President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) 2008 Winners
EPA Region 1
Green Your Lives
Gilbert H. Hood Middle School
"Green Your Lives" is a student-led initiative in the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, New Hampshire, dedicated to educating students and the school community about "going green" and putting their knowledge to work.
The students' goal was to promote greener lifestyle choices that reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. After surveying the student body, the students began their work within the school, focusing on energy conservation, waste reduction, and recycling. Their work has expanded to include a community outreach program: "Give and Go" in Bedford, New Hampshire, educating more students and community members on greening their lives. This outreach was accomplished by creating an informational Web site, producing public service announcements, creating educational posters and videos for several schools across the state and country, building a model solar car, and experimenting on creating a hydro prototype. The Give and Go program encouraged students and members of the public to donate items they no longer needed (such as small appliances, clean clothing, and canned food) to a local non-profit organization. Eleven vanloads of materials were diverted from landfill disposal and sold by the local Salvation Army, which netted $3,000 at its summer garage sale.
Over the project's history, the team's efforts have prompted the school to: (1) reduce paper output by 30 percent and promote the use of 100 percent recycled paper; (2) set all printers in the school to default to print double-sided; (3) power down classrooms and computers nearly 100 percent when they are not in use; and (4) increase recycling in the cafeteria. In addition, the team has educated all the students in seven schools about the lifecycle impacts (material inputs, energy use, and waste outputs) of products they buy and use.
Over the lifetime of this project, 1,000 pounds of waste has been diverted from landfills or other waste streams, and the students have received more than $3,700 in financial support from organizations for their efforts.
This team believes that school is the place to start, and that when students receive quality instruction regarding the positive effects of green practices, they will become environmentally responsible. They have expanded their goals to include staff and the community. Green Your Lives has been a motivating project that has allowed students and staff to think and act beyond the project, to make green living a way of life.
EPA Region 2
The Sustainable Development of Ethanol for Environmentally Friendly Alternative Energy
The use of ethanol as an alternative fuel has been steadily increasing around the world for a number of reasons. Among them, domestic production and use of ethanol fuel will: (1) decrease dependence on foreign oil, (2) reduce trade deficits and air pollution, and (3) create jobs in rural areas. As quoted in USA Today, "Biofuels offer a great alternative for farmers in developed and developing countries and could help unlock global trade talks." Brazil has already taken advantage of this alternative fuel and produces 16 million cubic meters of ethanol a year as its main source of fuel.
Currently, bio-ethanol use in some locations is limited due to production challenges, including a reliance on expensive enzymes, a multi-step production process, and a reliance on corn. However, high school student Sujay Tyle investigated the bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum, at the University of Rochester, cloned its genes, and studied their ability to degrade cellulosic biomass. A new enzyme, Gene 5, was discovered and shown to degrade cellulose efficiently.
Sujay's investigation found that developing a technology to regulate the component of the bacterium that is responsible for creating the active cellulase system would provide the missing link to making bio-ethanol commercialization practical.
EPA Region 3
Ryan Morgan's "Project Greenlight" came together as a result of two experiences during his sophomore year of high school. First, he observed the work of grassroots activists at a Farm Aid concert and, second, he viewed former Vice President Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth." As a result, Ryan was inspired to do his part to help end global warming. "I realized that one common person, even a teenager, really can have an impact on the environment," he said.
After he conducted research, Ryan's plan was set. He decided to take a proactive approach by persuading people to switch to more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. Ryan wrote more than 100 letters to celebrities and businesses requesting donations for a raffle to raise money to buy the bulbs he would then give away. Bruce Springsteen, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., John Mellencamp, Philips Lighting, and Harper Collins were among his contributors. Ryan sold raffle tickets at the mall, supermarket, and church and ultimately raised $1,300, with another $500 in corporate gift cards and a grant. He obtained more than 800 CFL bulbs from manufacturers and stores and, in the end, acquired 2,000 bulbs for distribution.
Ryan created pamphlets, posters, PowerPoint presentations, and a Web site to promote his project. He also created a display on how to dispose of CFL bulbs at his community center, visited an elementary school classroom to teach energy-saving tips to the students, and gave presentations to community groups, including the Lions Club and his church congregation. Ryan distributed 1,000 CFLs for free at community events and another 500 in a door-to-door event with the help of the high school environmental club he founded. In spring 2009, along with environmental club members, Ryan will distribute the remaining 500 bulbs as part of the group s continuing effort to "relight" the town. By giving away the bulbs for free, Ryan has persuaded many who would not otherwise try the energy-saving CFLs to make the switch.
