Meet our World Changers program interns

The Climate Center’s World Changers program is fostering the next generation of climate leaders. This semester we have two interns, one from Sonoma State and one from the Santa Rosa Junior College who are putting their knowledge and passion together for climate action.

Allison Piazzoni is a senior at Sonoma State University. She will be graduating in May with a BA in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biology. She is passionate about the outdoors, conservation, and climate education and looking forward to a lifelong career in environmental advocacy and fulfilling conservation work. When she is not working she is hiking, swimming, painting, and encouraging sustainable living practices to her friends and family! “I am excited to be interning with The Climate Center this spring, alongside many successful and inspiring climate advocates,” she says. Allison is researching speed-and-scale solutions to transportation in Sonoma County and will be producing a paper on the current situation and possible steps toward carbon-neutral transportation.

Ivy Stuart is a double Agriculture and Business major at Santa Rosa Junior College. Her goal is to run her own 100 percent organic, self-sustaining vegetable farm, to provide the community local organic produce.  The model farm will utilize renewable resources, minimize greenhouse gases, and reduce animal-produced GHGs while implementing cruelty free farming practices. Relatively new to climate activism, Ivy’s passion for change sparked in Sacramento. She is inspired and ready to make the jump into developing speed and scale solutions so we all can thrive.

The World Changers Program is supported by the Kimball and Evans Foundations. To find out more about college internships with the Center visit our website at We are now accepting applications for summer internships.


Unexpected expansion of youth movement takes off

By V.V. Young

Young climate activists have been making news recently, and the trend does not seem to be abating. In fact, it appears to be picking up steam.

The emergence of Greta Thunberg with her speech at the 2018 Climate Summit in Poland last fall, along with her weekly school walk-out strike, has sparked youth activism in response to the climate crisis worldwide. On March 15th 1.5 million went on strike in over 110 countries in the Student Climate Strike, inspired by Greta’s leadership.

Three year old youth leader leads a chant in a recent protest

Now, reports are coming in from kindergarten and elementary school teachers and principals, as well as day care centers, reporting that children as young as three are rising up to speak out on the climate issue. “My students heard about the teen protests and they are starting to talk about organizing their own protest,” stated Denver 2nd grade teacher Frida Kidze.

Second grader Candice Betrewe said “we realized we needed to take matters into our own hands when we saw how ineffective the high schoolers have been, besides, they’ve had their time, it’s our future!”

The manager at a day-care center on the coast in Florida, threatened by sea level rise, suspects that parents are involved behind the scenes in organizing what is being billed by toddler-activist leaders as a “Crawl-out” in protest of inaction on the climate crisis in that state. At the Crawl-out what is being referred to as the Kindergarten Climate Declaration will be unveiled.

Infants photographed crawling out of their day care center in protest of the climate crisis

Philadelphia elementary school Principal Todd Lehr cautioned that “I’m worried that we may be seeing some kind of “Wild in the Streets” scenario emerging and it will spin out of control,” referring to the 1968 film where youth demanded the voting age be lowered to 14.

Over the weekend President Trump weighed in on the matter with a Tweet: “Toddler climate rebellion is FAKE NEWS and a HOAX! Besides, it has been a very Cold Winter, sad!!!” @RealDonaldTrump. In this case, the president is CORRECT!

Youth Advisory Board speaking with climate scientist Carl Mears.

Equipped with integrity, curiosity, and hope, youth leaders discover the power of policy

Youth play a key role in implementing speed and scale climate solutions. The Center’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) students have been excitedly working on individual climate projects at their respective schools. Projects include developing sustainability kits and climate presentations, organizing a “No-Idling” STEM project, coordinating an on-campus “green week” celebration, and participating in a youth climate fellowship program. ECO2school has been working on creating opportunities for these passionate climate leaders to complement their skills with further training and connections to the larger community.

To bolster their advocacy skills, YAB members participated in a training to understand the ins and outs of the legislative process as well as the do’s and don’ts of engaging in advocacy. Former Santa Rosa Mayor and City Council member Jane Bender was a guest at the meeting. Her years of experience impressed upon the students how important an individual’s voice and personal story can be in influencing decision-makers such as civic and political leaders. She shared the example of the 10 cent charge on grocery bags as a way to illustrate policy-based, market-driven solutions that phased out the use of plastic bags efficiently and effectively. This helped students put into perspective a training with Ann Hancock, Executive Director of The Climate Center, about theory of change. As Ann presented the broad-brush strokes of understanding the Center’s theory of change, students began to make connections between having a vision, making an impact, strategizing for massive behavior change, shaping policy, driving market forces, and engaging in climate activism.

This raises a question in their minds, “How much of an impact do you think turning off our lights, using our re-usable water bottles, driving less, eating a plant-based diet, and similar little changes have?”. They asked this question to climate scientist and contributing author to IPCC, Dr. Carl Mears, who also joined as a guest at a YAB meeting. As students waited eagerly to hear his response, Dr. Mears explained, “Making your own choices such as a plant-based diet or living close to your workplace, especially when sustained over a lifetime, is great and helps identify you to your tribe, but the only solution that would make change happen at speed and scale is changing policy.” He elaborated on this further at an event later that week in Santa Rosa speaking to an audience of 200 people, and urged that broadly speaking, we need to work towards “electing climate focused leaders, advocating to hold our leaders’ feet to the fire and talking about climate to our friends and families”, as the three most important things each one of us can do to become part of the solution to mitigate climate change.

At ECO2school, there is an almost feverish excitement watching and listening to local youth climate leaders taking tremendous strides to rise to the challenge. Along with the many personal low-carbon choices they make, they are amplifying  their voices and taking bigger and bolder steps to address their peers and engage people to take action. They are inspired by the way climate is moving to the forefront of political and social movements across the world. They are speaking up about their deep concerns as well as drawing people into their fold with ideas on how they can become a part of the change-making process. They are hopeful and they have their sleeves rolled up.

The youth climate response – when impatience is a virtue

It is hard not to notice the upwelling of young people leading the way in the current climate movement. As a youth leadership program, this is an exciting time to listen and be inspired! By now most have heard Swedish 16-year old Greta Thunberg, “I don’t want your hope,…I want you to act.” Greta has inspired Fridays for Our Future, and School Strike 4 Climate which has sparked school walkouts around Europe, Australia, Great Britain and here in the U.S. Tens of thousands of students have already participated in these events.

There are also the twenty-one young plaintiffs in Juliana v. the United States suing the federal government for its inaction on climate change.  Another influential group is the youth activists at the Sunrise Movement, demanding a Green New Deal. Their recent visit with Diane Feinstein went viral as the Senator is seen defensively chiding young activists asking her to support the resolution, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing.”

Is that why the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last decade – because we know what we are doing? To those who wonder how we can afford policy around the Green New Deal, it is important to note we already spend an average of $240 billion a year in economic losses from weather events influenced by climate change and health damages due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel energy production. The cost of doing nothing is accruing an unconscionably hefty price tag.

The clarity with which young people are understanding this crisis and taking action is a powerful tonic to the paralysis and timid steps of the past.  How would you feel if you were born into a world where a crisis has been evident, for so long, with the solutions right there ready to be deployed, and yet, the world stumbles to set meaningful targets. Scientists wrote in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report detailing the urgency of taking bold action within this decade, and yet we live in a country where our President tragically confuses weather for climate.

These young activists understand the basic arithmetic: when we use fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, we release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it builds up acting like a heat-trapping blanket. The more fossil fuels we burn for energy, the more that blanket thickens, and the more our planet warms. This warming disrupts ecosystems on land and at sea which is evident with our fierce storms, relentless fire seasons, and epic heat waves.

As the Sunrise Movement group camped outside Mitch McConnell’s office in Kentucky, demanding to talk to their representative,  a 17-year-old Louisville high school student pleads, “We demand he look us in the eyes and tell us that the $1.9 million that he gets from fossil fuel industries is more important than my generation’s future.” The time has come to for us to ask: which do we care about more, fossil fuel interests or a stable climate?

These are the history-making days. Will we be  the ones who rolled our eyes at these young people demanding a sensible response? Or the ones that said yes, we will transition and we are here to support you any way we can.

