ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — On Friday, hundreds of people, including local high school students, spent the day at Rockford’s Embassy Suites hotel, learning about climate change, social equity, and opportunities to create a sustainable region.

“Everyone thinks, at least once, that they are just one person, that they really can’t effect the greater cause, but right here, in this conference, it showed me that it started off with an idea to help better the environment,” said Auburn High School junior, Andrew Romero.

The GreenTown conference was part of a year long sustainability mission, in partnership with Sustain Rockford, Inc., which has been developing a network of people to create an “action plan to increase economic development, improve environmental effectiveness and drive social equity.”

From the use of electric vehicles, to reducing energy consumption, the students said they came away from the lecture with new opportunities for a brighter future.

“I’m really excited to see what opportunities I’m going to have in the future and, kind of, the career path that I can go down,” said Auburn senior, Oriana Taylor.

“We are no longer protecting just a bee or just an owl or just a whale – we’re saving us,” said Natural Land Institute’s executive director, Kerry Leigh.

Leigh’s organization put on the event, which included a keynote speech from former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott, who is now the vice president of the Great Plains Institute.

“[The goal is] to help develop a plan that’s going to allow Rockford to be sustainable, to do its part to reduce the impacts of climate change and other bad environmental outcomes,” Scott said.

“It’s been kind of eye-opening, showing how a small community wants to do such a great impact,” Romero said.