It’s heartening to see some positive news for the climate lately! The news of Teck Resources withdrawing their application to build an oilsands mine in Alberta and that adding a third runway at Heathrow airport was ruled illegal sure put a pep in my step last week!

My name is Steph Barraco and I’m a speech language pathologist at Toronto Rehab. Two or three years ago, news like the above would have passed me by without much thought. Climate change felt distant and abstract. Plus, it was so easy to feel helpless as an individual, to hope someone else would fix the problem, or to simply look the other way instead of dealing with difficult emotions that bubbled up when I thought about climate change (think guilt, anger, fear). 

While working through these difficult emotions, I found hope and inspiration through Carbon Conversations Toronto (CCTO). CCTO provides a safe space for people to explore complex emotions around climate change and make an action plan for reducing their personal carbon footprint. I will be sharing parts of my personal climate action story on March 11 at CCTO’s event, CCTO Presents: A Celebration of Community Climate Action. Here’s why I decided to take action, and how you too could start your own journey! 

I originally took interest in climate change out of respect and awe for nature and a desire to protect it, but as I learned more (e.g. about climate justice and how vulnerable groups who contribute the least to climate change feel the negative effects the most) my motivations shifted and I felt an even stronger call to action. To be honest, some of the initial drive was from guilt about my good fortune living in Canada and growing up with many opportunities. Part of it was shock and anger at the state of the world, and yet another part was optimism – a strong belief that we can do better. Deciding to act on climate change was no longer just about the beauty in nature – it became about taking better care of each other. 

With the support of CCTO, I made a plan to take personal actions against climate change by making choices that reduce my own carbon footprint, like switching from driving to using transit and biking much more often, taking vacations closer to home and buying/consuming less.

Happily Honeymooning in Quebec (and avoiding air travel!)

What’s more is that making these decisions around my lifestyle has prompted many conversations with friends and family about climate change, volunteering in my community, and linking up with others for collective action (e.g. Leadnow campaigns, climate strike)…

…which brings us back to the bigger picture. I know that my personal reductions are just tiny tiny dents in our global greenhouse gas emissions. But I also know I’m not the only one making these dents. And when we have conversations about our commitment to personal reductions (e.g. through asking to carpool, buying/consuming less, or taking a train instead of flying), and participate in events like climate strikes, we challenge the very social norms that got us into this mess. We also take steps to get us out of it, towards making things more fair for communities who are already living through the negative consequences of climate change. Our individual actions add up, and individuals coming together for collective action is powerful.

I like how Jane Goodall puts it, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” 

Feeling ready to explore your own carbon footprint? 

A great way to start, reignite passion, or maintain momentum for climate action is to join me at CCTO’s event on March 11! 

You’ll hear from others about their climate action stories, participate in a brief interactive activity, and have time to mix and mingle. Light snacks will be served and drinks will be available for purchase. Please feel free to reach out ( if you have any questions about the event, and sign up here to secure your spot!: