sierra Club or The Nature Conservancy.

Identifying key features that will make getting involved especially rewarding or easy is likely to lead to more consistent action. Maybe the cause is most important, like protecting songbirds or ensuring pristine drinking water for future generations. For others, it might be time of day or type of involvement – restoring native prairie, delivering produce, or letter writing, to name a few.

A sustainability buddy might hold you most accountable; partnering with a neighbor, family member, or coworker can help amplify the personal investment. More passion and less excuses are often a path to success, especially when it comes to helping the planet and future generations.

Building a community around sustainability can also take the form of empowering others. This can take the form of local action, like solar panels at a community center or bringing a farmer’s market to a food desert. It can also drive action on the other side of the world, like providing cleaner burning cookstoves or teaching sustainable farming practices. Pairing altruistic giving with sustainability makes funding and fundraising for these efforts especially impactful and rewarding.

One of the best ways to empower everyone to live more sustainably is through public policy. Locally, that could mean advocating for tree protection ordinances or strong municipality goals towards carbon reduction. Nationally and globally, this can take the form of protections for biodiversity and threatened species or emphasis on carbon sequestration (both natural and manufactured).

There are many strong organizations advocating for strong environmental policy, including groups like the Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Natural Resource Defense Council. Advocating for strong protections for natural resources, biodiversity, and the slowing of global warming transcends borders and decades.

The topics and organizations offered here are just a glimpse at the many options out there. Curious and inspired volunteers will find a myriad of opportunities online, including independent ratings on most of the larger nonprofits in this space. Fellow sustainability champions are another reliable source of ideas and inspiration.

Life is full of shifting seasons, whether it be more time to devote to a local non-profit, advocating for a critical environmental policy up for a vote, or the ability to invest in residential solar panels. An engaged citizen looking to drive positive change in environmental sustainability benefits from a full array of tools that can be combined with agility.

Josh Knackert is a Fitchburg Resource Conservation Commissioner

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