Got Environmental Issues? The Next Generation's On It with Solutions-Oriented Projects Galore

05/25/2011 02:20 pm ET
  • Starre Vartan Ethical Travel and Science Writer, Author, 'The Eco Chick Guide to Life,'

Almost two years ago, I wrote about here about how the next generation was going to be pissed off at us for our environmental negligence and overall lack of action-taking on climate change and species extinction. Well, I was wrong.

The kids that are coming of age now (Generation Z or Generation Naught) are not only taking our dithering on major environmental issues without much complaint, they are taking all kinds of creative action. Here are four great examples.

GreenDream and the Ultimate Green Classroom

I had the chance to visit Beachwood High School in Ohio this past fall. The high school kids (along with teacher and Heart of Green winner Greg Perry) were focused on green business in their Marketing class, and then took it to a whole new level. Not only did they raise enough funds (over $100,000) to construct "The Ultimate Green Classroom" and had it built, they came up with a working business plan and executed it for the GreenDream event. A day-long event that included green and sustainable vendors from throughout the region, it drew hundreds and hundreds of visitors, curious about natural products, solar panels, local food and more.

Teens Turning Green: Educating Their Peers

The (mostly) girls behind Teens Turning Green are helping make their fellow teens aware of toxins and reducing their exposure. Suggestions for natural and organic personal care products (shampoo, body wash, etc.) and makeup (through the Teens for Safe Cosmetics arm of the group) helps their fellow teens become familiar with the potential exposure issues and their consequences, and there are plenty of product suggestions to help them find greener options.

Teens Turning Green's most recent project is called Project Green Dorm, and encourages college students to keep the planet's resources in mind. Encouraging use of electricity-saving gadgets and electronics, investing in organic bedding, and safe paints, it makes dorm rooms more about health and less about crazy partying (well, maybe there's room for both!).

Maura Bennet and Converse One Star/Target: Messaging Through Video

Maura Bennet, who won second place in the Converse One Star/Target Video Contest is only 11, but she's worried. And took action by making a video that beat out thousands of others. Her words about taking responsibility are inspiring and a poignant antidote to the all too common attitude of many people my age who say things like 'what I do doesn't matter.'

"What I do know is that I matter -- that what I do matters," says Maura. "The footprint I leave on this world matters." For just one girl, she has a lot to say.

Aitan Grossman and KidEarth: Global Warming Recognition Through Song

Aitan Grossman, the 12-year-old boy behind KidEarth, is doing what he can with something as simple as a song. Aitan says plainly, "I am a 12 year old boy who likes music and doesn't like global warming. I am not old enough to solve the problem. But I am old enough to convince others to try by having school children from every continent sing my "100 Generations" song with me." Schoolchildren around the world, including France, Botswana, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Guatemala and Taiwan have taken up the call and have made their own versions of the songs and recorded them.

Kids and school groups who want to join in can do so, the song recording is open to all. For us old folks, "100 Generations" can be downloaded from iTunes and Amazon MP3 and "sales will support nonprofit groups fighting climate change. Aitan's favorites are Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection and the World Wildlife Fund.