Highlighting Hope for the Future
BRIAN CLARK HOWARD
The goals of green kids clubs range from benchmarking environmental progress to fundraising for local eco-causes. The kids not only have fun, they feel empowered to make a difference in a scarred and scary world.
Green clubs attract youth of many ages. In Needham, Massachusetts, elementary school students formed a Safe Routes to School Green Kids Newman Club and promoted the concept of the Walking School Bus to help classmates walk safely to school as a group. “We started this group because we wanted more kids to walk,” Maya, a fourth-grader, explained to local journalists.
They even made and posted appealing safety signs throughout the community. Stephen, another fourth-grader, said: “I feel like it’s doing something for the world. It’s teaching people to be safe, try and walk and try to save the Earth.”
Students from New York City Public School 334, the Anderson School, organized a Power Patrol this year. “The kids would go around the school unplugging unused appliances, turning off lights and taking meter readings, so they could see how much they could bring down electricity use,” says Pamela French, a mother and school volunteer who is working on a documentary film about how the Big Apple’s schools can go greener. The students also participated in the citywide student-driven energy competition, the Green Cup Challenge, sponsored by The Green Schools Alliance.
Another school initiative, Trash Troopers, had students monitoring their cafeteria’s recycling bins, ensuring that diners properly sort milk cartons from compostable items. “They particularly like painting monsters on recycling bins,” says French. At St. Philip the Apostle School, in Addison, Illinois, three middle school students founded Recycle Because You Care to encourage recycling by the larger community. The teens distribute recycling bins and show residents how to properly use them.
A few years ago, students at Westerly Middle School, in Rhode Island, decided to do something about global warming, so they formed a junior club of Westerly Innovations Network, a local student-led community service team. Under the banner, Project TGIF – Turn Grease Into Fuel, they placed a grease receptacle at the town transfer station, convinced 64 restaurants to donate used fryer oil, and enlisted an oil recycling facility to process it. With money earned from the activity, they purchased biofuel for area charities. They also held events to educate the public on the concept.
By 2009, the award-winning program had recycled 36,000 gallons of waste oil, eliminating 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. MTV featured the project in its Switch Campaign.
Many schools already have green kids clubs, which can be easy to start. Interested students begin by contacting their principal or designated sustainability officer, an increasingly common staff position. Some libraries, museums and nature centers also host such clubs.
They often have a specific core focus, such as cave or stream ecology. Local Audubon Society chapters, for example, may offer a Junior Audubon Club to introduce youngsters to bird watching. As National Audubon Society spokesperson Delta Willis notes, “It is vital to create new conservation stewards.”
When famous alum Sigourney Weaver was recently honored with the organization’s Rachel Carson Award, the actress cited her own participation in the Junior Audubon Club as inspiration for her lifelong support of conservation. “She continues to go bird watching,” Willis adds.
Green kids clubs may be bolstered by parent involvement. French serves on the Green Team at her children’s school, where she and other parents meet with administrators and students to help them accomplish their sustainable goals. “There is too much going on in a school day to ask for teachers to do more, so this is an area where parents can help,” she comments.
Thinking globally, high school students in Pleasant Hill, California, formed Project Jatropha three years ago to encourage struggling farmers in India to plant jatropha crops that can be turned into biofuel far more efficiently than corn. The teens have earned honors from both the Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards and the Environmental Protection Agency’s President’s Environmental Youth Awards.
Green kids clubs provide educational and entertaining activities that help young people get involved, and can even lead to a career or lifelong hobby. If there isn’t one locally, why not start one up?
Brian Clark Howard is a New York City-based multimedia journalist and the co-author of Green Lighting and Geothermal HVAC: Build Your Own Wind Power System. Connect atBrianClarkHoward.com.
National Green Kids Club Resources
America’s Great Outdoors:AmericasGreatOutdoors.gov. Provides news of federal conservation and recreation initiatives and how local communities become involved.
EPA Environmental Kids Club: epa.gov/kids. Explores environmental information, games and activities.
National Audubon Society: Audubon.org/locations. Sponsors Junior Audubon Clubs.
National Geographic Kids: Kids.NationalGeographic.com/kids. Offers wildlife-related news, videos and games.
Richard Louv: RichardLouv.com. Features excerpts from his books, Last Child in the Woods andThe Nature Principle, and other tools and resources to counter youngsters’ nature deficit.
Teens for Planet Earth: TeensForPlanetEarth.ning.com. Learn how the Wildlife Conservation Society supports and honors youth making a difference, from China’s Tetra Paks Recycling Team to Utah’s invasive species Plant Patrol.