At the second annual Finger Lakes Youth Climate Summit, more than 150 participating high school students and environmentalists in the Finger Lakes Region came together to discuss climate action and reform. The day-long event featured workshops led by activists and industry professionals and culminated in climate action plans for each of their communities.
The event was organized by HWS’ Finger Lakes Institute and brought students together from 14 school districts in the surrounding region, including: Canandaigua, Geneva, Honeoye, Livonia, Marcus Whitman, Naples, Penn Yan, Romulus, Seneca Falls, Skaneateles, Union Springs, Waterloo, Homer and York.
In conjunction with National Food Day, the summit’s theme was “Sustainable Food Systems of the Future” and challenged students to consider carbon farming techniques, zero-waste policies, composting, the impact of invasive species and youth leadership, among other topics. Workshop leaders also shared models for inclusive and sustainable food systems at the local level, including the Little Free Farmstand in downtown Geneva that invites everyone to “give, take and swap” fresh produce and sustainability initiatives on the HWS campus, including energy purchasing, waste management and food selection.
During the event, the Finger Lakes Youth Climate Summit intern for the Finger Lakes Institute Isabella Pardales ’21 addressed the students and shared her vision for a future food system that is “integrated, connective, regenerative, inclusive, resilient and transparent.” She also challenged them to take what they learned throughout the day back to their respective schools.
“The students who attended our summit were inspiring, passionate and driven to effect positive environmental change. I am grateful we had the opportunity to incorporate the knowledge of local educators, farmers, small business owners and professionals into the summit,” Pardales says.
The keynote speech was delivered by Syracuse University Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health Jennifer Wilkins, who also serves as president-elect of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Wilkins discussed the daily food choices people make that impact the world’s ecosystems, social equity, cultural diversity and food security.
Workshops throughout the day were led by program directors, teachers and business leaders representing HWS, Siemens Foundation, Delta Environment, Geneva 2020, Impact Earth, Inc., Ontario County Soil & Water Conservation District, Lakeview Organic Grain, Cornell University and Closed Loop Systems.
The summit was made possible by funding from the Siemens Foundation, which invests in workforce development and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In a workshop led by Senior Account Executive at Siemens Corporation Eric Russell, students discussed actions to reduce their nutritional carbon footprint. In addition, The WILD Center is also a sponsor of the event and supports youth climate summits around the world.
After a brainstorming and planning session facilitated by the HWS EcoReps, students presented climate action plans targeting landfill diversion, energy consumption and sustainability communications at their schools. Finger Lakes Institute Education Program Manager Nadia Harvieux and Pardales will stay in touch with the students in the coming months as they implement their climate action plans.