Every year, Napa Climate NOW! honors five outstanding leaders in climate action. This annual award was established in 2018 to showcase outstanding climate projects and advocacy in the Napa community to inspire other individuals, businesses, and groups. This year’s recipients are elected representative Gary Kraus, youth activist Katherine Stilwell, local business Domaine Carneros, community activist Johanna O’Kelley, and the community group Yountville Five. And on Saturday, November 14th, Napa Climate NOW! celebrated their recipients in a socially-distanced Zoom gathering. Read the speeches that honor our wonderful climate leaders… or just listen along to the Zoom call that includes speeches and climate gratitude.

Katie Stilwell
Category: Youth advocate

All of us at Napa Climate Now! thank you for your dedication to the ultimate good cause: pushing back against the ravages of Climate Change. Along with you, we see global warming threatening the future of our world in the most terrifying ways. And here we are living on the only planet that can dazzle a person a dozen times before breakfast, and all of it for free:  oxygen, abundant water – not too hot, not too cold, giant sequoias, terriers, falcons, sea anemones, late night comedy, sunflowers, down comforters, and, when a person gets right down to it, quite a lot more. We, the volunteers who make up Napa Climate Now! welcome your decision to make environmental work your calling. Your work and dedication in meeting the emergency of Climate Change give us hope– and hope is precious stuff, especially now.

Over the summer of 2020, you’ve worked with the Sierra Club and with our group to promote public programs and personal practices that address Climate Change. Your interactions and efforts have demonstrated poise, enthusiasm, and optimism.  And your toolkit of skills and information is growing as you move ahead. 

Your summer internship with the Sierra Club’s Napa Group drew upon all those personal qualities, as well as your knowledge in science, public involvement, and the environment.

         **As a result of your mentorship, two student volunteers were      encouraged to further their work to preserve the environment.

         **Your outreach to the RCD resulted in the Sierra Club’s Coastal Cleanup Event on September 26.

         **Your research on carbon sequestration rates in newly planted    vs. established oak trees showed the critical need to save older trees in order to retain and gain sequestered carbon.

         **The articles you wrote for the Napa Sierra Club newsletter          (August 2020) brought practical information about recycling to     Napa’s residents and businesses.  Your thoughtful look at reducing          plastic went straight to the heart of the matter: there’s no good     plastic, just varying degrees of bad plastic. But you pointed the         way to improving the problem: we can first reduce our demand,    and when that isn’t possible, we can choose the best of the bad   choices by looking for recycled content or post-consumer waste         products on the labels of plastic packaging.  As a sort of bonus, it   was fun to learn that there’s such a thing as “virgin plastic”.

         **You led the design of the “Food Scrap Compost Composting Fights Climate Change” bill insert created for Napa Recycling and Waste Services in October of 2020.

Katie, your work on the Time Out For Trees resolution brought fresh data to our county and gave this program public notice through your presentations to community groups including Napa Climate NOW!, the Napa Sierra Club, and the Napa County League of Women Voters.

You are, in short, a Climate Champion, and we proudly recognize you as such with this award.

Johanna O’Kelley
Category: Community Activist

We’d be justified in adding the tagline: for going above and beyond. Joanna went above and beyond what we would have thought were the limits of one person’s ability to mobilize for climate action.  Toward this goal, she created a multiplier effect through engaging and energizing volunteers. Joanna and her team organized the Climate of Action symposium on climate change held in October 2019, and more recently she helped get out the vote across the country for the national election.

Johanna’s connection with the natural world became central to her life when she was a girl and spent summers in the mountains of North Carolina.  Today, as a Master Gardener, she organizes the business end of the Master Gardeners’ hugely successful annual tomato plant sale.

She grew up in a politically involved family: at 13, she went door-to-door for her father’s city council run and her mother was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  Cut to the present, and Johanna is president of the Democrats of Napa Valley Club and serves on the Napa County Democratic Central Committee.

For years, Johanna and her late husband Bruce, lived on the East Coast as she worked in various marketing jobs.  Along the way, she took part in environmental campaigns –and Bill Clinton’s first campaign — learning as she went along.

