This academic year, I've had the opportunity to be a key advisor for the West Virginia Climate Change Professional Development (WVCCPD) Community. WVCCPD participants engaged in the reflection of student voice's and strategies for helping them take ACTION on Climate Change. New to this year, the group has planned localized Climate Action Day actions such as forming a club to learn about sustainable practices, improving energy efficiency at their schools, watching videos and evaluating information pertaining to global warming and climate change, organizing liter clean ups, and more!
As my own way of engaging in the Day of Action, I was asked to to create a digital badge for participants to proudly share they care about the balance of Earth's systems. Digital badges are a great sustainable way to recognize achievements as opposed to stickers or paper certificates.
Paper certificates, as you know, uses paper which is produced from trees. Removal of trees from the environment also removes a carbon dioxide reservoir and leaves more of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, where too much can increase the consequences of global warming. Trees pull in the gaseous carbon dioxide from the air through the stomata on their leaves. This is used in photosynthesis to create energy for the tree; consequently, chemically storing the carbon as biomass in the tree. Avoid using paper certificates when possible and consider awarding participants with a digital badge instead.
Vinyl stickers are also known to contribute to another issue pertaining to the environment and the carbon cycle. Stickers that are left in the environment are not biodegradable (like paper is) and are usually instead broken into smaller microplastic pieces. Microplastics are consuming our oceans and soils, which could also affect the Earth's atmosphere. For example, when phytoplankton eat microplastics and later excrete them as waste, the result is a lighter waste material that takes longer to sink to the ocean floor. When at the surface it is much easier for the carbon to escape and return to the atmosphere instead of being deposited in the ocean seafloor and then becoming part of Earth's geosphere.
You can learn more about how plastic harms the ocean and consequently destabilizes the Carbon Cycle and about Carbon Sinks in general from Client Earth's website: https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/opinions/is-plastic-affecting-the-ocean-as-a-carbon-sink-we-ask-tatiana-lujan/