ECO2school Challenge spurs 15 thousand green trips to school

Spring is in the air, and with extended daylight hours, and great weather, students from across Sonoma County took on the ECO2school challenge to lower carbon emissions and use alternative transportation to get to and from school. Our results are in! This year, 1,574 student’s participated in the ECO2school Challenge, making 15,002 greenway trips to school! That is a whole lot of carbon being saved!

Every day, for two weeks, students logged their mode of transportation in their classes. They even gave themselves grades. A for active, B for bus, and C for carpool. Student groups at each school planned fun and interactive activities to promote the event and encourage their classmates to participate. Schools like El Molino, Montgomery, Analy, Sonoma Valley and Roseland University Prep hosted the beloved “bicycle blender” that produces delicious, pedal-powered fruit smoothies. Pedal hard to get the smoothest smoothie!

Several schools organized “slow race” competitions – a slow-motion peddle on bicycles where the winner is the last to cross the finish line. Slow races entice students to join the fun as well as create a learning environment opportunity.  It is an opportunity for peer-to-peer education. Students connect transportation habits to greenhouse gas emissions and encourage them to recognize the impact they can make as an individual. Students also have a fun time cheering each other on in this entertaining event.

This year we added a new event called Small Bike-Fast Race. Students have a real challenge balancing on the miniature bikes as the pedal across the finish line. “The small bikes were so funny.” Said Shivani Kumar a senior at Analy High School. “They are definitely harder (to ride) than they look.”

Safety is important for everyone who is using alternative transportation. While teaching about the importance of wearing helmets, students decorated and transformed them into safety art (pictured above) Students would later use these in the Slow Race. Youth leaders at Roseland University Prep gathered students during their lunch time and had a table set-up with stickers and paint pens for students to use to personalize their helmet. Everyone worked hard to make their helmets unique and expressive.

The challenge is more than just a fun event. It is an opportunity for student leaders to practice their community building skills. Student organizers are learning event planning, how to engage peers, and how measure the impact of their actions. Our student leaders are the real drivers that made the ECO2school Challenge happen.

While the reward of knowing you are making a huge difference in the amount of CO2 being emitted in Sonoma County is reason enough to feel good, community sponsors helped incentivize students to go the extra mile. Trek, CamelBak, Mombos, Straus Creamery and Guayaki all donated goodies to keep our students energized and rolling. We want to give a special shout out to the teachers, who’s classes won. Mrs. Angel and Mrs. Gallardo from Montgomery, Mr. Rose from Analy, Mrs. Chapin from Sonoma Valley, Mr. Crawford and Mrs. Oitzinger from El Molino! Teachers are a key factor in our success reminding, students all our small actions taken together add up to something bigger and more impactful.

You can see more photos from the challenge on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/eco2school

Alina Huff

ECO2school Program Coordinator
Alina Huff has been actively involved in Sonoma County youth and environmental programs for the past nine years, including jobs with Landpaths, Coastwalk California, and Westminster Woods. She also has experience in international education, having worked in South Africa and Scotland. Alina endeavors to foster a closer connection to the earth and share that passion for community, nature, and education with others. She received her B.A. from Sonoma State University in Environmental Education, and has also studied organic farming and ethnobotany.
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