Archive for the 'Summer of Solutions' Category

Iowa City promotes environmental education in local high schools

Cross-posted from by Kerri Sorrell

Focus often eludes high school students with seven different classes covering seven different subjects and too much homework to jam in their backpacks at the end of the day – but on Thursday, April 5, EcoCentric and Envirocity, environmental clubs at two Iowa City high schools, teamed up with Iowa City Summer of Solutions to concentrate class discussions on one issue: the environment.

The daylong event, Focus the Classroom, encouraged teachers to relate the subjects they teach to current environmental issues. Last summer, Zach Gruenhagen, Bailey McClellan and Noelle Waldschmidt from the Iowa City solutionary team worked to complete a website with sustainability-focused lesson plans for every subject area, to help teachers more easily integrate the environment into their classes. In addition, presentations ran all day from environmental leaders in the Iowa City community, including Tim Dwight – a Iowa City High graduate and former professional football player.

Dwight, a popular speaker at both high schools, co-founded a renewable energy company called Integrated Power Corporation after retiring from the San Diego Chargers. At the Focus the Classroom event, he gave presentations extolling the virtues of solar energy.

“This shift [to renewable energy] that I’m going to talk about is your generational shift, and it’s going to be massive. Producing energy with wind and solar will change the world because those resources are available anywhere, and you’re going to see it,” he told students at West High school.

Read more …

Continue reading ‘Iowa City promotes environmental education in local high schools’

Thoughts following Midwest Powershift

Cross-posted from by Ruby Levine

I spent the weekend at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Among the rallies, trainings, and speeches, I was able to catch some downtime with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders and participants from around the Midwest. Especially valuable was a conversation I had with members of other Midwestern programs on Saturday night.

500 young people applaud Joshua Kahn Russell's keynote poem at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Photo credit Ben Hejkal.

This conversation helped me articulate two things: one, the “good environmentalists vs. the evil polluters” framing I saw a lot of other places during the conference makes me deeply uncomfortable, and two, if the green economy is going to work it needs to be the whole economy, not a side industry.

Continue reading ‘Thoughts following Midwest Powershift’

Apply to Start a Summer of Solutions Program in Your Community!

Cross-posted from by Ruby Levine.

The Summer of Solutions is a program for young people who want to build just, sustainable economies in their communities.

We want to invite YOU to be one of those young people building those solutions. Apply here by October 22 to start a program in your community or to join an existing program leader team.

Running a program gives you the opportunity to create and support green economy projects that build power for people who currently don’t have as much access AND to empower young people from your community and beyond with the skills and strategies they need to do the same thing wherever they go next.

Past Summer of Solutions programs have:

  • Built community gardens and farms on vacant lots
  • Taught neighbors how to use bikes as an effective form of transit
  • Run summer camps for children to help them learn about healthy eating and growing their own food
  • Founded and partnered with energy businesses to create a community-based clean energy system
  • Created community spaces, from mini-golf courses in the coal fields of West Virginia to a playground in Detroit, MI
  • Designed and organized for green manufacturing at a closing car factory in Saint Paul, MN
  • Continue reading ‘Apply to Start a Summer of Solutions Program in Your Community!’

The View from Four Years Out

Cross-posted from, where you can find more stories of young people building the green economy.

When I helped close the 2011 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions three weeks ago, I knew something amazing was happening, but in the flurry of it all I wasn’t really able to identify it. I started to get a sense of it when I first sat down at the Grand Aspirations August Gathering two weeks ago, when forty people from all over the country streamed in with wondrous stories of their work creating the green economy. By the end of the Gathering, last week, the full depth of the change was starting to dawn on me and was brought to the front of my attention when Ethan Buckner, a friend and Oakland Summer of Solutions Program Leader, said smiling at the end of a big group hug, ‘you know, we’ve created something really remarkable in the past few years’. Now, after a week of catching up and taking the next steps forward back in Minnesota, I’m finally seeing the view from four years out.

Four years ago was about 6 months after the events that got Cooperative Energy Futures and the Alliance to Reindustrialize for a Sustainable Economy off the ground – the seeds of my green economy work in the Twin Cities. It was about 6 months before the vision for the Summer of Solutions and Grand Aspirations emerged. Four years ago, there had been no national gatherings of thousands of youth activists, candidate Barack Obama was barely a competitor, and the economy had not yet tanked. The dream of a green economy was barely starting to be voiced, and the idea that we could sustain ourselves, our communities, and the future of our world by creating new ways to feed, house, power, and transport our society was an exciting but utopian ideal.

So what has changed?
Continue reading ‘The View from Four Years Out’

Launching Summer Projects: We’re Getting Dirty to Go Clean

Guest post from Matt Kazinka, leader with the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions. Cross posted from

Sometimes the quickest way to a clean energy economy is to get a little dirty. That’s right, it’s time to get our hands in the dirt and physically build the clean and just energy economy we want. And that’s exactly what young people across the country are doing this summer. We’re stepping up to get our hands dirty creating local clean energy solutions like community gardens, home weatherizations, and clean energy cooperatives.

This summer, youth leaders across the country are launching a host of community-based projects that will revitalize our economy in an environmentally sustainable and socially just manner. These projects range widely from building community gardens in Oakland to stopping the construction of a dirty coal plant in Georgia. But they all have one thing in common: DIY. Young people aren’t waiting for the government to act. We are stepping up to show our elected officials that we have the power in our own communities to create what we want and demand that they put dirty politics aside and follow our lead.

Changing the way our policies system works means changing our relationship with our communities. Through these projects, young people are working in partnership with diverse local organizations and coalitions to build the green economy from the ground up. With creativity, collaboration, and hard work, they are demonstrating that there is endless potential for prosperity at our fingertips. This summer, we will pilot ground-breaking strategies for energy efficiency, urban agriculture, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, waste reduction, and green industry.

