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Green wishes for 2024 from Peterborough youth

January 4th, 2024

The Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) 2023 cohort cycle a 22-kilometre route through Peterborough's bikeways to learn more about the City of Peterborough Cycling Master Plan. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

The Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) 2023 cohort cycle a 22-kilometre route through Peterborough’s bikeways to learn more about the City of Peterborough Cycling Master Plan. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

By: Lili Paradi, Communications Manager

2024 brings promise that all generations will work together for common goals. Whether it is by developing ideas around climate change adaptation, improving the health of our cities, or identifying areas of improvement for our municipal government, we know that youth can be pivotal components of change.

19 Peterborough youth, all enrolled in the Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) program this fall, were invited to answer the question: “What is your Green Wish for Peterborough for 2024?”.

A clear consensus was drawn around 6 different topics, in no particular order of significance, for improving sustainability in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

Creating an Accessible Climate Conversation for All

The 2022 cohort of Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) attends a workshop at the Trent Vegetable Gardens to learn about sustainable farming practices. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

The 2022 cohort of Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) attends a workshop at the Trent Vegetable Gardens to learn about sustainable farming practices. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

There was an expressed desire for the discourse and action surrounding climate change initiatives to be accessible to the entire community.

“One thing I love in sustainability is community, and the collaboration between community members.” – Joah

“I wish that schools in Peterborough would implement more de-stigmatizing climate education programs, to improve our sense of community. To make busing more accessible, and increase popularity of small businesses, are some examples which allow for our community to be able to act on climate change.”- Rayne

Increased Access to Renewables & Unique Housing Solutions

Otonabee Conservation and Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) partner to plant over 100 native plants into a pollinator and rain garden in order to prevent storm water runoff. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

Otonabee Conservation and Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) partner to plant over 100 native plants into a pollinator and rain garden in order to prevent storm water runoff. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

The YLS youth spoke to a wish that falls in line with global commitments to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Not only that, but students wished for new and existing buildings (including schools) to include infrastructure like green roofs, rain gardens, and renewable energies.

“We need better use of energy and getting energy from green sources, such as hydro and solar.” – Dawson

“I wish to see more solar power throughout the city. I want it to be accessible. I wish to see solar be the norm.” – Sunny

“I would like to see government incentives and contracts for green home renovations as well as renewable energy production.” – Tanner

Conscious & Conscientious Consumerism

Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) students present at the 2022 COP15 Biodiversity summit in Montreal. Their presentation, titled “Vision 2022 – 20 Youth Raise Their Voices on 22 Targets” spoke to the future the world created after 2022, when local and world leaders have embraced biodiversity and climate change targets. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) students present at the 2022 COP15 Biodiversity summit in Montreal. Their presentation, titled “Vision 2022 – 20 Youth Raise Their Voices on 22 Targets” spoke to the future the world created after 2022, when local and world leaders have embraced biodiversity and climate change targets. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

Another priority was very clear: Peterborough holds pride in keeping things local, and our youth want to keep that alive. They see it as a worthwhile sustainability effort that reduces waste, and transportation emissions.

“I wish to see more people become conscientious consumers and stay as local as possible.” – Lucía

“I want to see more people trying to recycle, and to thrift their clothes.” – Kenzie

The Development of More Green Transportation Infrastructure

The 2023 cohort of Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) were invited to GreenUP to talk about our responsibility to the environment, and to reflect on their Green Wishes for Peterborough for 2024. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

The 2023 cohort of Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) were invited to GreenUP to talk about our responsibility to the environment, and to reflect on their Green Wishes for Peterborough for 2024. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Cycleways, electric busses, more bus routes and more accessible transit bus passes were also on the “Wish List” for 2024.

“Imagine if we had electric buses in all our schools and electric city buses. We have so many schools. It would lower our carbon emissions significantly.” – Jaina

“I would love for Peterborough to have bus-only lanes so there is less traffic and it will encourage people to take transit.” – Averie

“We need more bike lanes that are protected. We need electric school buses” – Piravinth

“I would love to see people out walking, biking, and taking public transit instead of driving, and I hope to see more people out doing it.” – Rowan

Taking Our Waste Management System to the Next Level

Youth take a look at a dried native and naturalized plant wall at GreenUP’s offices in downtown Peterborough. Many of the plants were harvested and collected from Ecology Park. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

Youth take a look at a dried native and naturalized plant wall at GreenUP’s offices in downtown Peterborough. Many of the plants were harvested and collected from Ecology Park. (Photo: Cameron Douglas / YLS)

Peterborough’s Green Bin and Clear Bag Program were just the beginning for Peterborough youth. Their Green Wishes included an expansion of the program, to allow for food waste to be collected from businesses, and schools, in addition to an ambitious goal for all of Peterborough to be free of single-use plastic waste.

“I think our school should have better composting system.” – Arianna

“I would like to see my school put an emphasis on composting as a way to improve its waste management plan.” – Nick

Improving Sustainability Education in Our Community

Karen O’Krafka (left) introduces the Youth Leadership in Sustainability class to Peterborough GreenUP through an interactive talking circle activity before they were asked to contribute their 2024 green wishes for Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Karen O’Krafka (left) introduces the Youth Leadership in Sustainability class to Peterborough GreenUP through an interactive talking circle activity before they were asked to contribute their 2024 green wishes for Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

The YLS program is an application-based, fall semester course for Grade 11 and 12 students across the region. The program encourages active participation in community projects and education opportunities centered around sustainability and community.

This cohort expressed an overwhelming wish for more programs like these to stretch across all age groups, and outside of the classroom walls.

“My wish is to improve sustainability education specifically on what we can do, especially in schools. We need to get them thinking and to pass on knowledge, especially in the climate crisis.” – Jacob

“I would love to see my school starting a program like YLS, one that gets students actively involved in real world issues and teaches us how to live healthfully, sustainably, and how to lead with that knowledge.” – Josie

“I would like to see Climate Education deeply embedded in our classrooms – inside and outdoors.” – Anonymous

Perhaps, while setting intentions for the 2024, these answers can help inform the decisions made to improve environmental resilience in our community.

YLS is a Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board program in partnership with Trent University, the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC) and Fleming College. This article was written with support from the Youth Leadership in Sustainability class, as well as Founder of YLS and teacher/coordinator Cameron Douglas, and GreenUP Program Coordinator of Educational Programs, Karen O’Krafka.

Thank you to the YLS Students – December 2023 Cohort

Josie Wilcox

Lucía Fuentes

Rowan Irwin

I.B.

Nicholas (Nick) Kirkpatrick

Tanner Harris Barton

Sunny Woodcroft

Kenzie Dunn

Rayne Froggatt

Joah Gillam

Averie Hayes

Piravinth Logeswaran

Dawson Gillespie

V.B.

Jacob Lefebvre

Arianna Kloosterman

R.F.

K.C.

Jaina Picken

Posted in Climate Action

Partners

Trent University

Trent University

Kawartha World Issues Centre

Kawartha World Issues Centre