Everyone is talking climate protection these days. Private businesses have emerged to sell you everything from solar panels for your rooftops to earth-friendly, alternative fibers and textiles for your household convenience. The public sector is taking an active role too; from evaluating operations for energy efficiency and savings to incentivizing employees to take public transit or carpool to work (this is a topic I will address in a future column).

These are all important strides, however as we all know, real change will happen only when each individual commits to change, and that commitment should start as early in life as possible. That is why I started the "Cortese Climate Kids Club." This club is designed to introduce young people (grades three through 12) to simple tips they can use to address climate protection and build awareness at an early age about protecting Mother Earth.

I will confess that I got the idea from my youngest son, Matthew. About two years ago, when he was 8 years old, Matthew told me he wanted to start a club with his cousin where the primary mission would be to save the planet. Fairly simple mission! But what it told me was that kids want to be involved, they just need a little guidance and support from grown ups. From here the Cortese Climate Kids Club was born. Members sign a card (which is then co-signed by their parents) pledging to:

n Turn off the light when leaving rooms

n Turn off the water faucet while brushing teeth



Ride a bike to school or to the library with parents

n Make sure the heater in their home is set to 68 degrees and the A/C is set to 78 degrees

n Bring reusable bags to the grocery store

n Wherever possible, change light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs

n Tell their friends how they can help the environment.

After returning their pledge card, members of the Kids Club will receive periodic updates on volunteer opportunities, tips for saving resources, puzzles and other activities related to environmental protection. The long-term goal is simple but hopefully far-reaching: to build generations of individuals who from a young age are hardwired to be environmentally mindful in their daily practices.

I recently visited a classroom in Berryessa to talk with kids about the importance of protecting the environment. The whole class signed up to join the club and a few months later, we honored the class at a Board of Supervisors meeting here at the county building. The class took light rail to get here, instead of carpooling, and they knew exactly how much they had saved in carbon emissions by doing so. I'm currently on a mission to visit as many youth as possible to encourage their participation.

I have similar visits set up for the coming fall ranging from classrooms to cultural centers. If you know someone in grades three through 12 who might be interested in joining the club, or if you are involved in a youth group and would like for me to come out to do a presentation, please contact Steve Blomquist in my office at steven.blomquist @bos.sccgov.org or 299-5030.

I believe that one child at a time, we can completely reform how we value our natural resources. As always, if you have questions or comments on this or any matter, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at dave.cortese@bos.sccgov.org or 299-5030.