Right now, the climate crisis is the greatest risk to our planet’s future. Failure to cap and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions will be catastrophic – for human society, animal and plant life, and biodiversity in general. And it is now clear this is happening sooner rather than later.

The scale of the threat and the challenge can seem overwhelming – especially when the results of any effort to prevent further environmental damage may not be seen for decades, even centuries. So how do we face up to this collective crisis? How do we make a difference now that will make our planet more liveable in the future?

The answer is, we do what we can and don't delay. Already, in communities across Aotearoa, New Zealanders are working towards a sustainable future. In the image-led series Changing Our Future, a partnership between Stuff and Gen Less, we will highlight individuals who are leading the way and building a tomorrow that meets the needs of future generations.

Over the next few months, you'll meet the people in our country who are positively changing our future. 

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A second story series, Kiwis on the Right Side, captures the amazing innovation and initiatives of everyday heroes showing the way and doing their bit. From composting to shopping locally and green investment, these stories show how the moment to act is now if we want to make an impact that will resonate into our children's – and their children's – future.    

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

For 16-year-old Sophie Weenink, Covid may have thwarted her plans to organise a second mass cleanup at her local beach in Nelson but it has not stopped her making a difference whenever she can. “I live on the Maitai River. When I’m walking home I’ll just try to do some cleaning up.” She takes photographs too, documenting what she sees as part of a campaign to get the council to provide better rubbish bins in Nelson.

Sophie’s commitment to improving the environment first gained national attention in 2019 when her call for volunteers to clean up Tahunanui Beach drew 200 willing locals who collected a rubbish pile that weighed 200 kilograms.  Organised river cleanups followed and most recently she worked with the charity Giving Aroha to provide support to the city’s homeless.

She became a youth advocate with The Kamahi Trust and joined the Nelson Youth Council and Nelson Tasman Climate Forum. She is excited about her next big project which is briefly on hold until school exams are over. “I’m working on a Forest and Bird youth campaign to build sustainable houses - we’re in the planning stages.” And later this month she will find out if she will be representing at the Youth Parliament 2022.

Sophie says being encouraged to find solutions to problems from a very early age has given her the motivation to be the change she wants to see in the world. And she’s adamant, age is no barrier.

We don’t need a small number of people doing things perfectly, we need millions of people doing a small number of things imperfectly, that’s what will really drive change.

NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand.

NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand.

Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry.

Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry.

Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car.

Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car.

Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production.

Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production.

Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch.

Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch.

Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington.

Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington.

Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm.

Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm.

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NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand.

NZ's Emma Lewisham has created the world's first certified climate positive beauty brand.

Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry.

Jeremy Ward Managing Director of East by West Ferries looks at his new electric ferry.

Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car.

Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon now races in the world's first all-electric rally car.

Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production.

Silver Fern Farms are lowering emissions for climate-positive food production.

Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch.

Daymond regularly cycles to work in Christchurch.

Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington.

Isaac Sotello mends a stick-mixer at Repair-ED in Wellington.

Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm.

Finn Ross checks the merino wool at Lake Hawea Station, NZ's first carbon positive certified farm.

Whatever you’re up to, email us now at RightSide@eeca.govt.nz or Direct Message Gen Less on Facebook or Instagram, and it could be you that gets captured on the Right Side. Search #RightSideNZ on social media to see more people’s actions and check out the Gen Less website for inspiration.