Twenty-five students from various BYU colleges are campaigning to reach a million conversations about the climate and environment using Y Talk, a website where students, staff, friends, and faculty can find resources and log their discussions.
So far, they’ve gathered data on 51.4k conversations from every continent, including Antarctica.
To get involved, people can use the BYU Sustainability website to track their conversations about the climate, conservation, sustainability, biodiversity, and stewardship. Y Talk is collaborating with BYU’s geospatial lab to use mapping tools to show collective reach and impact over time.
The campaign was launched in preparation for Katharine Hayhoe’s and Paul Cox’s forum addresses last semester. Hayhoe is a climate scientist and Cox is an ethnobotanist.
Both scholars draw on their faith in their work. At his forum address, Cox said, “The vastness of the universe, as well as the beauty of the Creation that surrounds us, evidences to my mind the handiwork of a loving Creator. As a result, we have a great responsibility to care for the Creation, and to protect it." Similarly, Hayhoe asserted, “I’m a climate scientist because I’m a Christian.” Hayhoe reported that Americans waste 50% or more of the food and energy we produce. The solution, according to her research, is to simply start talking more openly about the issue.
BYU students were struck by their messages. Mary Lewis (PWS ’22) notes, “I loved how [Cox] started out tying in the theological principles of our religion to show why we care about the earth. I forgot that our religion and many Indigenous beliefs are so directly tied to the earth. It’s not someplace that we’re going to leave, but it’s someplace where we’re going to live on and it’s going to continue to give us life, and so we have to make sure we take care of it. I just loved that reminder of all the spiritual principles our faith instills.”
Taking these messages to heart, Y Talk leaders Elias Johnson (PWS, ’25), Chad Hyer (MMBIO, ’24), and Olivia Burns (PWS, ’27) presented at Weber State University’s 14th Annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit. They shared their campaign strategies and results with some of Utah’s leading sustainability experts.
Teresa Gómez, a geospatial data specialist, coordinated with BYU Sustainability and Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship to show the BYU community what these Y Talk conversations can look like.
“By talking about climate and environmental stewardship, we help students understand the connection between taking care of the earth and being disciples of Christ,” says Gómez. This empowers students to act and make a difference on our campus and the world.”
Y Talk urges members of the BYU community to heed the talks given by Church leaders about being good stewards. According to President Russell M. Nelson, we should do all we can to make the earth better for its future residents and care for it as a way of acknowledging the gifts of the Creation. Bishop Gérald Caussé encourages us to remember our “sacred duty to love, respect, and care for all human beings with whom we share the earth” as disciples and stewards.
Changing one’s perception of consumption and waste requires time and effort, but it is necessary. In her address, Hayhoe reminded BYU that “climate change is a threat multiplier. Whatever issue we’re concerned about — poverty, biodiversity loss, hunger, justice — climate change is making it worse. It doesn’t affect us all equally.” The more conversations we have about stewardship, the more we think about it and can brainstorm ways to change.
So, what can I do now?
- TALK ABOUT IT!
Bring environmental stewardship up with your friends and family! Ask questions. Seek out answers and understanding together using peer-reviewed sources and don’t forget to register your conversation to be part of the Y Talk map.
- Live a thrifty lifestyle.
Extending the life of an item by thrifting it helps the materials put into it not go to waste as quickly. Try thrifting your used things and going to thrift centers when you need to buy something — as a bonus, buying thrifted items is usually cheaper! On local Buy Nothing Facebook groups, you can even pick up used items in your neighborhood for free.
- Consider the source of your clothes.
Companies like Shein, Amazon, and H&M contribute significantly to fast fashion, producing lower-quality clothes while using massive amounts of resources. Fast fashion contributes more to global emissions than aviation and global shipping combined. This comes at the cost of worker safety and security. If your H&M top was made in Bangladesh, for instance, it was most likely made by sweatshop
workers making $25 to $75 a month.
- Go outside!
Whether it’s hiking Timpanogas or going on the BYU Tree Tour, interact with the beauty of nature and see it through the Creator’s eyes. We especially recommend seeking out National Parks, National Forests, and local preserves.
- Know your carbon footprint.
Try out the UC Berkeley Carbon Calculator and see how much of an impact you are personally making. Knowing this can help you prioritize where to focus your efforts.
- Donate to or volunteer for community environmental care efforts.
Support nonprofits that are making a difference. Charity Navigator verifies nonprofits so you know where your money is going. You can look for an organization with a global perspective, like Latter-day Saint Charities (which supports communities impacted by natural disasters), or you can look in our own backyard with Conserve Utah Valley.
- Reuse and remodel.
Instead of throwing out containers from the grocery store, use them to pack your lunch in. Don’t give up on your favorite shoes quite yet — there are local shoe repair shops that can help them last longer! If you're bored of your old clothes, BYU offers beginner sewing classes where you can learn to remake them into something that fits your current style.
- Help BYU become carbon neutral.
Talk to your professors and administrators about what you can do to make it happen. Let them know you care! Ask about BYU’s campus food waste and water use or take the time to look for recycling cans in your building. Did you know there are compost bins for your food waste at the BYU Greenhouse?
- Make your spaces more beautiful.
Pick up litter as you walk between classes or ask your landlord to grow native Utah plants in your community yard or garden. You can also plant and care for a tree or house plant yourself.
- Plan your meals.
Take the time to write down what meals you’d like to make each week and plan your grocery list accordingly. This will help prevent you from buying food that sits on the shelf until it goes bad and has to be thrown out.
- Follow BYU Sustainability for more ideas!