My preschoolers are budding environmentalists – they know just what goes in the recycling bin, and they’re clamoring for a compost bin at home, just like the worm-filled one they have at school. They love to dig in the dirt and water their own small patch of garden. With a little luck, and a lot of hard work, they just might become the next Jonny Cohen, Kate Stagliano, or Alec Loorz – three kids who are taking action to make the world a better place.
Jonny is the 17-year-old force behind the Greenshields Project, an effort to improve the efficiency of school buses by making them more aerodynamic. Jonny, with the help of friends, family, teachers, folks from Northwestern University, and a bus company owner, created an airfoil made of fiberglass that attaches to the roof of existing, gas-guzzling yellow school buses. It improves fuel efficiency by 10 – 20 %, keeping carbon emissions down and saving schools money.
When she was in the third grade, Katie Stagliano started Katie’s Kropps by donating a single cabbage to feed hungry people, and then working with her school and neighborhood to create gardens, the harvest of which helped even more people. Now, she’s providing funds so that other kids can create gardens to feed the hungry in their communities, too – by providing food that has a small carbon footprint and comes right from their own yards, schools, or container gardens.
If your child is a budding gardener between the ages of 9 and 16, he or she can apply for help from Katie’s Kropps to start a garden and provide much-need fresh, local produce to a local food pantry or soup kitchen.
When he was 12, Alex Loorz started Kids v. Global Warming to do something to address our warming planet. Now, through iMatter, he and many others are doing what it takes to ensure that the voices of youth are heard and are a key part of addressing climate change. Last year, over 50,000 youth in 180 cities marched to bring attention to the climate crisis, and iMatter trained youth as speakers so that their voices will be heard. They’ve also taken the step of working with youth to file suit against the federal and state governments to ask that the atmosphere is viewed as a common resource and public trust, thus requiring that the government create plans and take more steps to address climate change.
Want to march this year? Set your calendar for April 20th, 2013. Or, take a moment to hear nine more stories of young people taking action by watching these videos.