Young Environmentalists: Green Teens and Clever Kids

Studies show that kids, particularly teens, are eco-savvy these days. Unlike most of their parents, this generation of kids has grown up with a consciousness about the environment and our threat upon it. I reported two years ago that in many households children are taking the lead in making their homes more eco-friendly and their families more environmentally conscious. The “Care About America” Survey, which canvassed the country seeking the input of children aged 6 to 11, showed that ninety-percent of children questioned believed that taking care of the environment was important.  According to the survey, 82% of the kids said that they recycle. Eighty-three percent reported that they turn off the lights when they leave a room; 84% said that they turn off the tap when they’re brushing their teeth; and 65% said that they pack their lunches in reusable containers.

In addition, research shows that adolescents who are actively concerned about the environment, or “Green Teens,” are a particularly sophisticated and communicative group. A study conducted by JupiterResearch  found that along with their commitment to environmental issues, Green Teens are influential peer-communicators and more likely to participate in social media and contribute to online communities. Of the general population of teens surveyed, 53% were environmentally-focused. And among that 53%, their environmental unease ranged from “worried” to “highly concerned.”

Since young environmentalists are so active and committed, it seems fitting to take a look at what they are up to in the way of making a difference. Here are a few young folks who are taking the matter of pollution into their own hands:

Plastic Bags Be Gone!

The E.P.A’s blog recently featured the eCoppel Club. This high school group is dedicated to eliminating plastic bags in their town. After they compiled their own research and found that less than 10% of their community used cloth bags instead of plastic, the eCoppel Club endeavored to reduce plastic bags use by distributing 5000 free cloth bags to the community. According to the E.P.A. blog, the club members went door-to-door and gave presentations at various activities to raise money to purchase the cloth bags. And with the support of local businesses, they set a goal at initially reducing plastic bag usage by 8%. But this is only the beginning for this group. They have their sights on getting plastic bags banned in their city. And then they want to influence other to do the same nationwide…maybe even worldwide!

Click HERE for 10 Reasons Why Single-Use Plastic Bags Are Big Time Pollutants.

Children Saving Animals In the Gulf

April 20th, 2011 was the one year anniversary of the BP Gulf oil spill, the worst oil spill in petroleum industry history. The National Wildlife Federation’s website is currently sharing some of the many ways children came to the aid of wildlife adversely affected by conditions in the Gulf post-spill. One such shining example is Olivia of Atlanta, Georgia. After hearing about the oil spill in class, the third grader came up with the idea for Flip Flop Friday, where students agree to donate at least $1 to the National Wildlife Federation for the opportunity to wear flip-flops to school for the one day. In order to promote the fundraising event, Olivia made posters, gave speeches during the school announcements, and educated fellow students about the spill and the impact on animals. Olivia’s goal of $500 turned into more than $900 from the students, which was then matched by a corporation to bring a total of $1,840.

Click HERE for other inspiring stories of kids making a difference in the Gulf.

Click HERE to see learn how the BP Gulf oil spill has affected air quality in the region

You Call it Lunch Trash. I Call It Compost!

Fifth grader, Michael Lang, of Winsor, Colorado has taken the lead in getting his school to recycle compostable waste left over from during the lunch period. As a result, Grandview Elementary School is the first to compost in their county. Michael hopes the idea catches on. He told the local paper, “I think the world will be doing great if other people catch on with this.” And you can imagine the enormous impact composting the ongoing and considerable waste generated during school lunch periods will have on the community. As Cornell University Composting points out, the beauty of composting in schools is that it not only helps keep waste out of landfills, which will reduce methane gas emissions, but it also provides a “way of instilling in children a sense of environmental stewardship.”  With composting, kids learn lessons about reducing, reusing, and recycling their solid waste, AND they can experience the entire cycle which turns “worthless and gross” food discards into something that is “pleasant to handle and is good for the soil.”

The impact from just one school can be impressive. One upstate New York school that initiated a similar school composting program, found that in just 6 months almost 30 tons of  waste (ordinarily headed for the landfill) was diverted to a local composting program where local horticulture and agriculture benefitted. The compost was also used for other purposes such as erosion control. 30 TONS!

One of the benefits of composting is that it helps manage the solid waste stream and the resulting production of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. Though co-composting facilities have emission problems of their own, since composting is a source of GHGs, volatile organic compounds (VOCs)/ reactive organic gases (ROG), particulate matter, and ammonia (NH3), facilities that follow E.P.A. specifications can achieve the benefits of composting without pollution.

Click HERE to see how Nantucket co-composts without pollution.

Click HERE to learn more about School Composting.

Click HERE to learn how to start a composting program in your school.

In the fight for clean air and environmental responsibility, kids and teens are at the forefront– showing us that making an impact only takes a desire and the gumption to take action! Congratulations to you all…and thank you!

Cross posted at Mom’s Clean Air Force!

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