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Napa Climate Now! members and honorees of the 2019 Climate Champions Awards gather at Fuller Park last October.

This is the final article in a series about the 2019 local climate champions, honored at Napa Climate NOW’s Connect the Dots Ride for Climate last October.

What does it take to be a climate champion? Here are the stories of three more people who are providing tangible, effective climate leadership in Napa County, through both words and deeds.

Beth Novak Milliken

Beth Novak Milliken, CEO of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery in St. Helena, was recognized for her winery’s extensive commitment to environmentally-friendly practices and for her leadership on land stewardship.

According to Milliken, Spottswoode’s first winemaker and then vineyard manager, Tony Soter, was a visionary, introducing organic farming in 1985. “This started well before anyone in the industry was even talking about organics,” she explained. “When I started with Spottswoode in 1987, this was already in place. It meshed with my deep environmental sensibilities, as I love the outdoors and have always cared for our planet.”

Spottswoode has been expanding its environmental initiatives ever since, including the restoration of Spring Creek in 2000 on the southern edge of its Estate Vineyard, the installation of solar arrays in 2007, supplemented by its renewables portfolio via Marin Clean Energy’s (MCE) “Deep Green” program, and the decision to join “1% for the Planet” in 2007.

“1% for the Planet means that we give a minimum of 1% of our gross revenue annually to environmental causes,” Milliken said. More recently, by installing new processing equipment and replacing old machinery with new, more efficient models, Spottswoode is saving both energy and water. “We are signatories to the Porto Protocol, which we take seriously, ” she added. (For more information about this international wine industry commitment to combat climate change, see www.portoprotocol.com.)

Milliken plans to do even more in 2020, pursuing LEED certification, a widely recognized green building designation, B-Corp certification for companies dedicated to social and environmental good, and joining the International Wineries for Climate Action, founded by Familia Torres in Spain and Jackson Family Wines in California.

“These are three significant initiatives that will help us be even better stewards of Spottswoode, our community and the planet,” she said.

Milliken is also chairing a new committee at the Napa Valley Vintners called the Environmental Stewardship Committee. “Recognizing that we have ten years to make significant change, it is my goal that the Napa Valley lead in environmental stewardship, being a model for others to follow.”

Patrick Band

Climate Champion Patrick Band is the executive director of the Napa County Bicycle Coalition, taking on this position in 2015. Band and the Bicycle Coalition have been working tirelessly to reduce one of the largest sources of climate pollutants in Napa County and around the state – transportation. According to California Air Resources Board, more than 40% of the greenhouse gases statewide are attributable to transportation (see ww2.arb.ca.gov/ghg-inventory-graphs).

For example, the Bicycle Coalition is partnering with the Napa County Office of Education to develop Safe Routes to School. This program maps out the barriers to students walking or riding their bikes to school. The goal is to eliminate hazards and boost the number of students who walk or ride from the current 5% up to the 50% it was 50 years ago. This will also cut down on traffic congestion and pollution caused by parents driving their children to school.

Band has been an environmental advocate since he was in high school. Now, as a new dad and regular bike commuter, he wants bike riding to be safe and accessible for “anyone and everyone, from 8 years old to 80” who wants to ride a bike.

Irais Lopez-Ortega

Irais Lopez-Ortega, another Climate Champion, is serving her second term on the Calistoga City Council. She was honored for increasingly prioritizing the need to extend climate education to Spanish-speaking communities in the county. This past autumn, she organized a climate change workshop, put on by Napa Climate NOW!, for Spanish-speaking Calistogans.

“The way things are going, it will be very difficult for new generations to survive on this planet,” she said. “We need to think about our children and what world we are leaving to them.” In 2020, Lopez-Ortega’s efforts to reduce climate impacts will focus on conservation, recycling and better use of water resources.

So what does it take to be a climate champion? As the five 2019 climate champions profiled in this series demonstrate, it just takes a willingness to make climate and the environment a priority. There are a lot of ways to help. And another thing they have in common is that they are all engaged with the larger community.

Actions you can take

Participate in Napa’s MLK Day of Action, Monday, Jan. 20:

— 9-10 a.m., Mindfulness Meditation for Compassion led by Napa Climate NOW! member Lori Stelling https://volunteer.cvnl.org/opportunity/a0C0b00000ZHinZ

— 9 am- noon, Bike Trail Clean-up hosted by 2019 Climate Champ Napa County Bicycle Coalition https://volunteer.cvnl.org/opportunity/a0C0b00000ZIhR8EAL

— Noon to 3 p.m., Native Milkweed and Monarch Vineyard Planting hosted by 2018 Climate Champ Napa County Resource Conservation District https://volunteer.cvnl.org/opportunity/a0C0b00000ZHifVEAT

2) Get involved with a local climate action group:

— Napa Climate NOW!’s annual retreat is Sunday, Jan. 26, 9 to 4 p.m. Contact davekearneybrown@yahoo.com. Or sign up for our newsletter for ongoing meetings and events.

— Citizens Climate Lobby’s Happy Hour Get-Together is Tuesday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. at R&D Kitchen, Yountville. Contact neilh2o@gmail.com.

— Schools for Climate Action is an organization for high school students (and a 2019 Climate Champ). Contact isabel.martin@nvusd.org.

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Chris Benz is a retired winemaker and member of Napa Climate NOW!, a local non-profit organization advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science.

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