Teens

Tapping into the Energy of Teens

As a teen when I heard the word energy I automatically thought of coffee, sugary snacks, and anything that could get me through the day. Unfortunately that is not where energy that powers our daily lives – home, school, work, etc. – comes from! During my time serving as president of my high school’s Green Club, one of my tasks was developing ideas for alternative energy sources and teaching middle and elementary school kids about the importance of energy conservation. Today kids have taken energy conservation to the next level and their efforts are truly inspiring.

The Minnesota Student Energy Project (MNSEP) is a student-founded, student-led non-profit that began in 2008. What started as three high school students with an idea to raise money for solar panels for their school, Mayo High School, has expanded to include numerous students across the state. What the teens didn’t expect was the amount of money and interest that their project would spark. Local media became interested. Other schools and community leaders wanted to talk with the students about how they developed such a strong resource base and what they could do to help expand MNSEP’s efforts.

This year MNSEP has caught the eyes and ears of Minnesota legislators, national news, and regional organizations. The young people that make up MNSEP are on the move making sustainable change. Through grants from the Federal Department of Energy and numerous other organizations MNSEP is spreading its goal of educating communities on alternative energy and conservation.

We can all learn something from the MNSEP members about energy and unity. They took a small group and turned it into something bigger because they had a goal and a dream to see a sustainable future for generations to come. From the looks of things, they are going to keep dreaming and achieving.

About the author:  Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations, holds seats on youth education boards, and is active in politics. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Changing Climate Change

Growing up, I used to spend my winters in Chicago sledding, building snowmen, making snow angels, and having snowball fights in the park near my house. A fresh coat of snow meant that my neighbors and I would all come out to play, bundled up with hats, gloves, and bulky coats, leaving lopsided trails of footprints behind us as we explored what might be adequately described as a “winter wonderland”.

As a summer intern for the EPA, I still maintain a passion for snow forts and snowball fights, and I have developed a greater appreciation for activities such as skiing and ice skating (which had never been much of an interest to my younger self due to an extraordinary lack of coordination). Unfortunately, as I’ve grown up, I’ve had less time to enjoy these recreational activities, not just because my schedule has gotten busier, but because snow doesn’t fall as often as it did 15 years ago. Ice cover isn’t as thick, and even when a snowfall does occur, the snow just doesn’t last as long. With only a few short weeks for winter break, I’m disappointed when my chances to enjoy the snow are limited.

Winters are getting warmer due to the earth’s changing climate. Temperatures are increasing, and precipitation will get more inconsistent—either too much or too little. Ice on lakes will be thinner, making them unsafe to use for things like skating and ice fishing. Humans have to take some of the blame for this phenomenon. Pollution from factories, cars, and homes traps heat inside the atmosphere, which leads to climate change. There are plenty of things that people, and especially teens, can do to address climate change. The Marian Koshland Science Museum, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) offer ways for teens to get involved in combating climate change. NWF even has a downloadable action guide with project ideas.

I enjoy warm weather as much as the next person-my summer days are full of soccer, Frisbee, and swimming. However, I will still do what I can and encourage others to combat climate change. Fortunately, this is not a problem that can only be addressed by business and government. Anybody, at any age, can contribute. It is my personal belief that everybody should do their part to slow climate change. The problem requires immediate action, and as today’s teens graduate, go to college, and enter the “real world”, we will be a very important part of the solution. We owe it ourselves, to the world, and to the thousands of children that enjoy frolicking in freshly fallen snow.

About the Author: Carmel Loch is an intern for the Air and Radiation Division working on Climate Change. She will be a junior at the University of Chicago.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Teens have the Power!

About the author: Amanda Sweda joined EPA’s Office of Environmental Information in 2001 and develops policy development for Web related issues and serves on the Environmental Education Web Workgroup. Amanda is a former Social Studies and Deaf Education teacher and is married to a math teacher so education is an important topic in their home.

image of author sitting on a rockRecently my dad and stepmom came to visit me and told me about the new house they bought. My dad told me about what they are doing to the house to get ready for moving in – painting, new appliances, and some remodeling. I asked my dad if he had bought Energy Star kitchen appliances and the blank look on his face said it all – he didn’t know. I was disappointed that I had missed an opportunity to help my parents make environmental decisions appropriate for them and potentially save a lot of money on their electricity bills, water consumption, etc. over the years.

My dad didn’t talk to me about any of these decisions probably because I don’t live at home anymore (and haven’t for a long time). This is not to say that my dad wouldn’t have appreciated the advice. I remember when they first moved to New York State over a year ago he asked my younger sister about cell phone plans. He ended up buying the phones that my sister recommended. I guess he thought my sister was more technical savvy, but this means he listens to at least one of his daughters!

My dad is not alone when it comes to asking for technical help from the kids. Turns out there is tons of research that shows parents rely on their (teenagers) kids’ advice when it comes to making purchases especially for electronics. Guess my dad doesn’t ask me because I am not a teenager anymore! It might be hard to believe, but teenagers like you have a lot of power to help your parents make all kinds of purchasing decisions.

I am sure you can’t imagine buying a washing machine or a dishwasher right now, but someday you might. Or it could be a new microwave, TV, or other electronic device. It doesn’t even have to be about electronics – there are all kinds of home improvement projects you could do with your family. Or maybe you have been dreaming about a car to drive when you can – you’ll definitely want to participate in that decision! Now’s a good time to practice making these kinds of decisions and working with your parents to figure out what works best for your family and budget.

Check out the Energy Conservation page on our Web site for some tips. What are some ways that you have already helped your family with these types of decisions?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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