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The new coalition aims to encourage sustainable policy in Newberg government

A few months back, Maryl Kunkel was searching for ways to get involved in environmental activism locally. Beyond a group that fought to ban plastic bags, not much existed in Newberg.

That, Kunkel said, is why she and other local leaders formed the Newberg Sustainable Solutions Group, which advocates for policies from local governments and volunteers to promote sustainability in the area.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Youths and adults alike gathered at Newberg High School during the recent 'climate strike' to plant trees and rid the grounds of invasive species like English Ivy.

"Forming this group was a desire on my part to make an impact on my community," Kunkel said. "You can change your individual behavior and make an impact by voting, but our realm of influence is our family, friends and local community. I wanted to focus my attention on building a coalition of people in town to do some important stuff."

The group meets monthly and has become involved with work at local schools. On the day of a recent "climate strike" organized by Newberg students, representatives for the sustainability group were on site to help students plant trees and remove invasive species on school property.

Kunkel, who is the chairperson for SSG, said the group is also seeking out a way to inventory the greenhouse gas emissions in Newberg. While this would be a costly endeavor, she said a local environmental organization could provide the resources for the city to inventory its emissions if it agreed to the inventory.

Students at local schools can also play a part in reducing the cost and manpower needed to undertake such an ambitious endeavor.

"(Newberg High School biology teacher) Pete Siderius is looking to have his students do a lot of the research," Kunkel said. "This is a way of getting our youth involved in seeing what's going on in our community. Their research can provide a baseline for us to provide recommendations on what actions our community can take."

The youth movement toward action on climate change doesn't stop there. Kunkel joined a local middle school student at a recent city council meeting; the pair urged action by the council on climate change in the near future. Inspiring youths to get involved is a big part of the sustainability group's mission, Kunkel said, and organizing is something that comes to her naturally.

"It's something that I've always been interested in," Kunkel said. "I went to UC Berkley and my undergrad (degree) was in environmental policy and social organization. Creating more sustainable communities has always been a real passion of mine.

"Our goal as an organization is to build a coalition of community partners so we can provide leadership, collaboration and guidance on action. We want to reduce our community's greenhouse gas emissions and increase our community's resilience to climate change."

For more information on the group, visit its Facebook page: Newberg Sustainable Solutions Group.

It meets from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month in the community room at the Springbrook fire station. There is no cost to join the group and people of all ages with an interest in sustainability or environmentalism are welcome.


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