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Turning Climate Grief into Climate Action: Brianna's Story

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

Learn how Brianna Aspinall, founder of Carbon Conversations TO, turned her feelings of climate anxiety and grief into meaningful environmental action.

Carbon Conversations TO founder Brianna Aspinall

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by climate change and unable to process how you feel? Have you wanted to take action but not sure where to start or whether it’s worthwhile? Brianna Aspinall was feeling the same way, yet this year was awarded this year’s Top 30 Under 30 Sustainability Leader Award by Corporate Knights because she took those feelings and turned them into action. The program she created is called Carbon Conversations TO – this is her story.

What is Carbon Conversations TO? It is a facilitated series of group sessions where facilitators help you explore the relationship between your lifestyle and carbon emissions to help give you the clarity, tools and resources you need to develop your own approach to carbon reduction. The program lasts six weeks with one session per week.

The beginnings of Carbon Conversations TO started with grief and anxiety: feelings that were hard to process. Brianna had been involved in climate change efforts in communities across Ontario, but had pushed down her feelings of fear. Then she and her partner Erick watched a documentary about climate change, and while it was a mix of ‘doom and gloom’ and hope, the story weighed heavily on both of them. They realized they both needed to wake up to reality but turn their feelings into action. Conversations with friends confirmed that there were many other people struggling to turn their feelings into action as well.

Brianna went searching for a solution. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, she searched for proven models and found Carbon Conversations in the UK. She then gathered a team together to put the program into action in Toronto. A micro grant supported the program.

What has made Carbon Conversations unique is its three-pronged approach - combining psychology and behavior change with factual information and a tool to help people track their data and understand their impact. The team also says it like it is, emphasizing the very real lifestyle changes likely required but in a safe space with no judgement.

It’s a winning recipe – having run multiple sessions now, Brianna and her team know first hand the positive impact it has on participants. Participants have said the sessions make them feel that “I am not alone” and that they find the conversations “very motivating”. Participants have reduced the amount of meat they eat, while others have vowed to reduce their air travel.

So what’s next? The team will continue to offer sessions in 2019 – their next one starts Feb.13th. They are looking to train more people to become facilitators to scale the program, and they are currently examining what pieces of their curriculum they could offer in one-day sessions to reach more participants. And they are eager to share the program with anyone across Canada interested to start Carbon Conversations in his or her own city.

For Brianna, it has been very rewarding. Hearing how the program has helped participants has in turn made her feel more empathetic. She and Erick have committed to reducing their travel and even through these changes can feel like sacrifices at times, they are reminded they come from a place of love and hope for the future.

While climate change can seem insurmountable, the power to change starts with us. Brianna and her team are making that happen.

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