FIRST PERSON — They say kids can’t save the planet. Here are 5 things I’m doing

Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine
Story by Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine and CBC Kids News • 2021-12-09 11:58

Adults aren’t all listening to kids, but they should be

Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine, 17, is from Edmonton, Alberta, and is part of a youth climate action group called Decarbonize: Decolonize. She recently returned from COP26, a major climate conference that took place in Glasgow, Scotland, in early November. There, she presented ideas to world leaders on how to stop climate change. The ideas came from 35,000 youth in 54 countries.

When I went to COP26 as a youth representative, I discovered that young people are often ignored when adults are discussing climate change.

I realized this my first few days there, when I was riding the train back to my hotel.

I was going up to people in the same train car as me, introducing myself and my goals for COP26. I stopped to talk to one adult who also had a COP26 pass.

She asked me how long I was going to take. I reassured her that I wouldn’t take long. I then proceeded to present myself and everything I was there to fight for.

I quickly realized she was not looking at me and was continuing to tap away at her computer.

I felt ignored and insignificant.

If this person wouldn’t listen to me, why would a politician or global leader?

She was supposed to be fighting for the planet — and for me. But she wasn’t interested in what I had to say.

Despite moments like this, I still believe I am powerful and have the ability to make a positive impact.

Océanne holds up her COP26 badge, which she attended as an observer. (Image submitted by Denis Fontaine)

Kids need to be part of the solution. We are the ones who are inheriting this Earth.

Our futures are the ones at risk, and we have the responsibility to fight for ourselves and each other.

Here are some of the ways I’m fighting for a better planet and some tips for you to do as well.

1. Avoid fast fashion

I absolutely love fashion, and it can be tempting to want to have the latest and greatest things, especially with holiday shopping and Christmas approaching.

Fast fashion is when companies mass-produce cheap clothes and we continuously buy them, wanting to keep up with the latest trends.

It’s harmful to the environment, though, because cheap clothes wear out quickly and are thrown into landfills.

A teen holds a sign that says

Océanne participated in a climate march in Glasgow, Scotland, during COP26. (Image submitted by Denis Fontaine)

Also, the mass production of these cheap clothes results in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, which are bad for the environment and destroy the ozone layer.

That’s why I try to get my clothing from older siblings and cousins. I even sometimes wear my parents’ clothing from time to time.

Going thrift shopping and buying second-hand clothing are also fun, cheap options.

Instagram post from Remakeourworld that says: 'Tis always the season for sustainability. You know her gifts are everyone's favorite too! Leave your susty gift giving tips below!

Océanne follows several pro-environment groups on Instagram, like this one, which highlights ways to make more sustainable choices. (Image credit: remakeourworld/Instagram)

Don’t be afraid to be creative with your clothing choices.

Remember, even if you end up buying something a little more expensive because it’s locally made or environmentally friendly, it’s worth it, as long as you cherish it!

2. Make sustainable purchases

There are companies in Canada working hard to make decisions that are better for the environment.

For example, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, from Canmore, Alberta, uses leftover soap shavings to make more soap, with minimal packaging, which reduces their waste.

An Instagram post shoing a bar of soap in a Christmas tree. Post reads: Protect Canada's plants and wildlife. As a company who deeply values the conservation of all things natural, we are proud to partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canadaon this month's second Community Bar. That's right! November is proud to support two great organisations. This limited edition Blue Spruce soap is reminiscent of long walks through the forest and the Canadian Blue Spruce oil provides an earthy, grounding scent.

Océanne took a tour of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company in Canmore, Alberta, and learned about how the company is making efforts to reduce waste. (Image credit: rockymountainsoapco/Instagram)

For those of you who like to wear makeup, try to find companies that source their ingredients sustainably and limit their use of non-natural ingredients, like Cheekbone Beauty, an Indigenous-owned business in Canada.

I make a point to buy from local businesses that I know care about the Earth as much as I do.

3. Plant a garden

Recently, I made a small garden in my backyard where I plant vegetables. That way, I don’t have to go buy things that are imported from other countries.

Transporting goods over long distances produces a lot of emissions.

Also, by growing food in my own garden, I can make sure that what I’m eating is organic, since I never use pesticides, which damage the environment. 

I also plant flowers and shrubs for bees, which are essential to our ecosystems.

A bee on a pink flower

Planting gardens that attract bees can help the environment because the bees help transfer pollen from one flowering plant to another. The process, called pollination, helps plants and crops grow, which people depend on to eat. (Image credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

4. Avoid taking the car

I also try to walk or bike as much as possible, instead of using cars.

By decreasing the amount of vehicles used, we can decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

Just like me, you can encourage your family to use public transit, like trains and buses.

Kids and adults bike across a bridge.

Walking or biking instead of driving helps the environment because it doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. (Image credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

5. Keep trying to learn more

Another thing I’m doing to help solve climate change is to educate myself, my family and my friends about it.

Once we understand what causes climate change, we can adapt our habits and beliefs in order to help save our Earth.

By doing research on the Government of Canada website, I discovered that the biggest contributors to climate change are the burning of fossil fuels — like coal and oil — and deforestation.

In Canada, the combustion of fossil fuels for energy produces most of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Basically, things like the production of oil and gas, transportation (including trucks, cars and planes) and electricity to power businesses, factories and homes are a big part of the problem.

A burned car and town in the mountains

Lytton, B.C., was completely destroyed by a wildfire in the summer. (Image credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

This year, a town in B.C. named Lytton and several Indigenous reserves nearby were destroyed by a wildfire during a massive heat wave.

When I went to COP26, I met youth from Argentina, India and Kenya who told me stories about what they’re experiencing at home. They are just as bad, if not worse, than what we’re seeing in Canada.

Climate change is a problem that affects everyone, no matter which country you live in or how old you are.

Do you have a personal story or opinion piece you’d like to share with the CBC Kids News audience? Here’s what we’re looking for:

The article has to have a clear focus, be backed up by personal experiences and facts, be tied to something happening in the news and be of interest to other kids in Canada.

Want to know more? Ask for permission from your parent or guardian, email us your idea at and we’ll get in touch!

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About the Contributor

Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine
Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine
Océanne Kahanyshyn-Fontaine, 17, is a youth activist living in Amiskwaciy-Waskahikan, which is the Cree name for Edmonton, Alberta. She is passionate about climate change and social justice, specifically relating to Indigenous peoples and cultures. She aspires to become a settler ally and a protector of her environment. Océanne is working towards enlightening others on how to nurture their planet and how to walk the path of reconciliation, while continuously educating herself on these topics.

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