Kids take lead as environmental stewards
By Lou Fancher
A person could learn a lot from stories about single socks, straws, a 12-year-old desert tortoise named “Sanford,” a school garden disaster — and sweet salvage — and other engaging tales at the 12th annual Lafayette Earth Day Festival.
The event April 23 at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center followed the theme “Sustainable Youth” and included youth performance groups, Lamorinda 4-H’s petting zoo, produce displays, a “Repair Café for repair of household items and more.
The four-way partnership between the library, Sustainable Lafayette, the city of Lafayette and the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce also offered screenings of youth-made films with environmental themes, the Lafayette Green Awards, food trucks, a scavenger hunt, the “Safe Moves Bike Rodeo” and a community art project.
And it was kids who showed their special knack for learning and leading adults along sustainability’s path.
At the booth of Girl Scout Troop 32475, Kira Chan, 10, described the important elements of cat beds and toys she was making for the Antioch Animal Shelter as part of a Bronze Award project.
“We use PVC poles that someone else might throw away,” the Springhill Elementary School student said. “We make sock toys from socks we’ve grown out of, or single socks who’ve lost a partner.”
Kids, she insisted, show that they care about the environment by not littering and having gardens. Chan hopes to someday be a chef and own a restaurant with a garden that provides vegetables for the dishes she makes.
Picking up litter seemed to be a message all the kids understood. Stanley Middle School student Jeremy Enriquez, 13, said he picks up trash he sees other kids drop in the schoolyard or lunchroom. “I just care. I can’t explain it. Maybe because every little action counts?”
Chloe Hausmann, 11, said the family’s desert tortoise mostly wanders in the backyard and eats vegetables. And she demonstrated a wealth of knowledge: the rescued desert tortoise is on the endangered species list and the Hausmann family has registered him with the California Fish & Games Department.
Because this spring has been unseasonably cool, she said, “We bring him inside so he doesn’t go back into hibernation by accident.”
Protecting the earth and keeping its animals safe, she said, are the most important things people can do for future generations’ happiness.
The most obvious example of adults impacting kids and the environment came in a story told by Calia Lockey, a 16-year-old sophomore at Las Lomas High School.
Calia joined Global Student Embassy in 2016. The nonprofit works with school students on local, national and international eco-action projects.
“I wanted a group that was doing things worldwide and on campus,” she said.
When new solar panels and the need to place an energy receptacle resulted in the GSE club’s onsite garden being removed, Calia said her enthusiasm waned.
“Then they decided to not even put the receptacle where they’d ripped out the garden,” she said.
But good news arrived when the solar company offered to pay for replanting and used students’ garden designs. With tomato plants in raised beds the result of a first workday, Calia said more plantings and a mural are planned before the summer break.
Chamber president Jay Lifson said young people are more in tune with sustainability and environmental action than older generations.
“They’re leading their families, understanding science and knowing that this is their future. It’s exciting. It’s hope,” he said.
Sustainable Lafayette board member Brad Crane seconded Lifson’s evaluation and added a story from his family.
“My kids, age 13, 11 and 8, have opened my eyes to leaving this planet a better place than I found it. Plastic straws? The one’s that come in drinks, especially drinks served to kids? My kids know that the best-case scenario is that the straws end up in landfills.”
Worst case is that the straws enter the marine ecosystem.
“My kids don’t take them when they’re offered. Now, they have me asking restaurants, ‘Why do you carry them?’’”