We want a clean energy economy that supports everyone in a way the dirty energy economy never could. The era of segregated neighborhoods, polluted politics and economic apartheid has been played out. We have inherited deep-seated problems – climate change, political turmoil, social inequities, and economic disparities of mass proportions. Nothing about these challenges is simple, but nothing about them is inevitable, either. We have the power and are creating change. Continue reading ‘Launching Summer Projects: We’re Getting Dirty to Go Clean’

Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome

At a youth climate meeting in Minnesota in January 2008, a neat idea emerged from discussion:

‘We need to start training young people, not just FOR green jobs, but TO CREATE green jobs. We should start in the Twin Cities this summer.’

Fast-forward three years, and over 250 young people have been trained over three years in Summer of Solutions programs around the country to create innovative and self-sustaining solutions around energy efficiency, green industry, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and smart transportation and design that advance job creation, social justice, and community empowerment. A network of over 70 youth leaders has coalesced to launch a national organization from nothing and develop 2011 Summer of Solutions programs that will support hundreds of youth in creating the clean energy economy in 15 cities nationwide. These programs have expanded rapidly in number, quality, and sustainability over the years without grant support, and with a major influx of funding and leadership in late 2010, we’re just hitting our stride.

As you read on, I’d encourage you to think of any young people (individuals or groups) who might be interested in a summer program based on community-based innovation in the clean energy economy. If so, please invite them to apply to any of our 15 programs nationwide by April 24th at

Continue reading ‘Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome’

Launch the Summer of Solutions: Change the Story

This is a call.

On the basic level, it’s very simple; it’s a call for youth leaders all across the country who are ready to dig down into the grassroots and work with people in their communities to create solutions. We’re looking for leaders who want to plan a summer program next summer that will start, grow, and expand green ventures at the community level that meet the needs of our neighbors (food, housing, transit, energy, jobs), show the world what is possible, and start to out-compete the dirty energy systems that run our world.

You’re in? Just find a friend who agrees and APPLY HERE. Priority deadline midnight 10/24 – just give us a heads up if it will take a bit longer.

Need more background? Check out this video by my co-worker Matt Kazinka, read the background info in the application, or check us out at

But really, this is about a lot more than running a cool program next summer. This is  a call about changing the game for our economy, our communities, and our climate.

Continue reading ‘Launch the Summer of Solutions: Change the Story’

Getting to Work

This past weekend, the largest day of climate action in history, united tens of thousands of people all across the planet in “getting to work”.

People came together in communities across the world to make neighborhoods more efficient, grow food, install renewable energy, plant trees, create bike transit teams, and so much more. In the face of political inaction, a global economy that seems hesitant to go green or to recover, and a climate clock whose ticking is ever more audible in Pakistan’s floods and Russian fires, these people from all across the planet are getting to work and telling the world to do the same.

It’s a start.

Building a green economy is the work of a lifetime. We will not reinvent the electrical grid, rebuild our cities and their transit infrastructure, or renew our food system overnight. Rather than removing urgency, this long time horizon should heighten it while making our movement more thoughtful and strategic. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Now is the absolute latest that we can get started, but it will be a long haul.

How will our generation survive this marathon race to a society that can sustain itself? The job market is slowly slipping, and our generation is the most unemployed, particularly for young people from low-income and minority backgrounds. The economic foundations on which young people have long relied to pay the bills, or drifted back to after the bright-eyed aspirations of youth fade from us are themselves fading. As a generation, we are increasingly finding ourselves with our backs to a wall in an uncertain world.

Its time to get to work. Continue reading ‘Getting to Work’

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Cross-posted from courtesy of Summer of Solutions Twin Cities participant Brianna Besch.

Last Sunday afternoon my day was rudely interrupted when the power went out. It was off for less than three hours but for that time I felt completely incapacitated, disconnected from the rest of the world and lost, not being able to do anything productive. Though logically I knew it was true these three hours demonstrated, more then all of the facts and figures I have learned, just how dependent we are on power to function on a most basic level.

See car on the road for scale

This realization was quite timely, just after our visit to rural, Western Minnesota and one of the largest wind farming areas in the country. Minnesota is leading the country in wind power. Driving by farms of corn and beans we could see hundreds of wind turbines all around, it almost seemed like the cute baby .75MWs were slowly growing into larger adult 1.5MW turbines as we continued down the road. While impressive from a distance I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of a wind turbine up close.

Continue reading ‘The Answer is Blowing in the Wind’

Fayetteville Summer of Solutions Grows Community Power!

x-posted from Solutionaries

As Communications Facilitator for Summer of Solutions, I’m featuring every program to paint a broad picture of the depth and variety of solutions young people are building across the nation.

This post is drawn from a conversation I had with Amanda Bancroft, an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology. The main organizers of Fayetteville SoS are: Andrea Love, Maggie Strain, Karina Hunt, Banah Ghadbian, Jeanie Lopez-Hall, Chelsea Mouber, and Brian Kupillas. The post is co-authored by me and the Fayetteville team.

Leaders in the program have a strong interest in gardening and permaculture. There are already over 50 gardening projects, organizations, and networks in Fayetteville, and so Amanda sees the role of Summer of Solutions as one that will connect these already dynamic organizations together. The Fayetteville team has already partnered with the OMNI Center’s garden, the World Peace Wetlands Prairie, and the community garden at Unity church. In addition, the group has been given several acres of land and a greenhouse, which the team is hoping to develop for gardening. Continue reading ‘Fayetteville Summer of Solutions Grows Community Power!’

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