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'An imperative': Duke students build website to make fighting climate change easier



In a time of record fossil fuel emissions, California wildfires and frequent flooding across America, climate action may feel too daunting for any student to take on. In response, sophomores Alec James and Will Reynolds founded You Change Earth, a website that provides users with a personalized guide to climate action.

James and Reynolds said that they hope to help budding environmentalists and climate-conscious individuals move past the doomsday scenarios often pitched in the media through curated suggestions for ways to fight climate change, depending on the user’s living situation, career and available time. 

“There are millions of people out there who care deeply about the climate crisis, but there is no clear path for them to take action," James said. "We wanted to put in their hands an exact guide on how they can bring about meaningful change in their lives and communities.”

The website asks users a series of questions about their lifestyle and living situation, and then recommends a list of climate-oriented projects such as setting up a community compost system. Each project proposed on the site includes an average time commitment and concrete steps, so users are more likely to take action. 

"Most people vaguely understand they could buy a Tesla or put solar panels on their roof, but for 90% of people who care a lot, they work in companies and maybe have some spare time, but they're probably busy homeowners, parents, or renters—just trying to get through life," Reynolds said. "It's a shame that most people don't feel empowered to do something, so we're trying to build the answer to 'What can I do?' and give them tools to start their climate journey." 

The team plans to release an updated, more user-friendly website design Sept. 25. Reynolds recruited fellow New Zealander and freelance UX designer Dillon Ramesh for the job, and the revamp that Ramesh is spearheading will incorporate a personalized dashboard where individuals can keep track of their project progress. 

"The community aspect is one of the biggest changes because there's now an actual counter of advocates, people who have completed their projects, and we want to encourage different social behaviors around projects," Ramesh said. 

You Change Earth has also been working to expand its presence within the climate activism community. 

"In terms of the marketing side, one of the main obstacles is establishing our sense of credibility within the climate sphere,” sophomore Kiran Wijesekera said. “There are obviously a lot of different initiatives that pop up each and every year. How do we set ourselves up in the eyes of a different kind of organization who's much more established than us?" 

You Change Earth exists “to be there for the millions of people when they are incensed about the crisis our world is facing and our wondering what they can do about climate change,” according to the website’s about page.

“As young people today, getting involved with climate action is no longer a choice, it’s an imperative. If we fail to take significant action in the next few years, we will feel the effects every day of our lives,” James said. 


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