We have given the oceans a fever. Is improving our climate fitness the cure?

Jessica Broomhall gives herself a climate bootcamp inspired by Jonathan Cybulski’s TEDxTinHau Countdown talk.

Jonathan Cybulski at TEDxTinHau Countdown explains how to build your climate fitness. Photo by Alex Macro.

Climate change and athletics. Two things I most definitely would not have put together… at least that is until Jonathan Cybulski took to the stage for the TEDxTinHau Countdown event and introduced his Climate Fitness training manual. 

Jonathan, a marine ecologist, athlete and fitness coach, believes that we must improve our climate fitness to become part of the solution to climate change.

Jonathan’s training guide to improve our climate fitness includes 4 key steps:

  1. Reshape your mentality – rather than quitting in the face of the climate mountain ahead of us to climb, put one foot in front of the other and start walking” celebrate the small achievements
  2. Reform your climate identity – recognise one conscious action every day for 30 days. Through identifying as a sustainable person, you will find it easier to become more sustainable.
  3. Take actions – align these to your interests and find your tribe. Like the beach? Organize a cleanup. Budding chef? Prepare a vegan or sustainable meal.
  4. Learn to care. Build your personal motivation and trust the process.
Watch Jonathan’s TEDxTinHau Countdown ‘How to build your climate fitness’

Sometimes in the fitness world we need a boost. A kickstart towards our goal. That’s when a bootcamp comes in. In line with the TEDxTinHau Countdown key areas, I committed to making a small change every day for 5 days across each of food, energy, transport, nature, fashion.

So here we go.

Climate fitness bootcamp day 1 – food

Between the office and studying life can be pretty full on. If I haven’t meal prepped for the week on Sunday, it’s likely I’ll resort to take-out for both lunch and dinner. I know this isn’t good for me or the planet, but knowledge doesn’t always equate to action, and sometimes convenience and cravings win out over my better self.

Lunch is usually a quick dart to get a sandwich or (usually) a Deliveroo. Today I make a conscious decision to switch this up. I give my legs a stretch and my brain a break and head over to Mana for a wrap. Food literacy – the subject of Peggy Chan’s talk , is all about understanding the impact of food on your health, the environment, and the economy. By skipping meat and supporting local business this seems like a step in the right direction.

Day 2 – energy

We use energy in almost everything we do, most often unconsciously. Looking around my desk I have my laptop, extra screen, and phone charger all plugged into the grid, lights on, aircon on… you get the picture.

I turn to google to find some tips to improve my energy efficiency and come across the concept of ‘Vampire Energy’. Vampire energy (or phantom load) refers to appliances that remain plugged in even when not in use (i.e. on standby mode), sucking up energy and ramping up your electricity bill.

A quick tour of my apartment that evening confirms I’m feeding the vampire, and I unplug the offending appliances. Easy, right?

Day 3 – transport

I feel pretty lucky in Hong Kong. We have a great public transport network that’s clean, frequent, and cheap. To push this further, my small win for today was to ditch transport all together and to walk into work. I feel good for the walk, and it allowed me to take time for myself and reflect on Ollie Haas’s talk on the future of flying. I love travel. Unlike Ollie however, I do not love flying (genuinely terrified). Nonetheless I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever fully give up. With the prospect of travel bubbles and vaccines on the horizon, I make a commitment to myself to purchase carbon credits if and when I travel in the future. As Ollie said, it’s not the solution, but it’s a continuous trade off.

Jessica has a revamped holiday wardrobe courtesy of her climate bootcamp. Photo courtesy of Jessica Broomhall.

Day 4 – fashion

A basic cotton t-shirt on average takes a whopping 2,700 litres of water to produce, putting huge strain on our freshwater resources. Add to this the impact of pesticides and insecticides, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal, and you can see the issues caused by fast fashion consumerism begin to mount up.

Running up to the festive period I need a few outfits to keep it fresh. Luckily, I have a great group of friends and we decide to get together and have a clothes swap x mulled wine evening to revamp our respective wardrobes. I emerge with a bag full of awesome outfits – it’s a resounding success and we’ll definitely be doing this again in the New Year!

Day 5 – nature

Like Jonathan, I have a mild ocean obsession. My own sustainability journey began with a love of scuba diving, and by seeing first-hand the extent of coral bleaching and the mountains of plastic we’ve poured into the ocean.

A Plastic Ocean is a Hong Kong based NGO dedicated to creating ‘a wave of change’ to stop plastic pollution via education and policy advocacy. They created an award-winning documentary that I’ve put off watching because it’s easier to ignore the problem than to acknowledge it and do something about it. Today my action is educational… time to finally watch this.

I’m overwhelmed by the damage we’ve done but also inspired by the team behind the film and the work the NGO does do day-in day-out to encourage people to be part of the solution. We can and must do better to help save our oceans.

Reflections on the bootcamp

It really wasn’t too much effort to change up my choices, but I recognize I still have a long way to go – doing one push-up isn’t going to make me strong. Acknowledging the choices we make is a key step in changing them for the better… and as with any fitness goal the real challenge comes in sticking with it until actions become habit.

I’m up for the challenge – are you?

Design you own climate fitness and #JoinTheCountdown with the Count Us In aggregator. Choose from the 16 steps that will have the most impact at Count-Us-In.org

Jessica Broomhall is currently studying for the Masters of Corporate Environmental Governance at the University of Hong Kong.

Author: TEDxTinHauWomen

TEDxTinHauWomen is the only annual TEDx event dedicated to women in Hong Kong.

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