Inspiration from the Champ
Still need some convincing to join Project Green Challenge? If you’re a high school or college student (or know someone who is), read on to hear about the experience first-hand from 2011 PGC Champion Raychel Santo.
PGC: Taking Trendy to a Whole New Level
Living “sustainably” has become a buzzword to many, especially those in my generation. Gone are the days when bringing lunchboxes to school was “uncool” and one had to pack their mid-day victuals in a brown paper bag in order to fit in. Now, reusable lunch totes, food containers, sandwich bags, napkins, bambooware, and even glass straws have expanded one’s outlets for showing off his/her “school style” beyond just clothing, school supplies and backpacks. Moreover, it has become trendy to be walking home from the farmers’ market with one’s hands full of honeycrisp apples, kale, and butternut squash (at least I hope so, because I do it every week) or carrying around a reusable water bottle.
While I’m glad our generation is beginning to see the light in living a less wasteful and more sustainable lifestyle, it’s going to take a lot more than just following some new trends while they last. Sure, buying eco-friendly (or even better, pre-owned) products is a great start, but in order to truly mitigate our collective impact on the planet, we are going to need a paradigm shift from avoiding those tempting two-year phone contract deals, ridiculously unnecessary 3D TVs, giant gas-guzzling cars, and 12 oz burgers. Climate change is not leaving us any time soon, and neither are the 315 BILLION pounds of plastic in our ocean right now.
To achieve a lasting and effective paradigm shift, we have to ensure that this lifestyle is grounded in consciousness and commitment, cooperation and passion. Project Green Challenge, a month-long eco-lifestyle and leadership competition for high school and college students across the world, is the perfect way to instill these values deep into the hearts and minds of our nation’s next set of leaders.
Last October, I myself signed up for PGC’s inaugural year challenge; I figured it would be a fun activity to brighten up the typical monotony of schoolwork, exams, work, etc. Little did I know what I was signing myself up for, or how much that decision would change my life forever.
Although I considered myself eco-conscious at its start, I soon realized my awareness focused on my primary passion in the environmental movement: sustainable food. With the knowledge I gained from each of the daily 30 challenges covering nearly every global environmental issue (technology, food, water, fashion, and MUCH more!), my enthusiasm for planetary preservation blossomed. The challenges motivated me to act on these issues in creative and effective ways, from sharing experiences with friends and family to contacting campus administrators. PGC expanded my environmental mission beyond the food initiatives I was already working on (such as the start of a new community garden) to new eco-fields as bringing e-cycling boxes to dorms, making green cleaning products accessible to students, lobbying for reusable to-go containers in dining halls, and more.
As a result of this fairly grueling but equally enlightening month of October, I was fortunate enough to be chosen along with 11 other impressive finalists to attend the PGC Finals, “Green University,” in San Francisco during the first weekend of December. During this action-packed weekend, eco-leaders from around the world imparted their wisdom and expertise to us during through motivating speeches and one-on-one conversations, and helped us plan out platforms for change that we have since been implementing throughout this year (from conscious paper consumption to conscious care packages)!
The most exciting aspect of PGC, however, was not the results of my one month’s worth of efforts, but the collective impact it produced from the thousands of other passionate and dedicated students doing similar initiatives on their campuses. PGC not only provides a fun forum for learning about environmental issues (in which I learned more than probably any other class that semester!), but also incredible support for students to address these issues on their campuses, in their communities, and – through the collective impact of all of us – in our world.
The incredible eco-prizes are a great way to attract students to the effort, especially those who may not have been inclined to seek these efforts out otherwise. However, it is the endless knowledge, leadership experience, and new-found passions gained by every participant involved that truly make Project Green Challenge worth each minute of effort. PGC is training a new generation of eco-leaders to transform our world. Sign up NOW to be a part of it!
Raychel, the PGC 2011 Champion, is a junior double-major in Public Health Studies and Global Environmental Change & Sustainability at Johns Hopkins University. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, her passion for everything “green” began with her discovery of the sustainable food movement in her last few years of high school. As she voraciously read and watched every food and nutrition-related piece she could get her hands on, she stumbled into a passion that would fill her hunger for knowledge, justice, and a purpose in life. Upon arriving to college as a freshman, she co-founded a student group called Real Food Hopkins, a chapter of the national Real Food Challenge “committed to bringing local, sustainable, humane, and fair food to the Johns Hopkins campus and the surrounding Baltimore area.” Raychel is also a 2012 Udall Scholar, 2012 PGC Campus Rep, the undergraduate representative on the JHU Office of Sustainability’s Student Advisory Committee, a Grassroots Leader for the national Real Food Challenge team, and a research assistant at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, where she works on the Meatless Monday campaign and other food sustainability research.