Winners of first California high school climate contest announced

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The California Air Resources Board announced the winners of the 2011 Climate Generation, an annual statewide competition challenging high school students to address climate change, clean energy and sustainability with imaginative school projects. The top prize was awarded to Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton. Arroyo High School in El Monte and Ukiah High School in Ukiah won second and third prize, respectively.

“The title of this competition says it all,” says CARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “Climate change will affect all of us, now and well into the future, and it will take generations to overcome. These young people are showing us the way to address this challenge with on-the-ground projects that get real results.”

Menlo-Atherton students developed “Behavior Change or Climate Change”, an education and outreach campaign that reached fellow students with strategies and tools to reduce emissions. Their project taught students how lifestyles can be altered modestly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The team gave numerous presentations at their school and provided tools and strategies for students to reduce their carbon footprints. They coordinated a wide range of participants and groups, obtained funding and gained the support of the school and the parent-teacher association. In addition, they monitored the success of their effort with pre- and post-presentation surveys.

Arroyo High School, this year’s second place winner, created a composting system that used campus and home green waste to produce nutrient-rich soil for the school’s garden. Students constructed compost bins, collected materials from the community and carefully monitored temperature and nutrient concentrations.

This year’s third place winner, Ukiah High School, led a successful citywide campaign to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags. Using an education and outreach strategy, the team engaged local businesses to support the effort and ultimately persuaded their city council to pass an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags by local retailers. The ordinance was adopted April 22.

The Climate Generation Program, an annual competition, is an outgrowth of the British Council’s Climate Champions program that seeks to encourage young people to engage climate issues at local, national and international levels. Students were asked to focus on the following topics: energy conservation, renewable energy, water conservation, transportation, purchasing, facilities and/or awareness/communication (outreach).

For more information about the program and how to enter next year’s competition, go to www.arb.ca.gov/cc/climatechampions/climatechampions.htm. Next year’s competition will begin with the start of the school year in the fall.