EPA Region 4
Green Books Project
Cory Adkins started selling old textbooks on the Internet for summer cash. For several years, it remained an individual pursuit. Over time, however, he became dismayed by the sight of $75 textbooks that were thrown in the dumpster after his school's book sale. He faced a tough question -- "what to do about it?" -- and that´s when the "Green Books Project" was born.
Cory created the Green Books Project to sell used textbooks online. In turn, this project has funded an environmental club that collects and recycles old books. The proceeds from book sales have been reinvested into the community and used to purchase recycling bins. Additionally, the project has helped his school start its own recycling program. Cory designed and distributed a "how-to" manual for others who might be interested in starting a similar program. Excess books that are not sold are largely donated to prisons, elementary schools, and a mobile library in Kenya. Cory used money from the project to spearhead an initiative that placed energy-saving devices in his school and community. This Green Books Project maintains a legacy today in Lewisville, North Carolina.
EPA Region 5
Wetlands Education Team
West Geauga Local Schools
The Wetlands Education Team (WET) was founded by the students of West Geauga Middle School. When a few students in rural Chesterland, Ohio, discovered that 90 percent of the state's wetlands had been destroyed in the last 200 years, they decided to take action. Ohio's wetlands reduce flooding, control erosion, and purify runoff water, and they are also sources of food, shelter, and habitat for wildlife. Students Shawn Cooper, Zak Kucera, Clay McMullen, Isabella Todaro, and Kelli Wright also learned that half of all the bird species in North America use wetlands during some part of their life cycle. To focus their efforts, they decided to work on preserving the remaining wetlands and one bird that relies on wetlands for its survival: the osprey. Decades ago, as Ohio farmers were filling in wetlands, the use of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) was also causing osprey to lay eggs with thin, fragile shells. The resulting decline in the osprey population directly threatened the state's biodiversity. Therefore, WET is working to increase nesting sites by constructing platforms that can take the place of trees lost to development.
To be effective, however, the students knew they had to educate their peers about wetlands, and they needed the help of their peers to preserve the remaining wetlands. WET surveyed fellow students and discovered that only 10 percent were aware that the woods adjacent to the school harbored a wetland. By creating an outdoor classroom at their school, WET began to teach other students about wetlands using hands-on education. As a result, its members now have involved the whole school. The outdoor classroom includes native plants, signs, birdhouses and feeders, a trail to a seating area, a directional signpost, and a weather station. WET also travels to nearby schools and communities to educate others and to help area schools create their own outdoor classrooms. In addition, WET has created educational kits to aid science teachers when they take their students outdoors. WET also has collaborated with several community environmental organizations to map wetlands and teach other students how to use global positioning system (GPS) technology. Finally, they've also worked to request that the state legislature designate the spotted salamander as Ohio's state amphibian through a bill that was enacted in the Ohio State Senate. To achieve this goal, they coordinated a letter-writing campaign and testified at a hearing. This motivated group of teens has raised more than $63,000 in grants, awards, prizes, and donations to support their efforts.
EPA Region 6
Keystone Kids Café
Keystone Adventure School and Farm, Inc.
The Keystone Adventure School and Farm, Inc., in Edmond, Oklahoma, is a very environmentally conscious school of 55 amazing children, Grades 1 through 7. All types of learners flourish at the school. Their classrooms are a magical mix of children, from students without disabilities to others with chronic illnesses, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Developmental Delays, and even Autism Spectrum Disorders. The children are recognized, respected, and treated as an integral part of the educational team.
Because they wanted their school to be sustainable, the children put together a sustainability plan to make their school "green." Working together as a team, they recycle, use chemical-free cleaning practices, use cleaning rags instead of paper, offer reusable serving ware instead of paper and plastic, compost, have a chemical free garden, reuse seeds for crafts and replanting, and have taken on a special project, the Kid's Café.
The café meant establishing their own restaurant, run by the children, using all the green practices described. However, the café wasn't their own idea: the kids there aren't above recycling good ideas, either. As it turns out, they got the idea from a school in California. Their school invited the California school administrator to come to Oklahoma and talk to the Keystone kids about its program. That talk was all the encouragement they needed.
They opened the restaurant and the children take on all the tasks themselves, from the smallest to the biggest. They not only grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables, but they cook the food, wait tables, clean up, and manage the café. The Kid's Café also sells its food to make money to donate to an orphanage and school in Thailand. The children there use the money to plant and grow their own green garden that supplements their diet of white rice.
