Meet the World Changers:
The Climate Center’s ECO2school’s Youth Leadership Development program provides climate leadership training for Sonoma County’s high school youth. The upcoming generation have been brought up in an unsustainable high-energy-consumption lifestyle. They need a pathway away from dirty energy consumption and toward a positive future. Through our ECO2school Program, the Center supports a more sustainable pathway of informed decision-making around careers and lifestyle choices. This year, we supported three students with $1,000 scholarships. These individuals are on the front line of our climate movement and working to change our cultural values around energy consumption. Below are their stories.
Emily Gassaway and Delany Miller teamed up to put on “Green Week” at Windsor High School. Emily characterized her project:
Green Week was designed to stimulate environmentally friendly attitudes and to show people that our community can easily, can save tons of CO2 if we sustain certain behaviors. We showed students that we have the power to turn the odds in Mother Nature’s favor and that the change is in our hands. Green Week showcased a different sustainable event or activity each day. Over the week we connected directly with our peers and explained to them the value of different activities like biking and eating organic, sustainable produce. That week we saved more than half a ton of CO2 from being emitted. We hope Green Week inspired our peers to create ongoing healthy habits.
This entire experience was driven by our passion for the environment We started small by creating a club on campus to promote a healthy eco-friendly lifestyle, and through this we gathered a following of people who shared our interest in protecting the climate. We didn’t expect it to impact others and to benefit us personally so much. We have walked away from this experience with a new found love and determination to help the environment and have learned a new set of skills. The skills we developed by working together – leadership, communication, and commitment – have given us the confidence to move beyond the boundaries of school and begin to affect entire communities.
Angelina Espinoza has been working and taking leadership on climate for the past four years. In her own words:
When I joined Eco Club as a freshman, there were four members, myself included. During my two years as President, I have grown the club to a steady membership of approximately 25. Over the years I have implemented a variety of activities on my campus to increase awareness and encourage walking and biking. With such a strong and steady group, implementing different on-campus activities was both fun and easy. In my junior year alone, we saved 1.5 tons of CO2 from being emitted.
My work on campus led to The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board. During my time on the board I have become far more educated and engaged about climate issues, and for the past three years I have engaged in many events such as Green Teen, the Y.E.S. Conference, and ECO2School Challenge Weeks. I love public speaking, so I am happy to espouse the risk of climate change and the benefits walking, biking, and carpooling to just about anyone who would listen – friends, family, and increasingly audiences at local and regional conferences.
A highlight for me was being the keynote speaker at the Youth for Environment and Sustainability Conference and addressing over 1,000 students. A speech that truly embodies my feelings on both the immense problem that faces us, and my limitless optimism that we will find a solution: “It’s easy to hear statistics, and read accounts of disastrous storms and sinking islands, but it’s all very removed from our daily lives here in the Bay Area. We all know climate change is happening, but it feels like it’s not happening to us… However, let us not forget that the hottest 15 years on record have happened during the majority of our lives, and that we haven’t known a world other than this hot earth… But also, let us remember that California boasts more EV vehicles than any other state… Let us remember that the whole world looks to California – for fashion, movies, music, and most importantly, solutions. Let us remember that we are in the right place. Let us remember that our planet needs us, just as much as we need it.