Transition Youth in Action!

Back in August, local student leaders joined other area youth and Transition Northfield to plan the event, Mom, Dad, We Need to Talk: Preparing Together for a Changed World. These youth were engaged in every aspect of development and promotion of this event, with the intent of engaging the local community in crafting a positive vision and implementation plan. Youth took the lead on everything from developing the topic to poster design, and talked about their work with Todd Thompson on KYMN radio in November.

On November 12th, Richard Heinberg addressed a group of 230 Northfield residents who came out for an event called, “Mom, Dad, We Need to Talk:  Preparing Together for a Changed World”, which complimented Transition Northfield's Great Unleashing - read more.


Recently, I had the chance to meet over Skype with the lovely Arlo Cristofaro-Hark (age 16) and Helen Forsythe ( age 14) of Transition Youth/YES!, both high school students in Northfield, MN, and hear their thoughts on youth in Transition and the role of youth in shaping the future. 

Skype All together, Transition Youth/ YES! are a rotating group with ten core members, meeting every Saturday afternoon. Both Arlo and Helen credit their parents for initially getting them involved in Transition, and recognize that a lot of other youth just don't know yet that this type of group exists. 

It sounds like all that is about to change. For now, with a successful grant, they've set their sights on working to get permanent recycling bins across town, part of a project proposed through a larger regional initiative called the Youth Energy Summit (YES!).  More broadly, they say they want to raise awareness about peak oil and other issues. In addition to getting permanent recycling bins in town, they're working alongside the adults of Transition Northfield to get events going for youth to have fun and learn about Transition at the upcoming Earth Day celebrations in April, including organizing bracelet-making, hula hooping, a chalk mural, Earth Day banners, live bands, and more.

"The first thing is to get involved. Do it even if there's no one else doing it, even if you don't have peers doing it. Think about what you want to change in your community and start with something simple, " said Helen. Little things like buying recycled toil paper, sourcing local food… "I think the idea of Transition is really important, and we need to act," Arlo added.

Arlo loves arts and writing, and isn't quite sure what things will look like down the road, but says with certainty "peak oil and climate issues are such a big part of what our future will look like…one of the big pieces of the Transition model is about communities coming together" he said. "One thing I want to learn for sure is how to be completely sustainable in my own life." 

Helen recalls a statement that stuck with her while helping out at a local organic CSA in the summer, "Transition could bring us back to the things that naturally make us happy." When asked what advice they had for other youth interested in starting a project in their community, Arlo said "keep going at it, even if it it doesn't work the first time, eventually it'll just go." 

"For youth especially, it's easy to think 'I'm just one person, I'm young,' but we all need to get involved…because really we're the ones that will be affected by this." 

Thanks Helen and Arlo (and the rest of the Transition Youth/YES! in Northfield)!



About the project

WHO: Transition Youth from ARTech and Northfield Public Schools make up the YES! Team in Northfield.

OUR MISSION: Education on relationship between energy and waste, awareness raising, tangible and visible sustainability projects, collaborative relationships with other orgs/individuals in the community, creating an income source to provide seed money for future projects, and fun together building a resilient, sustainable community!
We applied for a $1500 YES! grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation for our first Energy Action

Project: Design and build 16 recycling bins for downtown historic Northfield, intended to reduce waste and maintain the aesthetic appearance required in the historic district.

DETAILS: Students will develop collaborative relationships with aligned organizations and individuals in the community, negotiate the design selection, and work with city government to gain approval for placing the bins in the downtown area. They will also negotiate with Rice County staff and teachers to integrate the education aspect into the schools. The net result to the community is reduction of solid waste by an anticipated 30 tons (2010 summer pilot study), a part time job for a collector/sorter funded by the sale of aluminum, seed money to fund further Transition Youth sustainability projects, and anticipated reduction in household waste and increase in curbside recycling as a result of the educational program. Students will build good will and social capital among stakeholders by considering multiple perspectives as we collect plastic and aluminum in our historic downtown via recycling containers that fit the historic aesthetic.

WHAT’S NEXT? In addition to the recycling collection, students will use the proceeds from aluminum can collections to finance additional identified projects, which include:

  • Convert a diesel school bus to run on used vegetable oil for awareness raising and public transport
  • Work with the Key’s film club for youth production of films for local television focused on Transition stories of individuals and organizations working to address energy, economic, and environmental challenges.
  • Energy efficiency, testing, and retrofitting of businesses and residences – youth learn the skills alongside mentors while working on energy efficiency projects.
  • Youth learn to build home-scale renewable energy projects (solar and wind) working toward development of a small manufacturing business and public training facility.
  • Work with local food groups on the urbanization of horticulture, particularly focused on development of a community fruit and nut orchard.

For more info on Transition Northfield activities, visit


Thanks to Pat Benson for sharing this update on the Northfield Transitiion Youth with us!




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