Young Environmentalists Are the Key to Addressing Climate Change

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

By the end of this blog, I want you to share it with at least one eligible student who you thought of while reading!

Teen environmentalists have been making waves in recent years.

Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish environmentalist, address the UN Climate Change Conference in 2018 and inspired student climate strikes across the globe. She became youngest TIME Magazine Person of the Year in 2019. And she’s one of millions of mobilized teens taking action to preserve our planet.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an Indigenous hip-hop artist and activist since childhood, has spent his life working toward a better world. He has addressed the United Nations multiple times and is the youth director of Earth Guardians, a global youth organization focused on sustainability and accountability for our environment.

Jamie Margolin is a founder of Zero Hour, and she’s also an openly lesbian Latina. Zero Hour seeks to center the voices of diverse youth around climate change, educating and mobilizing young people to make change.

These are well-known youth environmentalists.

And my message to other teens and young adults in the world is this:

There is no reason you cannot be next.

One of the best ways to get started on becoming a change-maker is to participate in Project Green Challenge, a truly inspiring thirty days that has changed the lives of thousands of student environmentalists, leading to the development of new community organizations, nonprofits, and campus reform for sustainability across the globe.

Now in its tenth year, Turning Green‘s Project Green Challenge is gearing up to once again inspire and mobilize young people to take on lasting, important work in their communities and for the planet.

What impact does PGC make?

Let’s take a peek at last year’s winners.

Koleigh Vachereau, a University of Vermont sophomore, was inspired by learning about food waste and food justice during PGC. Her action project was to develop a food pantry on campus after learning about the food insecurity facing students and the community.

Tatum Robinson, an Environmental Policy and Studies major at Champlain College in Vermont, and her teammates, developed a climate action plan and sustainability framework for their college campus with a goal of making the campus carbon neutral by 2030.

Josie Sparks worked with a local school garden, was able to make a statement to her local school board to address sustainability and food waste in the local schools, and ended up founding a non-profit in Bloomington, IN called Yellowwood Youth, focusing on environmental education and climate projects for school-age youth in the local community. She did all this as a high school junior!

Rowan Stalnaker grew up surrounded by nature and was pulled into environmentalism when he realized his backyard creek didn’t have the same insect life as a nearby stream. He investigated with the help of a local citizen science organization and found that polluted runoff was changing the water’s oxygen content, leading to less native insects breeding there. Rowan then joined PGC and restored his high school’s pollinator garden to restore soil health, feed pollinating insects, and provide a habitat for insects and small animals.

Julia Leonard, a senior at Champlain College, developed a climate action project to revamp her campus store to sell more Fair Trade, local, and sustainable products with more transparency behind the products sold to get the campus store on par with the campus sustainability initiatives that have already been implemented at the college.

Whether or not an activist “goes viral” or becomes a household name doesn’t change the fact that thousands of participating students, including these five winners, were able to learn about climate change, food justice, and other environmental issues — and they were inspired to make a change in their local community to address them.

This is the power of our youth caring about climate change.

Get involved with Project Green Challenge

So, what’s involved with Project Green Challenge?

Starting October 1, participants will have access to a daily challenge with multiple tiers. Complete the “Green,” “Greener,” and “Greenest” challenges and you can win prizes!

Each day’s theme is one aspect of sustainability, like Footprint, Climate Justice, Food, Soil, Adventure, Biodiversity, and more.

What’s in it for you?

  • Daily prizes awarded to participants who submit outstanding challenge entries (Greener and Greenest level submissions)
  • An opportunity to win an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco (pending COVID state and local protocols) for the PGC Finals, a 3-day Eco Summit
  • A Grand Prize valued at $8,000, including a $5,000 Green Award based on completion of a climate action project for the first place PGC Winner, and additional monetary prizes for 2nd and 3rd place Finalists

Inspire a student today

Students 16 and up are eligible for prizes and the PGC Finals, so share this blog with them to let them know you think they have what it takes to make the world a better place.

Sign up at ProjectGreenChallenge.com!

Green minimalism

Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.  ~Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964

Our culture is one of consumption and wanting and never having enough.

As minimalists, we reduce wholeheartedly, ridding ourselves of the excess in our lives and striving to live simply, without the burdens of needing to need.  We eliminate incoming junk mail, we ask our family and friends not to buy gifts, we turn down freebies at the mall, and we make conscious decisions about what items deserve a space in our lives.

Minimalist does not necessarily mean green, sustainable, or environmentally-conscious, however.

Even with the simplest of living situations, you can run up a mean carbon footprint tab if you eat convenience foods over fresh, travel by plane, commute long distances by car (guilty over here!), throw away recyclables, buy imported items, etc.  It is very easy to live a life that is not conscious of the Earth and our responsibility as its stewards.

Some ways you can green up your minimalist life include:

REDUCE:

  • Reduce your consumption of prepackaged foods and fast food
  • Reduce fuel consumption and emissions and bike or walk around town instead of driving
  • Reduce emissions by traveling via train (the most eco-friendly distance travel) instead of car, bus, or plane (or purchase carbon offsets if you do travel by car, bus, or plane)
  • Reduce fuel and emissions (again!) by buying local produce, dairy, and meat – imported food means more carbon emissions to get it there
  • Reduce electricity consumption by turning off lights, using energy-conserving appliances, etc.
  • Reduce water consumption by taking shorter showers, turning off the water when you brush your teeth, etc.

REUSE:

  • Use a reusable cup to take to your coffee shop (just ask, many places are okay using your cup to make your beverage) — this reduces waste for you and the planet!
  • Use reusable canvas grocery bags
  • Reuse plastic grocery bags as trash bags in your home or as animal waste bags, or use them to wrap up your shoes in a suitcase to keep dirt off the rest of your clothes
  • Use reusable containers instead of disposable bags for snacks and sandwiches when  you pack your lunch

RECYCLE:

  • Recycle whenever possible (paper, plastic, metal, glass)
  • Recycle electronics, batteries, printer ink, and other technological items
  • Recycle (or reuse) plastic grocery bags

Are you a green minimalist?  How do you curb your impact on the planet?