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Friends and Climate Advocacy – Stacey Rashti’s Rogue River Independent Challenge Run

When it comes to environmental advocacy, Climate Ride veteran, Stacey Rashti, knows a thing or two. With a background in environmental science and earth science and deep involvement in environmental philanthropy, Stacey dedicates her every day to climate action and saving our planet from climate change. If that isn’t enough, she also gathered a group of her best friends to run 42 miles on the Rogue River Climate Run, each fundraising for some of our amazing beneficiaries as a team. We sat down with Stacey to hear about her interesting life experience through her environmental work and all about the fun she had with this badass group of women on their Independent Challenge Run in Rogue River, OR! Clime Ride (CR): As a Climate Ride veteran, can you tell us about what initially made you want to participate in Climate Ride? Stacey Rashti (SR): I first heard of Climate Ride in 2017- my professor/advisor/mentor from grad school (Libby McCann) was fundraising for a California ride. My first event was Climate Hike because I was not a biker, but I loved the mission of using outdoor adventures mixed with education to promote environmental philanthropy and activism. Fast forward to 2021 when I signed up for the White Rim mountain biking ride having never mountain biked, followed by the Vermont gravel ride, then theĀ Maine road biking, and most recently Catalonia… so my transition to full bike nerd is well underway. Every event is an opportunity to combine all of my favorite things- environmental philanthropy, education, challenging myself physically, and meeting interesting people doing important work who all share a passion for adventuring outdoors and climate activism. CR: Thank you for committing so much time and effort to Climate Ride and the organizations you are fundraising for! You recently participated in the Rogue River Climate Run Independent Challenge with a group of friends. Can you tell us about your experience with that and the process of gathering friends to participate in your run? SR: When my kiddos were in preschool, some moms started a running group after drop-off to make new friends and get some exercise while our kids were occupied for a few hours. A few of us became regulars and eventually started running together three days a week and building up our mileage. Over the years our friendships grew and even though our kids (and our knees) are all older now, we’re still trucking. During the pandemic, our runs became a lifeline. Each of us has been through some big life challenges and our runs became a way of supporting each other through it all. After my experiences at the other Climate Ride events, I started to think about how I could share that unique Climate Ride joy and purpose with the women who have shared so much with me over the years. So after a lot of wine one night with the group, I took a chance and proposed we do the Rogue River running trip as a way of celebrating our friendship and my 40th birthday for an important cause. I don’t know if it was the wine, because they love me, or the thought of getting out into nature for a few days after such a crazy couple of years, but they all agreed, so I went home and made the arrangements before they could change their minds. We had so much fun from the moment we arrived in Oregon and piled into a 12-passenger van blasting Lizzo and 90s hip hop all the way through getting rerouted on our way home and going out for margaritas before going home because we just didn’t want it to be over. Those days full of joy and laughter and friendship and running were something that we all really needed and our text chain of jokes and memories is still going strong. We’re actually having a “reunion” sleepover next week. As for the actual run, the scenery was breathtaking, and coming from altitude we felt superhuman so the mileage was challenging (42 miles over 3 days) but doable. Not to brag but the guides did happen to mention that we were a few minutes faster per mile than the Climate Ride group who went a couple of weeks before us. šŸ™‚ Our guides were amazing, and being waited on, cooked for, and supported by three young strapping raft and ultrarunner guys was a source of constant entertainment for us moms who usually do it all ourselves. CR: That sounds like a blast! It’s very cool that you were able to combine creating amazing memories with friends with doing incredible work for the planet. What motivated you to introduce this idea to your friends and participate in this run? SR: As moms, we are faced with the reality that life for our kids is going to be full of climate-related challenges. It will affect every area of their lives and in many ways already does. It is such an all-encompassing and overwhelming issue that is going to take so much more than individual actions, but it’s really important to me for my kids to see me doing everything I can anyway. And, when we’re feeling discouraged, remind them (and me!) that even these small individual actions build on each other over time and help boost these issues into the mainstream, and help set the stage for the larger, more impactful changes that need to