EarthTalk: TikTok environmental — Sustainability social media stars are born

E-The Environmental Magazine

Published: 04-29-2023 10:15 PM

Dear EarthTalk: How are environmental advocates using TikTok to raise awareness and gather support for their causes? — B.K., Seattle, WA

Social media has become a powerful tool for environmental activists to raise awareness and advocate for change, and no social media network is hotter these days than TikTok. This fast-growing platform where users create and share short videos has quickly become one of the most popular apps in the world – as of 2023, the app has more than 1.5 billion active users. As such, it also has become a powerful tool for activists to reach a large audience and raise awareness for environmental issues. Indeed, environmentalists have taken to TikTok to share their messages in creative and engaging ways, using humor, music, and personal anecdotes to connect with viewers.

One of the advantages of using TikTok for activism is the platform’s reach to younger audiences that may not be as engaged in traditional forms of environmental and climate activism. More than two-thirds of TikTok’s user base in the U.S. is under age 40, while 10- to 19-year-olds make up the single largest group by age on the platform. By using TikTok, these younger demographics can be reached and inspired to take action on environmental issues, organize petitions and fundraisers, and get involved in other ways.

One of the most popular environmental advocates on TikTok is Carissa Cabrera, a marine biologist and activist from Hawaii who has been creating TikToks for more than five years and has a large following on the platform – her @Carissaandclimate account has more 250,000 followers of her educational content.

“Generation Z wants to get information and tools at their fingertips, and it’s all packaged in an entertaining way,” says Cabrera. The fact that most TikToks last less than 30 seconds makes it a challenge to grab the user’s attention, so Cabrera usually gets to the point in the first three seconds and then employs comedic stories and/or dances to round out the post. Her goal is to create catchy content that’s quick and easy to memorize and that makes users want to watch it over and over and share with others so as to get more and more people to act on behalf of the planet.

Cabrera also contributes TikToks via EcoTok, which feat–ures innovative videos from a core group of activists and educators with the common goal of showing followers ways to live more sustainably.

“EcoTok started with a group of people looking for an outlet to share their frustrations,” she said. “Climate change is a daunting subject that can be hard to face alone.” She adds that their early arrival into TikTok helped build a committed community, with more than 100,000 followers and millions of “likes.”

Of course, only time will tell if recent discussions in Congress about banning TikTok in the U.S. over fears of data mining by the Chinese government – the company behind the app is based in China could mean the end for a valuable channel where environmentalists have been able to reach younger potential sympathizers here and inspire them to join the climate movement.

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