Teens across the country are finding innovative ways to conserve energy and reduce waste in their schools with the new “Increase Your Green” challenge launched by DoSomething.org, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and opportunities for teens to get involved with their communities and learn more about current issues.
“Through watching our Web traffic and speaking to teens every day, it’s been very, very clear that the environment has been one of the top three causes they care most about for basically the past 10 years,” says Melanie Stevenson, representative for DoSomething.org.
“I’d say pretty much since I started elementary school, I really started to get the whole ‘green thing going on.'” says Meagan Traylor, a freshman at New Vista High School in Boulder, Colo.
“My school was really, really nit-picky about where you put your leftovers from food. They’d make sure there was nothing in the trash can that couldn’t be composted or recycled.”
When Traylor visits family in Texas, she gets frustrated when she goes to throw away her soda can, looks around, and can only find trash bins. “Wait, this wasn’t the picture I was expecting,” she says.
More than 800 schools have signed up since the contest’s launch in early February. Running through Earth Day on April 22, DoSomething.org expects to have at least 1,000 schools participate.
In addition to a $5,000 prize, winners will also receive an HP Artist Edition notebook donated by Hewlett-Packard Co., co-sponsor of the contest.
Judges will evaluate the entries based on creativity, innovation, reduction in waste, energy saved and number of students involved. The panel of judges will include Nick Cannon, host of America’s Got Talent and 92.3 NOW FM in New York and chairman of TeenNick.
If the environmental initiatives of students at New Vista High School are any indication of American teens’ mindset, this up-and-coming generation will be one of action.
Rather than wait for the Boulder municipality to expand its compost collection to schools, students at New Vista developed and implemented their own composting system. Currently, the Community Adventure Program (CAP), an elective course offered at New Vista that teaches students about local environmental issues, is working to expand the school’s composting system.
Additionally, the New Vista student and teacher-run green team, Earth Task Force, was approved for a grant to install solar panels on the roof of the school.
“We didn’t only want to inform people about how to make more ecologically smart decisions, but also make a tangible difference in our school,” says senior Zander Deetz, a founding member of the club.
Deetz brings a lunch to school that mainly consists of local food, only eats meat occasionally because of the energy it takes to produce and bikes to school (weather permitting). He also encourages others to live sustainably.
Deetz’s desire to take action for the environment jumpstarted when he took the CAP class. He believes that an environmental studies course should be a graduation requirement at all schools.
“Of all the sciences that we learn, I feel like it’s absolutely one that everyone could apply,” says Deetz. “Not that many people are going to go on in physics or in chemistry, but everyone is going to be living on this earth.”