City hall building

In 2018, the city of Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, made the commitment to become carbon neutral. The decision was the result of pressure from local high school students.

“They felt passionate, like a lot of youth around the country do, that there is an urgency,” says Jessi Wyatt of the Great Plains Institute. “And so they brought the urgency to their city council in the form of letters, in the form of presentations. They went and spoke at the city council and to their elected officials and just kept drilling home this message of, ‘This is our home, too, right?’”

The Great Plains Institute helped the city write a climate action plan that addressed the students’ concerns. After it passed, the institute kept the youth engaged.

“We wanted to leverage these students whose voices were so powerful and who had this passion,” Wyatt says.

The group gave the students data about the suitability of each rooftop in the city for solar panels. Then the teens went door to door. They talked to people about the solar energy their roof could generate and how to finance solar panels.

Ultimately, Wyatt says that effort will lead to at least seven new solar installations. She says the teens’ knowledge and energy were amazing.

“These students are intelligent, they’re smart, they know climate, and they’re our future leaders,” she says. “We can hand off the baton with confidence that the next generation knows what they’re doing.”

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.