School News: California Students Stand Up for Environmental Justice

Fall 2019

Sonoma Academy students meet with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in Washington, DC.
Sonoma Academy students meet with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in Washington, DC.
Photo courtesy of Schools for Climate Action

Sonoma Academy (CA) students have grown up in an area affected by severe drought and devastating wildfires. While the school has already demonstrated its commitment to environmental stewardship—the newest building has been recognized around the world for its sustainable design—the students continue to push their community forward.

A group of students recently discovered that the large solar array on campus provided 50% of the school’s electricity, but it sourced the other 50% from a company that still used fossil fuels and depended heavily on hydroelectric power from the Pacific Northwest. Students created a cost-benefit analysis for a program that would allow the school to purchase 100% local renewable energy, presenting its findings to school leadership. The board of trustees agreed to the change, making the campus carbon-neutral for electricity.

The students continue to deepen their commitment to environmental justice. In partnership with a local nonprofit, Schools for Climate Action, they drafted a climate resolution, the first from an independent school in North America. The students have reached out to other independent schools across the country, offering their resolution as a template. They also visited Washington, DC, in March to implore members of Congress to take action on climate change. One 12th grade student, Izzy Ryan, who lost her home in the 2017 Tubbs Fire, met with multiple politicians, attempting to put a human face on the natural disasters linked to climate change.
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