In 1996, she landed her dream job in San Francisco at the Sierra Club headquarters, and her understanding of environmental issues skyrocketed.  She realized that it takes something vivid—like the image of a Giant Sequoia next to the Statue of Liberty– which she used in a successful campaign to build Sierra Club membership —or something fun — like a celebrity fashion show for an environmental clothing line at New York’s Museum of Natural History — to capture the public’s attention.

She brought this knowledge and experience to the volunteers planning the Climate of Action symposium.  During the 2018 elections, Johanna was concerned that candidates weren’t talking about climate change, despite its increasing threat to future wellbeing. She wanted to inform the public about the science of climate change, to engage communities to act, and to help all of us realize it is not too late to intervene.

And engage the public she did.  Over 350 people attended the symposium, where they learned about national actions like the Green New Deal, local actions that are making wineries and farms more climate-friendly, and individual actions to change consumption patterns and lower our own climate impact.  The symposium concluded with a heartfelt plea by three high school students from Schools 4 Climate Action, who asked everyone present to do everything possible at every level possible to avoid climate catastrophe now.   It was a powerful, engaging, and energizing day that brought our community together to face the crisis of our time.

In the 2020 election, Johanna again went above and beyond.  Realizing that the full weight and resources of the federal government must be engaged if we are to achieve real climate stability, she worked nonstop on every front, organizing volunteers to train text-bankers and phone-bankers in both English and Spanish, providing supplies to postcard writers, and connecting with local candidates for literature drops.  As an added challenge, all of the organizing—and training—had to be done virtually.  The results speak for themselves: the volunteers working with Democrats of Napa Valley contacted over 4.5 million voters.

Our congratulations and a huge thank you to Climate Champion Johanna O’Kelly for engaging our community in climate action, the most critical issue we will ever face — and can only effectively face together.

“The Yountville Five”
Category: Community Group

Our 2020 Climate Champions in the Community Group category are Yountville residents Doyaline Marchbanks, Janet Clare-Gotch, Penny Proteau, Sherry Breitigam, and Marico Chigyo.  They refer to themselves casually as the Yountville Five, but their efforts over two years to get their town to adopt a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers were anything but casual.

Their crusade was a classic grassroots campaign.  Doy Marchbanks was concerned about all the dust kicked up by gas leaf blowers.  She talked with her friends Sherry and Penny who brought in their friends Janet and Marico.  Marico is a well-known textile artist and 30-year Yountville resident who was concerned at how noisy the neighborhoods had become because of leaf blowers. Penny and Janet had served together on the town’s Recycle and Resource Conservation Committee. Sherry and Janet had served on Yountville’s Go Green Team which developed the town’s Climate Action Plan in 2016.

The group realized that the Climate Action Plan recommended banning gas leaf blowers because this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.  So the group decided to go for a ban.  As Sherry put it, “It was good to have a clear goal and a purpose that would result in some good.”

The group discovered all the good that banning leaf blowers could do as they spent one year researching the impacts of gasoline-powered blowers on climate and public health.  The engines in gas blowers are very polluting, so much so that the California Air Resources Board is exploring regulations to prohibit the sale of gas-powered blowers by 2028.  Gas blowers also impact public health by creating damaging levels of noise and unhealthy levels of particulate matter.  The group discovered that over 100 California jurisdictions have some type of leaf blower ban.

But the Yountville Five did more than just present the results of their research to the Town Council.  They created a petition signed by over200 residents in support of a ban.  They met with the Town Manager and Council members to build support in a respectful and collaborative way.  The Yountville Public Works Director was so impressed with their research that he switched to electric leaf blowers for the Town’s operations.

And finally on October 6, 2020, their efforts were rewarded with the first gas-powered leaf blower ban in Napa County.  We hope that the Yountville ban will serve as a template for our other jurisdictions, so they too can reduce climate impacts and improve public health.  And we’ll be excited to see the next issue the Yountville Five, 2020 Climate Champions, take on as they work to improve our climate, our health, and our quality of life.

