Two Hopkins High School students, Lia Harel and Lucy Avenson, were among the youth from Hopkins and Minnetonka High School who presented the Youth Climate Report Card to the city of Minnetonka at its council meeting on April 30. The Report Card is a science-based tool that measures how well a city is doing at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the levels needed to protect the youngest generation from the worst effects of the climate crisis.
The students, co-presidents of the Hopkins Earth Club, became interested in Minnetonka's carbon footprint earlier this year. They began their efforts by collaborating with earth clubs from neighboring school districts and the Sierra Club. Eventually, the Hopkins Earth Club and the Minnetonka Earth Club joined forces since both high schools resided in the city of Minnetonka.
"We cannot waste anymore time turning our heads away from climate change," said Avenson to the Minnetonka Council. "It is our responsibility to turn our heads back and look at the crisis and start doing what is necessary."
According to research gathered by the students, Minnetonka has strong practices in place to reduce its carbon footprint and few areas where it could improve. Harel and Avenson pointed out that the city's waste collection program was strong. In addition to a robust recycling program, an organics waste collections system was recently implemented. Areas of growth and improvement included conversion of energy form fossil fuels and nonrenewable sources to more renewable energies like solar and wind.
As part of their proposal to the council, the students called for the city of Minnetonka to adopt a Climate Inheritance Resolution, a commitment to develop a Climate Action Plan to help reduce the community's greenhouse gas levels and to have 100 percent of the city's electricity provided by renewable sources.
The reaction from the Minnetonka city council was positive, with at least two council members expressing admiration and appreciation for the students' work. The council is currently reviewing the student's proposal and plans to further discuss the objects and goals later this year.
This is the first time the Hopkins Earth Club has presented to a city council. Other school districts have also recently taken up such activism strategies. In fact, about 200 students from Hopkins, Minnetonka, and St. Louis Park attended the April 30 council meeting in show of support for the proposal.
John Sammler, a science teacher at Hopkins High School and advisor of the Hopkins Earth Club, described the students’ activism as inspirational highlight of his high school career.
"Overall, the event was incredibly impressive," Sammler said. "Our students presented with such heart and poise. Our school and community should be incredibly proud of their representation and desire to improve their community. It was one of the best things I have seen students do in my tenure as a teacher."