happen. Anything we can do to accelerate that process is well worth doing. Our kids are such a great mirror for living our values. My 8-year-old came home from school a few years ago and asked why we weren’t doing more to reduce our climate footprint, so now we compost, have an electric car, put on solar panels, and have electrified our whole house. I recognize the privilege of being able to do those things, but my kids were right. If we can do it, we should, even if it’s small. CR: That’s really powerful and so true! You get to see climate change through the eyes of your kids. Thank you for taking those necessary steps to make a difference for the future of our planet. Can you tell us about how climate change impacted you and the area you live in? SR: I moved from Virginia to Colorado in part for climate-related reasons- frequent tidal and storm flooding and moreĀ intenseĀ hurricanes were becoming real threats to living in a coastal environment. Here in Colorado, water, air quality, and fires are the current biggest areas of impact. Colorado is in the midst of a 20+ year-long drought and reduced snowpack. There are an increasing number of days that the air quality (ozone pollution) is so poor that our kids aren’t allowed to play outside at school. Wildfire smoke blocks our view of the Rockies for more and more weeks every summer and the ash makes it dangerous to be outside. The Marshall Fire in December 2021 was the most destructive in Colorado history and affected families that we know personally who are now essentially climate refugees. Their homes, their kids’ schools, and the entire community they knew and loved and lived in every day are decimated. CR: Thank you for sharing your first-hand experience with climate change. The work you are putting in to avoid events such as these and telling your story of how climate change has affected you is impactful. We understand you have a background in environmental science and environmental philanthropy, what field do you work in? SR: I’m a high school AP Environmental Science and Earth Science teacher by training, but I’ve been out of the classroom since having kids of my own. Since then, my focus has turned to environmental advocacy and philanthropy.Ā  I work for an environmental-focused family foundation doing research, outreach, and managing grant distribution. I also serve on the board of Solar United Neighbors Colorado, an organization that organizes and supports solar co-ops in an effort to make rooftop solar accessible to all. And I was recently appointed as (the youngest ever) trustee for The Nature Conservancy Colorado. My work there focuses on encouraging environmental philanthropy, especially among the younger generations, as well as supporting the shift in the mission of the Nature Conservancy to make climate change their top conservation and policy priority. CR: That’s amazing! You are doing some incredible work! For your run, which beneficiaries are you supporting, and why? SR: For this individual challenge, I chose to support Climate Ride’s Environmental Justice Action grants andĀ I love how much of an impact even smaller grants can have for local grassroots work and community organizing. I have so much respect for the organizations that are out there making a difference with extremely limited resources. To me, there’s nothing more impressive than that kind of people-power affecting real change in their communities. CR: We couldn’t agree more! Every little bit helps in any way that is feasible for people to make difference. Were there any personal challenges that you confronted in preparing for the run? How did you overcome them? SR: I think our biggest challenge was the total mileage. Our long runs are usually only about 10 miles, and we were going to do 3 consecutive days of 12, 17, and then 14 miles. We’re tired moms and our knees are starting to get cranky, but we trained the best we could and made up for the rest with wishful thinking, post-run happy hours, and plenty of Advil. The guides also brought a travel Theragun along which was key. CR: Has preparing for and participating in this event spurred you to take any action on climate (personal, locally, or nationally)? SR: I’m definitely the biggest bleeding heart environmentalist of this crew, but I think doing this challenge together made something fun and celebratory mean even more by adding a philanthropic component. Between us, we have 15 kids. That’s a lot of humans that are going to need a functioning planet to live their lives. It was so much fun to be able to share the mission, challenge, and fun of Climate Ride with my dearest friends and everyone had so much fun that they’re already planning next year’s adventure. And a few of them even mentioned they were motivated by this experience to try out an official Climate Ride event, and I’m going to hold them to it. CR: This has been so great hearing about your experience with Climate Ride and how you pulled together your closest friends to have fun in the outdoors while supporting the efforts of incredible environmental nonprofits. We are truly grateful! Stacey will be participating in the upcoming Climate Ride Death Valley 2022 this November. If you would like to support Stacey in her fundraising goal of $4,000, follow the link below!