We know what to do. The solutions are ready to go, and they will make our lives better.

As Greta plainly states, “The main solution, however, is so simple even a child can understand. We have to stop the emissions of greenhouse gasses.” Yes, Greta, Yes, we do.

Here at ECO2school, we are blessed to work with our inspiring Youth Advisory Board (YAB)!  These local leaders meet monthly to share a meal, deepen their skills, plan events- like this last November’s Green Teen, and feel the power of their shared values in this climate of youth action. In April the group will be partnering with and the Santa Rosa Junior College to host a Climate Action Night. Locally and globally the youth are leading the way!

How a 7th-grader’s strike against climate change exploded into a movement

by Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post

On the ninth Friday of her strike, 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor wakes to a dozen emails, scores of Twitter notifications and good news from the other side of the planet: Students in China want to join her movement.

Every week since December, the seventh-grader has made a pilgrimage to the United Nations’ headquarters demanding action on climate change. She is one of a cadre of young, fierce and mostly female activists behind the School Strike 4 Climate movement. On March 15, with the support of some of the world’s biggest environmental groups, tens of thousands of kids in at least two dozen countries and nearly 30 U.S. states plan to skip school to protest.

Their demands are uncompromising: Nations must commit to cutting fossil-fuel emissions in half in the next 10 years to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Read more:

BayCLIC tackles transportation

The Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC) is a professional network dedicated to ensuring that visitors to the Bay Area’s array of renowned educational institutions learn about the core elements of climate change and feel both motivated and empowered to take action. The Climate Center plays a support role for BayCLIC, facilitating and coordinating meetings, developing agendas, and acting as a liaison between the participating partners.

In January, BayCLIC members met to tackle transportation. Transportation is the largest greenhouse gas producer in the Bay Area, accounting for 40% of our carbon footprint. If California is going to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, we need to start looking for transportation solutions that we can implement and grow quickly. Guest presenters shared solutions from a variety of sectors.

Daryl Davis from Transform talked about how to improve walking and biking in school communities through the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program. SRTS is a national success story. The program started in Florida in 1997 and has spread to 13,000 schools around the country who participate in the effort to increase community health by encouraging walking and biking to school. Daryl talked about key lessons learned and strategies implemented by Transform for successfully engaging tomorrow’s leaders to adopt walking as a mode of transportation. Strategies include coupling education with encouragement and working with schools to implement policies that make walking safer, easier, and therefore a more normal choice.

From mode shift (changing the type of transportation we use) we moved on to explore the idea of fuel shift (what we use to power our vehicles). Doron Amiran, with The Climate Center, talked about the upcoming transportation revolution to Electric Vehicles which is happening quickly. It took five years for the first 1,000,000 electric vehicles in the US; the second million took only six months! Every major car producer in the world in introducing electric models including electric trucks and SUVs. Countries like Germany, China, and India are signing on to internal combustion engine (ICE) bans by 2030 and California is currently looking at a bill to ban the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2040 in the upcoming legislative cycle.

The next presenter Sophia Zug, from Strategic Energy Innovations, shared how our energy grid is changing in ways to support and amplify our transition to electric cars. Electric engines are far more cost, energy and pollution effective. California has energy mandates, to have 50 percent of our energy come from renewables by 2050. We have community choice energy programs like Sonoma Clean Power and the SF Public Utilities Commission which puts the Bay Area ahead of the curve. These programs use higher percentages of renewable energy and make electric vehicles even cleaner.

Amy Jolly, from The Climate Center, closed out the meeting with strategies for community design. She discussed designing and redesigning our cities in ways that make sustainable transportation the easy, most convenient choice. Key strategies included connected transportation networks so people can work, play and shop close to home. Again, safe walking and biking routes can spur people to choose these healthier modes of transit. Finally, frequent, accessible, and inexpensive transit, slowing down traffic and dedicated spaces for walkers and cyclists.