The Keystone children take green to the highest level. They recycle the seeds in their garden to plant again the following year. The children also make crafts using some of the seeds to sell at their craft fair, which helps support the school. Likewise, they fertilize their garden with compost from their own worm farm and with the manure from the farm animals they keep. They mulch their plants with leaves and clippings from the school property.
Going a step further, they keep bees to pollinate their plants and use the honey for their food and at the café. They also collect water samples from the creek on their property to make sure the water is safe for their animals to drink and for their own use.
EPA Region 7
Scottsbluff Recycle Rally
Elizabeth Turnbo, Natural Resources Class
Scottsbluff High School's Natural Resource student Lizz Turnbo is full of great ideas, motivation, and dedication. She single-handedly initiated one of the largest recycling events this Nebraska community has ever seen: a Recycle Rally.
As part of a class project, Lizz wanted to create a family event that would educate the community about recycling through games, displays, and handouts. The purpose of the Recycle Rally was to let people know the importance of recycling and to inform the public where to take recyclable items in the community. Lizz wanted to host the event in an area that would allow for maximum exposure to attract numerous participants. She wanted at least 100 people to participate in education about recycling.
The event was held from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2008. Wal-Mart was the partner and host site for the Recycle Rally. At the end of the 3-hour event, the booth set up by Wal-Mart staff had distributed more than 300 canvas tote bags to people that attended the Recycle Rally. Her goal of attracting 100 participants was exceeded by well over 200.
Everything at the event was constructed from recyclable material. There were six games, five informational booths, four displays, and handouts with directions on how to recycle and maps showing where the community s recycling facilities are located. Lizz was able to rally volunteers for the event and recruited other students to help assemble the games and displays.
Her goal to inform the community about recycling was successful. Surveys revealed that the Recycle Rally informed 96 percent of the people who attended about the location of recycling facilities and encouraged more than 75 percent of the people surveyed to consider recycling paper, glass, and plastics.
EPA Region 8
Smoke Free Parks
OUTRAGE-Anti-Tobacco Youth Group
OUTRAGE is an anti-tobacco youth group made up of middle school and high school students from Utah County. The students are not only involved in but also formed the group with the help of just one adult. Some of the OUTRAGE members come from households where their parents smoke. As a result, these OUTRAGE members have experienced first hand the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, such as asthma.
OUTRAGE members recognized that many other young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks, where hundreds of families gather to play team sports, use playground equipment, have picnics, hike, bike, and fish, or just enjoy the outdoors. Of the 219 parks in Utah County, not one was smoke-free, leaving the youth in Utah County few places to enjoy outdoor activities free of tobacco smoke.
OUTRAGE recognizes that second-hand smoke contributes to bad air quality, which in turn contributes to many health issues. The group decided to take action and teach others in the community about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Working closely with their youth advisor from the Utah County Health Department, OUTRAGE got involved in many community activities to educate residents about second-hand smoke. Its members collected cigarette butts from playgrounds and were surprised to learn the majority of cigarette butts were found near the playground equipment. OUTRAGE also surveyed Utah County residents at various community events to find out their feelings on exposure to second-hand smoke in parks. These surveys revealed that Utah County residents favored mitigating tobacco smoke in parks. In response, OUTRAGE started a grassroots effort to make all parks and outdoor recreational areas in Utah County smoke free to protect children from second-hand smoke and to help reduce litter from cigarettes.
After all was said and done, OUTRAGE held more than 40 planning and training meetings, where the group planned events and trained other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco. From 2007 to 2008, OUTRAGE planned and implemented 21 major events, with some taking place over multiple days. In total, 33 days of volunteer service were spent within the community finding out the opinions of Utah County residents. Examples included multiple health fairs, concerts, a Relay for Life, the Utah County Fair, and multiple rodeos. At each event, OUTRAGE members spoke with members of the community and educated them on smoke-free parks and the effects of second-hand smoke. They ran the booths and incorporated creative ideas to involve the public. After all the hard work, OUTRAGE gathered 5,112 opinion surveys on smoking in parks and 13,474 signature cards in support of smoke-free parks.
With this information, they presented their work to elected officials at two city council meetings, one meeting with all the mayors in the county, and five meetings with the Board of Health over the course of several months. The Board of Health was the deciding body that would vote to make parks smoke free. OUTRAGE met with the board on several occasions to talk about the need for smoke-free parks. In response to OUTRAGE s actions, Utah County cities joined together in passing a regulation that banned smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County.
The work of OUTRAGE has just begun. Now, the group is planning a campaign to educate Utah County about the new regulation and to spread the message about second-hand smoke and tobacco.
