Sustainable Tompkins is announcing a Youth Climate Challenge open to middle and high school students in Tompkins County. The long journey back to climate stability will take several generations of sustained effort and innovation as we transition our economic and social systems to meet human needs without upsetting Earth’s life support system. We will need leaders of all ages on this journey. The Youth Climate Challenge will provide $5,000 for small grants up to $1,000 to support projects that reduce CO2 emissions or spread awareness of how climate change will affect the Finger Lakes Region. Funds can be used for equipment, supplies, or services such as printing. School classes and clubs, as well as local youth groups, are encouraged to take up the Challenge and see what kind of climate impact they can have by reducing dependency on fossil fuel, changing wasteful habits, or inspiring others to commit themselves to action on global warming.

Dr. Timothy Harris, a local pediatrician and supporter of Sustainable Tompkins, proposed the Climate Challenge because of his deep concerns about what climate change means for the future of his young patients. About the same time, Sustainable Tompkins awarded a Neighborhood Mini-Grant to the Paleontological Research Institution to pay for printing and mailing copies of their new Teacher-Friendly Guide™ to Climate Change to every science teacher in the county. Sustainable Tompkins invited the authors of the Guide to join Dr. Harris and other volunteers in crafting a yearlong effort to combine climate science with direct action in our community, led by our young people. Dr. Harris is available as a guest lecturer to classrooms or student clubs to talk about the unfolding impacts of global climate change and how it will affect us locally.

Students can propose a wide variety of activities. Some might result in measurable decreases in CO2 emissions from their schools, homes, libraries, churches, or other buildings. Other projects might use the arts and other persuasive communication to increase awareness about climate impacts and inspire energy conservation measures. Youth groups must be based in Tompkins County and can be of any size, but must have at least one adult advisor.

Grant awards will be on a rolling basis, with applications due on the first of the month. Projects must be completed by June 15, 2019 and students must submit a short written report and make a short presentation of their project at a Youth Climate Challenge Summit. Email to request an application form.