California has 35 million people and 45 million personal vehicles.. Most of those vehicles are not moving 96% of the time. That’s not grid lock in the Novato narrows or 580 at rush hour, that is sitting in parking lots and driveways. What could we do with space currently occupied by all those cars and their accompanying infrastructure? More parks. More open public space. More affordable housing. We can build more spaces we all can enjoy. The host organization, Lindsay Wildlife Center, brought this message home with a visitor from their animal hospital, a great grey owl. This beautiful creature is endangered in the state of California and served as a perfect reminder of the value of our work and the demand for a more cohesive and healthy integration of our built and natural environments.

If you are interested in the professional development opportunities BayCLIC offers and lending your expertise to our ongoing exploration of climate solutions contact

Alexis and Arlene making cable-adjustments

The Dynamic Cycling Duo attack climate change and flat tires with passion

It’s official, Roseland has a Dynamic Cycling Duo. In fact, if you’re looking for a good example of Sonoma County residents taking it to the streets, look no further than Arlene Quiroz and Alexis Roldan. Arlene and Alexis attend Roseland University Prep (RUP), a small college-preparatory high school in the heart of Roseland. The Duo regularly ride their bicycles to school.

At ECO2school, one of our major aims is to get more high school students riding their bicycles to and from school. With over sixty percent of Sonoma County’s emissions coming from transportation, we often make the case that riding your bike or walking is the most impactful action a student can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

But changing our transportation habits is no easy feat. The social norming of cycling is a work in progress here in America. ECO2school offers Street Skills courses taught by League of American Bicyclist League Certified Instructors, which include bicycle handling skills, traffic awareness, and bicycle maintenance. We hope to pair students’ interest in cycling with hands-on learning to create cycling ambassadors capable of navigating any-and-all traffic-related situations while inspiring others to do the same.

Arlene patching a punctured tube during a group ride to Southwest Community Park

Arlene patching a punctured tube during a group ride to Southwest Community Park

Arlene is one of these passionate riders. She has been riding consistently for a couple years now. Her three-and-a-half mile bike ride to school starts on the SMART Bike Pedestrian Path near Coddingtown Mall, which offers some reprieve from the car-filled streets of Santa Rosa. But, she regularly gets flat tires. “Glass, nails, thorns, it happens all the time, especially the places I ride,” she said when describing her commute. In fact, on one of our group rides, Arlene got to put her newly-acquired maintenance skills to the test when her rear tube was punctured by an industrial staple. “It was a great feeling to fix my own tire and then be able to keep riding.”

Alexis’s path to commuting by bicycle took off after he won a bicycle in last year’s ECO2school Challenge. The Challenge encourages high school students to use active methods of transportation to and from school by having them track their commutes over a two-week period to see how much CO2 they can prevent from being emitted. Before that, Alexis was solely a pedestrian. “It took so much longer to walk everywhere,” he said during a group ride. “Riding a bike is faster and so much more efficient. I can bike places I never would have walked before.”

Alexis and Arlene riding in the parking lot after fixing up their bikes

Alexis and Arlene riding in the parking lot after fixing up their bikes

Like any new cyclist Alexis is learning the skills to safely navigate traffic and ECO2school staff is there to help. During a bicycle maintenance skill session, the Duo learned the ABC Quick Check, practiced changing and patching tubes, and finished with some cable adjustments. Sadly that day, the air quality was extremely polluted due to the Camp Fire. After we finished, the Duo put on breathing masks and took off on their newly-adjusted bikes. Their excitement was contagious but they could see the look of concern on my face, “Don’t worry, we won’t breathe too hard, we’ll ride slowly,” they reassured me while doing figure eights in the now-empty parking lot.

The Dynamic Duo’s commitment to riding provides an example to their fellow students and teachers at RUP and serves as an inspiration for all of us here in Sonoma County.

To any Sonoma County high school students who want to learn to pedal like Arlene and Alexis, please contact ECO2school today.

And stay tuned for more inspirational stories from RUP’s Dynamic Cycling Duo.

