By Heidi Cuppari

While Summer was putting the finishing touches on last week’s EmpowerGen article, Gen Z: Rising Up for Climate Action and a Sustainable Future, the doorbell unexpectedly rang. On my doorstep was a smiling teenager named Dakota Hess-Tolene, who was going door to door in my neighborhood with a great deal to help Boulder residents go renewable, saving money and energy. I was astounded at the beauty of this synchronicity. Inside my house was a young person who is taking action and urging others to do the same for our climate, and right on my doorstep materialized a young person making it his business to do something about the rising global temperatures. I noticed his passion for his work immediately. So I decided to interview him on the spot and highlight him for this week’s column. This story was the perfect opportunity to keep the positive vibes and youth action front and center for the AboutBoulder community and beyond.

The best part: he is doing this with his mother, too. They are both having a blast making an impact and making money together. A powerful mother-son duo striving to make a change to improve the future of our world.

Below is the interview:

Heidi: What do you want to say about your generation and climate change, and what you are doing about it and how it has helped you?

Dakota: Most importantly, I want to pitch in and save the environment as well as help people save a ton of money. I want to help people own their electricity instead of being controlled by the corporate greed of the electric companies. These companies raise rates when they want. Solar power gives more power to the people. It allows us to make money, help the environment, and help ourselves.

Heidi: That’s wonderful! I have been working in impact investing for 19 years, including climate action, where one can make a profit while doing good. Models like these have the best chance of success in driving change – when change is economically driven and helps people in their day-to-day lives, it has a greater impact. You are a shining example of that. What drives you? What is your big dream?

Dakota: My big dream is to have a big family. I’m doing this business because I want to be able to support my family and create generational knowledge and wealth to inspire future generations.

Heidi: Interesting you said that about having a big family. That’s different from what I’ve heard from others in your generation, as Summer mentioned in last week’s article. Many are scared of having kids for a future they don’t know is secure, especially with the environmental issues. What’s different for you?

Dakota: If I have all these kids, I can help guide them to the future and teach them about keeping the environment clean and spreading that knowledge to their kids and everyone they talk to. It’s a positive spread. The more people that teach and do positive things, the more it will take over.

Heidi: That’s wonderful! And you can already do that now by inspiring others your age, right?

Dakota: Absolutely!

Heidi: Tell me more about your solar job. I love hearing about passionate young people addressing the Sustainable Development Goals through business. (The SDG’s are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. Latest Progress Report Here)

Dakota: Solar is making a positive impact in every way. It helps the environment and allows people to save money.

Heidi: It also seems to bring a huge smile to your face! That’s wonderful to see, Dakota. Smiling and maintaining positive mental health are crucial, especially for your generation. In recent years, there has been a growing concern about mental health challenges among young people. Have you noticed any of these challenges among your peers? What’s your take on it?

Dakota: Many people in my generation feel like there isn’t much room for growth in their jobs. They often find themselves stuck in minimum wage and feel like they can’t progress because it doesn’t provide enough financial incentive and good products, or the companies don’t treat their employees well. At ADT Solar, one of the best solar companies out there, we can offer security and roofing services in addition to solar. There are a lot of scammy solar companies out there that don’t prioritize doing what’s right. ADT has the best warranties and focuses on keeping people safe. They also treat their employees well, which is why I made the switch from other companies.

Heidi: That’s interesting, and it aligns with my work in helping people create more options and redefine the future of work. It’s truly magical to connect with you and hear your story. So, tell me a bit more about your life. Did you grow up in Boulder?

Dakota: No, I actually moved to Boulder from Georgia during my freshman year of high school. I just graduated from Boulder High School. Due to the pandemic, I didn’t have many opportunities to make friends in person as I was mostly online. When I was in the neighborhood, I started to make friends, but then we moved to the mountains, and I experienced absolute isolation for two years. I decided to make peace with the situation and focus on my personal growth. That’s when I started working out a lot and prioritizing my physical and mental well-being.

Heidi: That’s incredible, Dakota. You turned a challenging situation into something positive, and your determination is truly inspiring.

As I conclude this interview, I am amazed by Dakota’s drive and passion for creating a sustainable future. His commitment to environmental action and his desire to support future generations is truly admirable. Dakota is a shining example of how young people can make a positive impact and shape a better world.

Let’s all take inspiration from Dakota’s story and continue to support the youth in their journey to create change. There is hope for a brighter, more sustainable future as long as we all decide to make a change for the better.To read more empowering articles and discover how you can share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (