The Next Generation of Environmental Leaders

I had an indication that I am raising a little environmentalist on my daughter’s 100th day of school. Each child was asked to write what they wanted 100 of. The most popular answers where items such as dollars or Pokeman cards, but Zoe wrote, “I would like 100 gardens in my neighborhood.” Yes! Maybe it’s due to the lack of front yards in our San Francisco neighborhood, but I’m claiming progress towards raising another environmentally conscious individual. As I became involved in the Pacific Southwest environmental awards ceremony, I was particularly interested in the four award winners below.

  • Laura Anderson/West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council (WHYFC) – Smoking was banned at all Hawaii County Parks in 2008 as the result of a group of students in West Hawaii who belonged to the WHFYC. They performed research to support the bans, including two state science fair projects by Laura Anderson. They gathered signatures on petitions, testified before the Hawaii County Council, and even helped write the bill to ban smoking at Kahalu’u Beach Park.
  • Suzanne Kretcshmer and Grades of Green – Suzanne, along with a small group of parent volunteers, recently founded Grades of Green to increase sustainability efforts on school campuses throughout the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. They worked with the District, City, and Waste Management, the local waste hauler, to develop programs such as “Trash Free Tuesdays,” “Walk to School Wednesdays,” lunchtime recycling and composting, and more.
  • Katharine Noonan of Oakland High School – Since science is best learned through experience, Katherine provides fieldtrips for her students to the Marine Mammal Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Catalina Island, and the EPA Region 9 Lab. Katharine and her students collect water samples from Lake Merritt for analysis and share the data with City officials and the general public. Katherine also sponsors internships and many other exciting opportunities for her students such as participation in the Otter Bowl.
  • Sewer Science – Sewer Science is a high school wastewater science laboratory developed through a collaboration of San Jose State University, the City of Palo Alto, and 13 high school science teachers from seven high schools. During the week-long laboratory, students simulate wastewater and wastewater treatment processes. They take environmental measurements and learn problem solving and decision making skills.

I know there are many other environmental youth programs out there and would love to hear about them!

About the author: Sara Jacobs usually can be found in the EPA Region 9 Drinking Water Office. However, she is currently on a detail to the Navajo Nation EPA Superfund Program where she spends much of her time out in the field helping to identify contaminated structures which are a legacy of uranium mining.