Carbon benefits add up with bike commutes that offer a nature fix and a safe commute with friends

Rincon Valley in Santa Rosa is like many neighborhoods throughout the United States. It’s a neighborhood full of children, schools, and childcare, and on any given day, there are approximately 4,000 children being transported via car around the area, from infants to high-schoolers. All this schlepping around Rincon Valley adds up to approximately 12,000 pounds of CO2 per day or 4,380,000 pounds of CO2 per year. ECO2school’s transportation survey shows that the carbon footprint from Maria Carrillo High School’s commute alone is 7,200 lbs of CO2 every day, not to mention the traffic congestion and compromised air quality that comes along with it. All the commuting by car has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in communities all over the country, and perhaps all over the world.

To help address this issue, on November 26th, students at Maria Carrillo High School set out on a community bike ride in Santa Rosa’s Rincon Valley neighborhood.

What exactly is a community bike ride? It’s a group bike ride where ECO2school staff, including an American League of Cycling Certified Instructor (LCI), lead a line of student riders, taking them along a planned route typically ranging 2 to 4 miles for about an hour. At the beginning of the ride we walk through the “ABC” of bike safety, that stands for Air, Brakes, and Crank & Chains and have each rider check these on their bikes. We also orient riders to basic road rules including hand signaling, navigating “STOP” signs and signals, and group riding protocol.  The group also stops along the route to answer questions and share observations.

The group biked from the high school to an ice-cream store. Over a delicious chocolate fudge ice-cream, the riders shared how it was to make a left turn on a busy street for the first time. This was a big first step for these students considering it takes even regular riders some practice to depart from a bike lane and confidently own the street!

Some students were already commuting to school via bike on their own. When asked about her ride to school, Cristina Avelar, a junior and an avid bike rider, says, “My ride is almost always enjoyable.” Then she paused to reflect, “Only, on my way back, I am very close to traffic on Montecito Rd.” Her mother is worried, as the bulk of her daughter’s ride happens on two busy arterial streets. However, she knows Cristina also draws from her experience riding regularly with her father.

Beatrice Salvador, a freshman and budding cyclist hasn’t attempted to ride to school alone yet. She has outgrown her old bike and hoping for a new one. In the meantime she wants to hone her street skills and build her confidence by riding with others.

At the end of our community ride, Beatrice said, “The community bike ride was amazing! It felt relaxing because I was able to admire nature that I would usually overlook when in a car. I liked that we were biking as a group because it felt safer for me when making turns, rather than if I were to bike by myself.” Cristina added, “I have had only positive experiences with the community bike rides. They have allowed me to see how to navigate neighborhood streets better, and given me the confidence to ride more safely on my own.”

Transportation research shows that increasing the number of people walking and biking is an effective way to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. So, at ECO2school we wonder what would it take for vast swaths of pedestrians and bikers commuting to school to become the norm – instead of cars.  How can we begin to reduce our commute-related carbon impact?

At ECO2school we strive to make solutions come to life by getting kids on their bikes riding with us in their community – a great way to encourage bike riders of all ages to develop their biking and street skills and knowledge, and of course build a huge sense of confidence! We work with youth to foster their leadership on transportation issues and help them connect the dots to climate change, personal and community health, and the design and infrastructure of the communities they live in.








Political activism, clean commuting, community design, zero waste, and veganism among solutions at Green Teen climate action event

Caitlin Grace, Santa Rosa High School

The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) demonstrated their passion and commitment to climate action at the sixth annual Green Teen Conference, a youth-organized and youth-led climate conference. The motto of the conference this year was “Generation Us! Bring it Home” as student leaders made the connection between individual behavior and its impact on the planet.

Future Cities table with Josh Bergbauer and Kaya Thunen

In a room brimming with anticipation and excitement, Solana Jolly, the master of ceremonies, extended a warm welcome to a room full of teens and community members. YAB is trying to model the sustainable behaviors they want to encourage in everyone. She proudly shared that Green Teen was designed to be a “nero-waste” or near-zero waste event, serving a vegan dinner to sixty plus participants. An accomplishment that few community events can proudly claim, thanks to the generous support our 2018 sponsors – Redwood Credit Union, and a host of volunteer cooks and servers.

