Last month, high school students across Sonoma County faced a personal and community challenge – the ECO2school Challenge, that is! For two weeks, participating students avoided solo driving and dropoffs at school. Instead, they embraced alternative transportation, like biking, walking, or carpooling, as often as possible. These young people jumped at the challenge and had a great time along the way!
In its fifth year, the ECO2school Challenge aims to shift people’s transportation habits and thinking, especially at a young age, in order to produce longterm change.
For two weeks, students challenge their classmates to try a “greenway” commute. A greenway is any method of transportation that reduces your fossil fuel energy use – such as walking, biking, skating, carpooling, or public transit. In Sonoma County, transportation accounts for over 60% of the CO2 emissions! It has the biggest impact on our carbon footprint, and luckily, it is the easiest behavior to change. The goal is to get more people moving their bodies, raising their heart rates, and coordinating with their neighbors to try commutes that are healthier for them and the planet.
With the numbers still rolling in, there has been record student participation this year!
Seven high schools participated in this year’s Challenge – Healdsburg High School, Montgomery High School, Windsor High School, Analy High School, Sonoma Valley High School, Maria Carillo High School, and Santa Rosa High School. Overall, the participation is consistently increasing – both in totals across the county and at each school returning to the annual Challenge. The largest increase over last year was a 168% boost in participation at Montgomery High School. The greatest overall participation was at Windsor High School with 379 students. Most importantly, ALL of the participating high school did an amazing job of rallying and encouraging students to rise to the challenge!
Student groups at each school planned their own fun and interactive activities to celebrate and encourage classmates during the two weeks. Many schools 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-mo sprint on bicycles where the winner is the last to cross the finish line. Throughout the Challenge, student organizers learn about event planning, measuring baselines and targets, engaging others, and measuring their impact.
At the end of the Challenge, each school awards a new bicycle – sponsored by Trek Bicycle – to one lucky participant. Additionally, the classes with the greatest participation at each school are celebrated with parties sponsored by Mombo’s Pizza and Straus Ice Cream.
With record participation and strong student organizing, the ECO2school Challenge is a special part of the immediate and longterm efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County and beyond.
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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