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Program Spotlights: Project Climate Club

Project Climate Club members with oak tree seedlings in the cab of a truck.“I’ve always been a garden kid,” says Alexi Lindeman, a senior at Heritage High School in Brentwood, CA, and coordinator of a 2020 Carton 2 Garden project that received an Honorable Mention. “My dad’s an entomology teacher so we’ve always played with bugs and had gardens of our own.” Over the years, Alexi’s familiarity with the natural world and gardens has grown into a concern for the environment and a desire to make the world a better place. She vividly remembers in 8th grade learning about plastic pollution in the oceans and then hearing about climate change for the first time in her sophomore year. “The more I learned about climate change, the more shocked I was and I began wondering what are we doing to fix this?” (Alexi is pictured above, with the yellow mask.)

Alexi joined Project Climate, an environment club at Heritage High School, and became one of the group’s officers. “There are big environmental and social justice issues in the world and young people may feel like they don’t have the power to do anything about that, but through Project Climate we can give young people the power to do something.” The club has around 20 active members, some of whom participate in Sustainable Leaders in Action, a group of high school and college-age students working together to promote the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge. Other club members lead educational activities during lunch and recess periods at a nearby elementary school. “We have lots of fun, dressing up as park rangers and being goofy and doing charades as a way to communicate sustainable actions,” shares Alexi. “I’m hoping we can show kids from a younger age that instead of being scared of a problem or feeling pessimistic, that they can feel like they can make changes right now.”

When she heard about the 2020 Carton 2 Garden Contest, Alexi was inspired and decided to bring a proposal to her fellow Project Climate clubmates: grow native oak trees to help replenish forests destroyed by the recent California wildfires “I knew we had a lot of oak trees in the area and I wanted to tie in a way to make it more climate related than just a garden. I knew the people I was working with may not have the time to maintain a garden, but on the other hand growing trees might be easier and more beneficial in the long term. These trees will be sequestering carbon for years, but a garden might only last a few years.” 

Cart holding oak tree seedlings in milk jugs
Oak tree seedlings

Project Climate began collecting milk cartons and jugs to serve as planting containers for foraged acorns. The group also used CAD software to design a planter box with a water collection system that could be used for holding all the seedlings. For over a year the club tended the saplings until this past January when they finally received the go ahead to plant at California State University’s East Bay campus as part of the school’s ongoing carbon sequestration efforts. “Seeing all the trees in the ground with the little flags sticking up and knowing that a year ago they were acorns and knowing that in future years they’ll be trees—that’s amazing!”

When reflecting on the experience, Alexi notes that “the project didn’t happen all at once, it was a series of steps and each success was a mini victory.” This reality—that change takes time, that it’s still possible to make a difference and to serve both your immediate community and the planet, that it all starts with caring—is one she wants to communicate to other youth who might be looking at the world around them and wondering what’s next. “Don’t be afraid of failure! Start with one action and build, then keep taking that action until something sticks. There are other people out there that want to support you, you just need to reach out to them.”

Keep up to date on Project Climate’s activities and initiatives!