Students in Salt Lake City drive school district to 100 percent clean energy commitment

salt lake city utah

Earlier this month, the Salt Lake City District School board passed a resolution unanimously establishing the goal of transitioning the school district to 100% clean electricity by 2030, and off of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by 2040. This effort was led by students from Salt Lake’s three major high schools, in collaboration with Utah Sierra Club and Sierra Club’s Climate Parents program.

In advance of the board meeting, students submitted a petition in support of the resolution to the board signed by 800 district students, parents, and staff.

According to Andie Madsen, a leader of the Students for 100% Clean Energy team: “We are really grateful for the board’s leadership in transitioning our district to 100% clean energy, and we’re inspired that something we put into motion as young people will be put into action by our district. People in our generation are facing a lot of uncertainties, from COVID-19 to the climate crisis, and this is a win we’re happy about because it demonstrates our commitment to building the strength of our communities.”

Country-wide trend

There is momentum building among school districts around the country to commit to 100% clean energy to do their part to address climate change and ensure all students throughout the district have access to high-quality learning environments. A commitment of this kind offers a myriad of co-benefits including, saving money on energy bills, improving indoor air quality through energy efficiency measures, and creating opportunities to improve STEM learning by exposure to on-site clean energy technologies.

Districts across the country have made similar commitments, including Los Angeles, Miluakee, San Francisco, and several smaller districts in Minnesota. Salt Lake City School District’s resolution is among the most comprehensive.

Parents, students, teachers, and community members watched the virtual school board meeting to demonstrate broad support for the resolution, and dozens of community members and local organizations submitted letters of support. The public record also included letters of support including from community organizations like Utah Sierra Club, Climate Parents, Utah Clean Energy, the Salt Lake City Sustainability Office, and HEAL Utah.

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The campaign aimed to advance climate solutions and demonstrate youth power in shaping the future. As, Mahider Tadesse, stated, “When I started an environmental club at East High in September, I never thought our involvement would reach this level of impact. This campaign has shown me what a big difference a group of high schoolers can make in leading the way for climate action that has the potential to expand equity by investing cost-savings into underserved students and improving indoor air quality, which will help students–myself and community included–who are disproportionately exposed to air pollution where they live.”

While many of the team are not eligible to vote in elections, they’ve found their way to shape the future they want to see through collaborative process and grassroots organizing. The Student 100% Clean Energy team, Sierra Club Utah and Climate Parents have been working together since last fall, and were able to push forward during the COVID 19 pandemic through digital engagements with board members and at board meetings.

Pretty neat. Kudos to those kids and the school board for getting this done.

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