Inspiration can come in many different forms, small and large, ranging widely in complexity. We at Climate Smart are constantly looking for new and different forms of inspiration to keep us going. For me, last week’s inspiration started with a delicious cappuccino and a trip to Exploration Works!, and ended with a spot on impression of Baloo the bear. What does this have to do with Climate Smart? Stay with me…..
My fellow Energy Corps members (and myself) were invited to attend the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) of Montana’s annual summit in Helena last week. We visited three LEED certified building, learned from seven brilliant presenters, and celebrated the successes in green building with this year’s Sustainability Awards. Though the official theme was “Partnership is the New Leadership”, a new theme quickly emerged for me: finding inspiration in the fearless ambition of kids and young people.
We toured Exploration Works as one of the three LEED certified buildings and within moments, we were touching EVERYTHING. Seriously, how do enter a science museum and not immediately turn into a child? We made fast friends with our fellow patrons (the toddlers) at the water pump station, built towering structures with magnetic blocks, and vaguely listened to the list of sustainable materials used in construction. All of that plus the caffeine left my brain buzzing with excitement for the rest of the afternoon. I felt like a kid again.
Throughout the conference, we continually came back to the idea of improving school buildings and providing students with creative opportunities to learn from and engage with green building and energy issues. Our keynote speaker and master of the Baloo impression, Lee Smit, shared stories of his work building an incredible student-led sustainability program for Douglas County School District that grew from 11 students to over 7,000 students in six years. Simply by empowering students of all ages to lead this program, schools starting seeing drastic changes in energy use and behavior from students and staff across the board. Compared to energy efficiency and conservation programs that are typically simplistic and unexciting, the numbers were staggering.
The Sustainability Award winners recognized by USGBC highlighted projects that display the type of bold and innovative thinking that happens when people embrace that fearless ambition found in students like Claire Valases. Claire is an 8th grade student at Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman who was recognized with the Community Champion Award for her efforts to fund the installation of solar panels as part of the new construction taking place at her middle school. She has already raised over $25,000 and has no intention of backing down. I have no doubt she will continue to do amazing things in the future! (Check out Claire’s incredible efforts here and donate to the cause!)