Gavin and his daughter Sarah

Dads Making a Difference

Photo: Courtesy of Gavin Marrs

Meet 3 noteworthy fathers working to protect the outdoors against the impacts of a changing climate.

Take a look at the many climate action groups for parents that have sprung up across the country in recent years, and you can’t help noticing that the majority of them are run by and organized for mothers. But that doesn’t mean that fathers don’t also care deeply about ensuring a better future for their kids. This trio of dads are using their limited free time to fight for clean energy, conservation, climate justice, and other strategies to mitigate the climate crisis—drawing inspiration from their own children along the way.

A headshot of Leonard Barrett

Leonard Barrett 

Board co-president, Families for Climate - Portland, Oregon

Like so many other concerned parents, Leonard Barrett’s environmental work began with a “climate awakening—or climate meltdown,” he says. In 2018, the father of two—Solomon, now 13, and Viridian, now 5—reached his limit of dire headlines, smoky days, and heat waves. He thought, “OK, I can’t be on the sidelines. I need to get in the trenches and know that I can look my kids in the eye in 20 years and be like, here’s what I did.” Exactly how Barrett could get involved became clear after a local event for the 2019 global climate strike, when he ran into an acquaintance who urged him to sign up with the brand-new nonprofit Families for Climate. It was exactly what Barrett had been waiting for.

The Portland-based organization, “mobilizes families to take action for climate justice and a livable future for all,” Barrett says. The group focuses on parents because they’re often incredibly worried about their kids’ future, but have little time or energy to volunteer—so Families for Climate comes up with supportive, fun, kid-friendly ways for them to get involved in climate work. The organization helps connect parents to opportunities for action locally and statewide and runs a popular Climate Defender Kids program that he says, “helps kids see themselves as change agents and understand the scientific and social-political issues that have gotten us here and how we move forward.”

Barett also notes the challenge of seeing that big picture during the constant work day-to-day that is deciding what his kids consume (food and media), on top of getting their homework done. “Things that are really about ensuring them a good future quality of life,” he says. “But there are huge, overarching factors that potentially have a much bigger impact on their future quality of life, which are daunting. Most of us can only take them on through collaboration on a large scale.”

Jeremy Jones poses for the camera

Jeremy Jones 

Founder and CEO, Protect Our Winters - Truckee, California

Jeremy Jones earned household-name status (among snowsports fans, at least) for his big-mountain and backcountry snowboarding exploits. But lately, he’s perhaps just as well-known for his work to protect the snow for the next generations—like his own two kids, Mia and Cass, both talented snowboarders, too. After seeing the effects of climate change on his favorite mountain playgrounds firsthand, Jeremy started the powerhouse nonprofit Protect Our Winters (POW) in 2007. The group organizes outdoor lovers, particularly winter sports enthusiasts, to advocate for climate action, with a particular focus on supporting climate-champion legislators and pushing for smart climate policy.

A portrait of  Gavin Marrs

Gavin Marrs 

Volunteer, For Our Kids - Ottawa, Ontario

Last summer, Gavin Marrs and his wife wanted to do something tangible to address the climate crisis. Marrs had always been into environmentalism, but hadn’t volunteered his time for the cause—that is, until after the birth of his son, Austin (now 22 months old). The couple didn’t specifically set out to find a family-oriented group, but when they came across the Canada-wide organization For Our Kids on Facebook, “the name alone grabbed us right away,” Marrs says. So, he set up a hike with the leader of his local chapter in Ottawa, who told him about an initiative to push the city to allow boulevard gardens. Marrs, a landscape architect, jumped into the project (they haven’t fully succeeded yet, but are making progress).

For Our Kids counts 27 teams across Canada, from Yukon to Nova Scotia, with more in development. The group’s efforts span everything from campaigns to keep pro-fossil fuel science lessons out of schools, to electric-school bus programs and initiatives that push banks to divest from polluting industries.

For Marrs, becoming a dad awakened a new sense of responsibility in him. “You have somebody that you’re taking care of, that every minute of the day you’re thinking about,” he says. “You want to be able to do what you can to help out, to make sure the climate is as good as it can be for him.”

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.