What do Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, actress Olivia Munn and Earth911 have in common? They will all serve as judges for this year’s Green Your School challenge, a campaign from DoSomething.org and Hewlett-Packard to encourage students across the nation to start innovative environmental programs at their schools.
Since the campaign kicked off in February, students at nearly 2,000 schools have joined the Green Your School challenge. Their projects include setting up a community garden at one North Carolina high school and building recycling bins at a high school in New Jersey. There is still time for high school and college students to sign up new projects, as the registration deadline was extended to Earth Day, April 22.
Students are encouraged to harness technology to make their school more eco-friendly: from installing high-efficiency lighting to promoting environmental awareness to their classmates through social media.
This is the fourth annual Green Your School challenge, and the second year HP has joined DoSomething.org to support the campaign. DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that promotes volunteerism among teenagers, is already seeing an increase in participation from previous years.
“Last year, we activated 150,000 young people, and we are close to reaching our goal of 200,000 young people this year,” said Melanie Stevenson, DoSomething.org’s director of business development.
One winner will receive the grand prize: a $5,000 environmental grant and five HP laptop computers to help take his or her project to the next level. Two runner-ups will receive a $1,000 grant and one laptop. Other prizes include a green prom for the school with the most active registered students or a $1,000 college scholarship for students who raised the most awareness on social media.
Last year’s top prize went to high school students in San Marcos, Calif., who started a mentoring program, called Carbon Cops, to educate second- and third-graders on sustainable living. Students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, also received a prize for converting an old barn on campus into a greenhouse to grow food for school cafeteria lunches.
DoSomething.org estimates that last year’s Green Your School projects recycled 165 tons of plastic and 325 tons of paper and reduced 5.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
The Green Your Schools challenge is one of the most popular programs DoSomething.org runs, Stevenson says, because it allows students to be creative and focuses on environmental issues.
“It really speaks to young people’s concern for the environment,” she said. “The environment is one of the top three issues young people care about.”
“Sustainability is something that has to start in our schools to empower and activate the generation who will have to solve the environmental problems today. We’re so excited to help choose outstanding groups of student leaders who will set the example for a new school of green thought,” said Jennifer Berry, Earth911’s public relations manager.