Students gather for a virtual networking party to culminate Shift Day, a three day event focusing on sustainable solution to the climate crisis

The Youth Roundtable and Networking party was hosted by Shane Reiser, Founder of the For the World, the organization responsible for planning and organizing Shift Day—a series of events inviting students from Southern Arizona, Hermosillo, Chihuahua, and beyond to share their innovative solutions addressing climate change. The four-day event culminated with the networking party that joined these impressive organizations: University of Arizona’s Compost Cats, Startup Unidos, Tecmilenio University Hermosillo & Chihuahua, and WASTE NOT / NOGECO.

The structure of the event was based upon education exchange between these various groups—some who have interacted together before and others meeting for the first time via Zoom video conference. It was a meaningful event for all—from sharing their passion projects to simple tips on composting at home.

The event kicked off with a student panel of UArizona’s Compost Cats. These university students shared manageable ways to compost and reduce waste, as well as their views on what sustainability means to them:

  • Compost Cats—Madison Padgett - “Sustainability is for me is something that is really accessible, there’s tons of things that you can do on your own that goes even beyond what we’ve been taught — like taking shorter showers and  recycling and those things are awesome and great, and puts you in the mindset of sustainability and  living a more purposeful and mindful lifestyle so we can go on to make bigger institutional and structural changes that need to happen in our greater society and industry and things that are making really, really big impacts.”
  • Compost Cats — Daniel Collazo - “Eating less meat is always a good option to be sustainable, it’s generally cheaper, There’s a lot of work  that goes into raising animals, lots of transport, ship the cow from where it was grown to be processed and needs to be refrigerated to get you and then you put it in your freezer for 6 months and forget about it and it’s a shame. There is just so much that goes into meat. Crickets, plants, bugs are a great alternative. I’ve made “chocolate chirpy cookies” with cricket flour and it has a lot of protein in it and tastes the same. Eat bugs kids!”
  • Compost Cats — Mary Spitzer - “The best way to start composting at home, you need a yard—and I live in an apartment, so I do not compost at home, I just take it to a place like what we’re doing at Compost Cats. But the best way to start composting at home is to just start collecting your food waste, you can freeze it if you need to and you can donate it to places like Compost Cats or your local compost org. That’s just the start. Recognizing that food waste is a problem. Collecting it Seeing how much you are creating. Oh that's a lot and you throw it in the trash Because you don't think about it. You just throw it in the trash. And from that point you waste less food.”

As the host, Shane recognized that everyone’s sustainability story is unique, and that’s okay. He told the students that some folks grew up with parents who taught and encouraged their relationship with nature and the environment, while others learned later on how they could reduce their carbon footprint, and some still have much to learn. He says it’s good to recognize where people are at and use knowledge to educate others, no matter where they are on their journey of more sustainable living.

Students from TecMilenio then shared ways that they are incorporating sustainability in their everyday lives:

  • What’s working Is helping the school to separate the recycling. The community is now working to maintain it and keep recycling. And keep sharing that purpose to the other schools, because the school community is very big throughout the state and that can make a big impact.”

Students from Nogales and TecMilenio recognized that in ways it’s difficult to feel like they can make a large impact because of the pandemic and stay-at-home order. However, they mention the relief that Mother Earth is feeling due to 95% less air travel and decreased air pollution. They touch on their hope for the future, and why addressing the climate crisis matters to them:

  • Student from NOGECO, Vivian Probst - “What sets us apart is that we’re realistic about it, we know we can’t fix the whole world in a matter of days, but we can fix our community and impact our community and spread and spread and spread.”
  • Mina Talavera, Social Impact Officer at NOGECO and 7th Grade Student at Little Red Schoolhouse - “I think that sustainability is important to me because earth is our home, and that she’s trying to give us a one and we haven’t been doing much to help with that important task and I thought it would help me feel better and give myself some purpose and help.”

It’s inspiring to see young leaders emerge with tangible solutions to climate change, passionate to make a difference and share their knowledge. With the future in their hands, it gives us hope that we’re making progress to a brighter and more sustainable world for everyone.