Why I’m Grading the City of St. Louis Park

Environmental issues — particularly climate change, are very important to me. As my involvement in such issues has increased over the years, so has my desire to create change.

When Larry Kraft first approached me about becoming involved in iMatter, I felt thrilled because the organization seemed perfect for me. But at the time, I didn’t realize the campaign in St. Louis Park would have so much potential to change the city.

The campaign started with building a team. Roots and Shoots, the environmental club at the high school, decided to take on the campaign as a group. The next task involved filling out the Youth Climate Report Card for St. Louis Park — essentially grading the city on its current environmental status. My membership on the St. Louis Park Environment and Sustainability Commission, also known as Sustainable SLP, allowed me to easily and quickly receive the information the report card required. Filling out the report card provided a basis of the city’s environmental status and proof of where change is needed.

Every aspect of the campaign ran pretty smoothly to this point. I presented the report card to Sustainable SLP, and the commission gave Roots and Shoots support in its effort to present the report card to City Council.

The next step led us to the petitions; this is where the campaign became a little more difficult. Roots and Shoots intended to get approximately 700 signatures — or around half the school, to sign the petition saying St. Louis Park must address climate change and take action now.

Overall students willingly signed the petition, however it became apparent that most just signed because it was right in front of them, not truly knowing its meaning or caring about its purpose. After a while we ended up approaching the same students in our lunch over and over again, but we still managed to get nearly half the school to sign. These petitions served as an eye-opener for City Council by showing the leaders of St. Louis Park that youth have a voice and are willing to advocate for the future of the environment.

After completing the report card and gathering signatures, it came time to narrow in on the actual presentation to City Council. I volunteered to speak, along with Sophia Skinner, Owen Geier, and Lukas Wrede.

When March 21 came, the day we presented to City Council, I didn’t realize how much support we would receive. I’m extremely pleased that St. Louis Park’s City Council is filled with such understanding and aware adults. Of course we intended to point out shortcomings in the city’s sustainability initiatives, but the Council accepted the criticism without reluctance and even championed our efforts to push it.

It wasn’t until the presentation day that I understood the impact our team could make. We were featured in the Star Tribune and Sun Sailor and took a picture with the mayor. People from outside the high school came to speak in support of our work. Prior to the meeting, Roots and Shoots and Larry were highlighted in the St. Louis Park Magazine.

Looking back on the experience, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to speak to City Council. Not everyone, especially students, can say they spoke in front of the leaders of their city advocating for their passion, let alone receive the support Roots and Shoots did.

We’re looking forward to taking the next step in the iMatterNow campaign by urging City Council to pass a Climate Inheritance Resolution stating the Council will address climate change within the city and work to reach net zero emissions by 2040. Roots and Shoots intends to work with other cities and schools as well. Our group has begun to help concerned students in Edina form their own campaign and we also visited Susan Lindgren Elementary School to encourage younger students to become involved too. We also plan to reach out to the St. Louis Park Middle School to start yet another campaign, because the more youth involved, the greater the impact on the city.

I’m determined to continue to push St. Louis Park and feel hopeful for a future working with City Council to truly make the city a leader in sustainability and an example for the rest of the world to follow.

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