Thank you so much Doy, Janet, Sherry, Marico, and Penny, for showing us how to get things done.

Gary Kraus
Category: Elected Representative

All of us at Napa Climate Now! are encouraged and proud to find common cause with you. We recognize you as an ally in our efforts to protect the natural world– a theme throughout your lifetime. As you tell it, the insight that something about the way we are living on the Earth is wrong, wrong, wrong, hit you with full force when you were growing up in southern California, riding your bike through lung-burning smog thick enough to hide the view across the street. A few decades ago, the air around Los Angeles could wake a person up just with its smell. Before Climate Change had a name, many of us in California were living through its early stages.  You took that understanding to heart.

Your dedication to help people — to protect life — is clear in your decision to become a firefighter. It’s the one field where the job description is, simply: Be a hero.

During your years of service in local government, you have done the work of an advocate, not a politician. Following your leadership, Calistoga’s City Council became the first in the Valley to put NCN!’s proposal for budget-conscious climate actions on its agenda.  You understand that preserving Napa Valley’s established oak forests is a climate solution that costs little and delivers big results.  In fact, older trees have an astonishing ability to sequester carbon — and removing carbon and other pollutants from the atmosphere is the Holy Grail in the fight against global warming.  Reforesting is another strategy, though not nearly as effective as protecting our older trees. We should guarantee that the Senior Citizens of our woodlands get the discount they deserve. Your initiative to replace trees with noninvasive species, especially redwoods and oaks with their fire-resistant ability, is essential for creating a more resilient Napa.

As a member of the Countywide Climate Action Committee, you’ve urged that group to be more active in its leadership role.  Your current push to define the group’s mission and the goals will help it be more ACTIVE and less of a COMMITTEE. 

In your years of public service, you have been an outspoken youth advocate, valuing the contributions and energy the younger generation brings to the environmental cause. Our high school groups know they can turn to you and that, when they do, their concerns will be respected and promoted.

All of us, no matter what our ages, and regardless of how politically engaged or disinterested we may be, hope to live into the coming years with a degree of security– safety, adequate food and shelter, at a minimum. We hope to see today’s children grow into adults who can, in their turn, live in the beauty and possibilities of a world safe from the worst ravages of climate change. With the massive fires of the last few years, we’ve had a trial sample already here in California, and we haven’t much liked it.  Pandemics are strongly linked to overpopulation and deforestation; there are droughts and famines in many parts of the world; we’re seeing sea level rise, destruction of habitat and the resulting deaths and even extinctions of plants and animal species. It’s a grim picture, but we cannot turn away. As we work to turn the tide, we desperately need the help of clever and courageous people.  The good news? There are some around. 

Domaine Carneros
Category: Business

Since its founding in 1987, Domaine Carneros has made sustainability a priority. Founding Winemaker and CEO Emeritus Eileen Crane has made sure that the winery lives as lightly on the land as possible while producing top quality grapes and wine.  Indeed, she believes that growing grapes and making wine sustainably actually makes better wine. She has led the winery to be on the cutting edge of numerous green, renewable and climate sensitive programs. Examples include:

  • installing the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world at the time in 2003, and freely offering assistance to other wineries to go solar.
  • Launching a composting, recycling and reuse program that diverts over 90% of its solid waste from landfills.
  • Installing skylights, building into the earth and using night cooling systems to save energy.
  • Farming organically and sustainably, with ag waste being recycled as mulch or feed for local cattle
  • Hiring employees with policies of diversity, equity and inclusion, and running the business on principles of open-book management, with all employees having a say in the operations of the company, and some of the best green ideas come from employees

And In 2021, Domaine Carneros will launch a solar micro-grid and battery system that will supply 75% of the winery’s power and allow it to be self-sustaining during a power outage.

Initiatives such as these – all of which lower its carbon footprint – make Domaine Carneros an exemplary business and a climate champion in the region.

Congratulation and thanks to Eileen Crane and Domaine Carneros for your visionary leadership in the wine industry!

Congratulations to all of our climate champions – may you inspire others with your good work!