Ezra Berman and Annabelle Lampson set a strong intention of gratitude at the conference’s onset by guiding all the participants to stand up for a deep breathing exercise. “Our generation is under a lot of pressure as we are witnessing and feeling the very real effects of climate change”, said Ezra. Annabelle followed with, “It is equally important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all life, feel gratitude for how nature sustains us, and use the power of gratitude to be eco-warriors and empower ourselves to push back, and counteract the pressure we are under.” Without missing an opportunity for a chuckle, they warned everyone from breathing out, lest we emit too much carbon dioxide!

Building momentum, Celeste Palmer spoke to holding adults accountable both for what they have done and what they are not yet doing. “Praying that politicians will magically change their minds will not work, nor has it ever. What will work is to rise up and claim our voice and our future,” she said. She pointed to three solutions everyone could implement immediately –namely living sustainably as an individual, engaging with the community, and dreaming big.

Students broke out into discussion tables facilitated by youth board members engaging with topics ranging from climate science and transportation to sustainable fashion. Community organizations, Sonoma County Regional Parks,, Daily Acts, Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma Water the Bicycle Coalition, Ceres, W-Trans, and ECO2school shared opportunities for youth volunteering and internships. Nima Sherpa, a Sonoma Valley High Junior said, “I will be thinking more about my choices, from transportation to food to fashion. I feel more empowered after hearing the speeches and participating in the breakout tables.”

Lillian Lynch, Windsor High School

Lillian Lynch, from Windsor High School, ignited hearts with a powerful message. “We tend to believe that the most effective way to get a point across is to simply state the facts. However, we forget the passion and the emotional connection to this issue. True power comes from our hearts and minds working together.” she said. She shared her personal mission to create and distribute sustainability kits, and she is developing a series of house parties and events to distribute them to anyone interested in deepening their commitment to positive action around climate change.

For the final activity, participants engaged in designing a future city, sharing personal stories of being a climate advocate, decorating re-usable water bottles, or writing postcards to their elected officials such as “stop fracking” messages to Gov. Jerry Brown and “thank you” notes to Assembly member Marc Levine for passing SB100.

Every attendee took tons of inspiration and ideas with them. A delighted Sophomore Tenjing Sherpa said “I’m leaving here today feeling inspired that there are activities I can do that will actually make a difference for our planet!” Ellery and Megan from Windsor High School reflected that “climate change is a lot more of a diverse issue and we can use the information from Green Teen to educate our family and friends and start discussions. They often have the drive but not the resources.”

Students write postcards to elected officials for climate action

We can all find hope in the leadership expressed by students in bringing community together to tackle this daunting problem in a meaningful way. In closing, Ezra and Annabelle reminded us that in fighting for the earth we mustn’t forget that we are indeed here to live on earth, to honor our place in the cycle of life. That “it doesn’t matter so much what we are against, it matters more what are for!”

ECO2school youth get ready to lead on climate – from the bike saddle, the podium, and the classroom

A sentiment often repeated about climate change is nobody is doing anything about it. While the reality of the world’s lackluster ability to make climate change a priority is real, it is not the full story. People are working on a daily basis on the “wicked problem,” like the staff here at The Climate Center, or, as I have had the pleasure to experience, amongst our youth leaders! These passionate and inspiring leaders run counter to that assumption that nobody is doing anything about climate change.  

On August 10th, The Climate Center held our annual Youth Leadership Development Retreat. Ten dedicated youth leaders representing high schools across Sonoma County spent one of their last days of summer participating in this captivating event. ECO2school leaders worked on skills such as team building, facilitation, messaging, and public speaking, which will be useful tools throughout the year’s activities as they implement solution-based projects in response to climate change.

Maitreyi listens as students talk.

The participants not only honed their leadership skills, but also worked to increase their climate literacy. The Climate Literacy Gallery Walk is an engaging activity where students walk around the room viewing displayed images detailing the story of our changing climate. The students shared which image they found compelling and why, creating an opportunity for an informative climate connections conversation.

The highlight of the day was definitely the bike ride. Laughter and smiles abounded as they rode, refining their street skills and gaining bike confidence. Encouraging students to use active transportation is not only a crucial VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reduction strategy, but it is also super fun!

This year’s Youth Leadership Development Retreat helped prepare students to take on the real-world challenges of climate change, traffic congestion, and personal health.

Now, Ready, set, lead!