EPA Region 9
A Plastic Predicament
Clay and Chance
Inspired by the service and environmental education outreach projects of the East Hills 4H troop of Alameda County, middle school students Clay and Chance created a video, "A Plastic Predicament," to educate the public and to propose pragmatic solutions to the environmental threats associated with use and disposal of plastic products. The video challenges the notion that better living can be achieved through consumerism based on a disposable model.
Clay and Chance initially learned about the great Pacific trash gyre, a whirlpool of plastic debris twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific, through a 4H environmental stewardship project, Plastic Eliminators. Recognizing the significant long-term problems associated with processing huge volumes of waste plastic and with ongoing landfill management, they became interested in educating the public about the gravity of plastic pollution and modeling ways for everyone to reduce their use of plastic.
They've shown their video at 4H county, sectional, and state meetings as well as in public venues such as farmers markets. To increase the visibility of the issue in the community, they met with the mayor of San Leandro and made a presentation at a city council meeting. Clay and Chance participated in discussions of a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags at a meeting of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority attended by more than a dozen East Bay mayors. They furthered their outreach when their video was displayed by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation's blog site and used as part of an online ecology course at Las Positas Community College.
In response to the negative impacts of waste plastic, the video presents solutions for the shopping public, such as using reusable cloth shopping bags, purchasing products with "mother nature's wrapper" or with minimal manmade packaging, and avoiding juice boxes and Styrofoam. The video also encourages smart recycling and notes that used plastic bags can best be recycled as clothing or construction materials, rather than ending up as landfill mass or marine pollution.
Perfectly transferable to the overall goals of the field of environmental education, the pledge Clay and Chance took in 4H -- like their video itself -- helps their audience to think more clearly regarding the subject of sustainable consumerism.
EPA Region 10
Protect the Dunes
Thousands of visitors come to the shores of the Kenai River during each summer's annual personal use fishery season. Their environmental impact on the sensitive areas around the beach grass and dunes has contributed to coastal erosion. Lincoln Wensely's first place award-winning "Caring for the Kenai" environmental project created educational materials to increase public awareness of the damage being done to the dunes and the health of the Kenai River. Through partnerships with local government and community organizations, Lincoln produced a 3-minute educational movie about protection of the dunes. Mass production and distribution of the video were funded by the City of Kenai, and the video was distributed through many local organizations. Lincoln also created a video public service announcement that was televised statewide throughout the personal use fishing community, as well as radio public service announcements that aired locally. City of Kenai officials credited his project with improved public awareness and a decrease in violations during the 2008 personal use fishery season. The success of Lincoln's efforts has decreased the human impact on coastal erosion.
In 2007, more than 18,000 personal use fishery permits were issued. The high volume of human traffic during this short period created the need for increased enforcement, managed access, and education. As a result, after the 2007 personal use fishery season, the City of Kenai outlined the need for increased protection of the dunes in its annual personal use fishery report. The city proposed plans to increase enforcement and provide more extensive managed access, including protective fencing around the dunes. Since the City of Kenai had already proposed plans for managed access and enforcement, Lincoln focused his efforts in the area of education. Although signs, fencing, and additional law enforcement during high-use times were critical, there was also a need to educate visitors and the local community about this environmental issue. Lincoln's goals were to create and distribute educational materials to inform the local community and its seasonal visitors about the environmental impact of people on the Kenai beach dunes and to make protection of the dunes a priority during the 2008 personal use fishery season. He was able to achieve these goals through the cooperation and support of the many organizations that assisted him in the research, development, and distribution of his educational materials.
Once his educational materials were completed, Lincoln shared his project with many different segments of the local community. The Kenai City Council awarded him a grant for mass production and distribution of his movie. In addition, after a review of his project, the City of Kenai passed an ordinance that increased the fine for trespassing on the dunes from $100 to $500. The city also assigned two seasonal officers to patrol the beach during the fishing season. Lincoln interviewed the mayor's office and the police department after the fishing season and both indicated that his project was the drive behind the City of Kenai's increased efforts to protect the dunes. They also noted that his educational materials helped to inform the public and, with their combined efforts, helped to prevent and minimize further erosion of the dunes by human impact during the 2008 fishery. The City of Kenai is now discussing the possibility of even more long-term protection of the dunes, including year-round fencing and construction of raised walkways.
Lincoln's project was selected as the first-place winner in the nationally recognized "Caring for the Kenai" environmental contest. He also won additional recognition with semi-finalist awards from the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and KDLL, the local public radio station. His project was recognized in the local paper, the Peninsula Clarion, as well on local radio stations.