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National Geographic : Meeting Green-Tweens On Their Own Terrain

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The only way to save the planet is to motivate people in a position to do so. The scary thing is that those in power are understandably busy with other pressing needs--namely IM-ing their BFFs, suffering through PowerPoint presentations, and squeezing in time for soccer practice. For just-as-busy parents, the most inconvenient truth is that the greening of the planet is not up to them, but up to the next generation of kids.

So in addition to all of the other demands that sustainability must live up to, it also had better be fun. It must help save dolphins, tigers, rain forests and local ponds while it empowers kids to feel like rock stars as they engage their families to make a difference, and yet it also needs to have the immediate gratification of the latest video game.

So at National Geographic Kids we decided to lead the crusade by meeting our green tweens on their own terrain. We gave them a jump-start by publishing our second annual "Green Issue" this past October with Princess Fiona (that's Cameron Diaz to you and me) as guest editor. We packed our pages with stories about caring for the environment and ways kids can help the Earth. We pressed our readers to share the eco-friendly information and tips they gained to get their families on board on a daily basis.

Then we conducted a spot check research study to see if the recycled rubber hit the road. We asked 350 of our 2007 NG Kids Advisory Team members several questions about the environment and their current environment-related behavior. Luckily, the news is good. Here's what they had to say:

• We learned that our readers are actively doing their part to help save the environment by turning off the water when they brush their teeth (81 percent do this "every chance I get"), turning off the TV when they're not watching it (69 percent do this "every chance I get"), and turning off the lights when they leave the room (63 percent do this "every chance I get").

• Two-thirds of kids surveyed felt they do as much as their parents to help save the environment. Kids believe they have influence on their families when it comes to protecting the Earth, with 39 percent saying they have "a lot" of influence and 55 percent saying they have "a little" influence. Only 6 percent believe that they have no influence on their families.

• Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said their family has a recycling bag/bin at home; more than three-quarters of these kids recycle items in the bag/bin themselves at least once a day.

So kids talk the talk, but still, do they walk the walk? We tried an experiment. To celebrate Earth Day, we invited our readers to participate in setting a Guinness World Record for creating the longest line of smelly used sneakers. Our plan was to team up with Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program, which recycles old and unusable shoe material to make playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, and running tracks. We needed 500 shoes to set this record. As of April 21, we've logged over 10,400 shoes, sent from all over the world. So National Geographic Kids readers will help set a record, keep trash out of landfills, and build places for kids to play!

Now that's rubber hitting the road: Perhaps kids can save the world, one stinky sneaker at a time.