NEWS // March 30, 2016


The Energy Saving Adventures program, nicknamed ESA, turns everyday activities into fun and teachable moments for teens. The County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation has run dozens of these activities over the past few years – from QR code scavenger hunts and beach cleanups to “socket soccer games” and The Great Recycled Boat Regatta.

Simply put, it’s good, old-fashioned quality time outdoors. But along with the physical and emotional benefits that come from sunshine and exercise, teens are also learning about their carbon footprint and how to conserve resources with simple behavior modifications.

Caroline Bartolome, Program and Education Manager for the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Outreach Program, oversees DPR’s ESA program. She’s classically trained in exercise science and has been able to apply her knowledge, and her passion for sports, to ESA curriculum.

“Our educational activities are designed to prompt action and discussion instead of relying on rigid, traditional tools like worksheets,” said Caroline, adding, “We want teens to witness, first-hand, the consequences of their actions and the impact those actions have on the world around them.”   

ESA Program highlights include:

  • REC Club Recycling - Throughout the year, teens are encouraged to participate in REC Club (teen after-school program) recycling efforts. In addition to recycling plastics, glass and cans, teens are taught how to calculate the energy equivalents of these materials.
  • The Annual Great Recycled Boat Regatta - Using only cardboard pieces, PVC pipe, duct tape and trash bags, tens work together to build a fully functioning boat to compete in the annual Great Recycled Boat Regatta at San Diego State University's Aztec Aquaplex.
  • The annual Carbon Offset Bike-A-Thon – This event teaches participants to convert miles to carbon offsets; measuring performance efficiency based on their individual fitness levels and the energy they expend. 
  • Teens also participate on photo hunts and scavenger hunts at major theme parks – sharing materials electronically versus through print.
  • An ESA RECXplorers board game tests a player’s knowledge of the County Parks and challenges them with questions on both energy efficiency and outdoor recreation skills.
  • A published "Teen Go GrEEn" guide features articles written by teens on topics like sustainable developments in technology, and 1:1 interviews with recreation professionals.
  • The Watts Cooking program, hosted by ESA, highlights the benefits of shopping locally versus commercially and shares best practices for conserving both water and energy, while cooking.

“I may be part of the last generation of ‘free range kids’ – a group who played outdoors until the street lights came on,” said Caroline. “Things are different today, so we’re creating safe and rewarding outdoor experiences for these teens. I’m committed to mentoring them to become the next generation of eco-warriors and outdoor adventure enthusiasts.”

Earth Day at the REC Club and several summertime surf trips and beach cleanups are planned for the near future. Learn more about ESA and how the program is benefitting local communities and youth by visiting their website or by calling (858) 966-1328.

Article written by Jessica Geiszler, Marketing & Public Outreach Manager, County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation