Tomorrow’s Environmentalists Today

PEYA-logoRecently, EPA was honored to present the President’s Environmental Youth Award to some of the futures brightest environmental stars. Several years ago, I coordinated this program, and was just as amazed this year as I was back then at the innovation and creativity school-aged kids have to address environmental issues in their communities.

The projects are carried out by either an individual or a group, but all of them no doubt make a huge difference in their community. For example, this year a group of middle school students created a sustainable project to collect the town’s waste cooking oil, refine it into biofuel and then distribute it. To date these students have donated 4,000 gallons of Bioheat to local charities and helped 40 families with emergency heating assistance, not to mention the reduction in the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Wow, if they can do something like this in middle school, I can only imagine the environmental impacts these students will make when they are older.

Another of this year’s winners, a high school student from Lubbock, Texas, set out to help educate children about living green. The result: Lorax Lodge, a new environmental education center, curriculum guides for the center with hands-on activities, and a nature trail. So far, 1,300 people have visited Lorax Lodge from 14 different states. Oh, and did I mention that Texas Tech University has adopted the Lodge to use as their pilot program for an energy audit and have arranged to use the Lodge as a model for sustainable construction…absolutely incredible.

I encourage you to read about all of the winning projects from this year and past years and be amazed at how today’s youth are tackling some of our most important environmental problems. Perhaps you know of some future environmentalists making a difference in your community. I encourage you to share this program with them.

During their trip to Washington, DC, we invited this year’s winners to blog about their experiences. During the next few weeks, Greenversations will be featuring their blogs on Friday’s. I invite you to read their stories about their experiences, share in and congratulate them on their successes, and take inspiration from these young folks about how we all can make a difference in tomorrow today!

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked for the federal government for over 26 years at various agencies. She currently works in the Office of Web Communications within the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters.