$1 Million Environmental Contest Enters Final Stage
Hundreds of communities across the country learned about climate change, energy conservation and ways to protect the environment thanks to the work of participants in this year’s Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational program and contest that inspires and empowers middle and high school students to learn about the environment and take a stand to improve it. Sixteen teams in 14 states were awarded $10,000 each for their outstanding entries in Challenge #3, the last of three initial Challenges.
Challenge #3 required teams to focus on topics related to air and climate. The winners addressed a variety of issues including global warming, biodiesel, clean-coal technology and air pollution. These winning teams have joined the other 32 winning teams from earlier stages by earning an invitation to participate in the Final Challenge, which requires teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world. Two grand-prize winning teams will each receive $50,000 in grants and scholarships, and 14 first-place winning teams will receive $30,000 each. The winners will be announced this April in conjunction with Earth Day. In all, $1 million in scholarships and grants will be awarded during this year’s contest.
“Many of these winning teams tackled some complicated issues,” said third generation oceanographer/environmentalist and Lexus Eco Challenge spokesperson Fabien Cousteau. “They’ve proven that small groups can indeed make a huge impact. We hope this experience has instilledin themthe drive to understand today's environmental challengesand a life-long desire to find the solutions for a better future.”
For each of the challenges, teams were required to define an environmental issue that is important to them, develop an action plan to address the issue, implement the plan, and report on the results. The Challenge #3 winning teams that best addressed Air/Climate were:
- California (Torrance): “Project Green” – South High School – Taught the community about climate change, greenhouse gases and the importance of energy conservation, while also providing students with concrete examples of ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Activities included a restoration project at Madrona Marsh, educational presentations to classes, along with a Web site, fliers and posters that encouraged energy conservation.
- Florida (Newberry): “P.R.I.D.E. – Panthers Researching & Improving Different Environments” – Newberry High School – Raised awareness about global warming causes, effects and solutions by working with the community to plant 1,000 longleaf pine trees at the Dudley Farm State Historic Park and by writing a song called “Be the Change” that was posted on YouTube and MySpace. The team also sold 300 CFL light bulbs and donated the funds to Conservation International for re-forestation projects.
- Hawaii (Honolulu): “Population Invisible” – W.R. Farrington High School – Raised community awareness about the dangers of global warming. Projects included presentations at a nearby middle school, information fliers for teachers to share with their students, a beach clean up, and a paper recycling drive.
- Illinois (Dolton): “Thornridge Biodiesel (TRB)” – Thornridge High School – Collected 250 gallons of used vegetable oil and produced “refined” biodiesel for the school district. In the process of gathering the used oil, the team made several presentations to educate their community about renewable fuels, greenhouse gases, and global warming.
- Maine (Falmouth): “The Emission Commission” – Falmouth High School – Created an Environmental Communications Program that included a blog called “Anti Pollution Revolution Campaign” that garnered more than 4,000 visitors in less than two months. They also organized a “Carpool/Ride the Bus to School Day,” presented information about pollution to middle school classes, and circulated a petition to encourage others to commit to reducing air pollution.
- Michigan (Midland): “Dow Debate” – H.H. Dow High School – Raised awareness about the pros and cons of a new clean-coal plant being developed in the community. Efforts included research about the environmental impact of clean coal plants, an article in the school paper, a moderated discussion with key stakeholders that was video-taped and replayed during classroom presentations, and pre- and post- surveys to gauge the increase in awareness.
- Pennsylvania (Wellsboro): “Eye Care for Air” – Wellsboro Area High School – Educated the community about the negative impact of vehicle emissions and burning trash. Information was communicated via a Web site, posters, pamphlets and tip-of-the-week e-mails to teachers. The team also engaged local city government to encourage their support for more recycling, a Bike to Work Day, and a reduction in burning trash.
- Texas (Galveston) – “Super Soil Power Planters” – Ball Preparatory Academy – Focused on raising awareness about the amount of fuel used when transporting produce from the source to the consumer. Efforts centered on creating locally grown produce in a community garden. Outreach included a Web site, blog, and an elementary school education program that provided curriculum to teachers and asked students to help grow seeds for the garden. A Grocery Store Challenge also helped students learn about where produce comes from and how much pollution is caused by transporting the produce.
- Arizona (Chandler): “The Sad Trashcans” – Bogle Jr. High – Raised awareness about the city’s transportation system problems, promoted alternative school transportation, and encouraged use of green bricks. Through research and surveys, a communications plan and a blog, the team effectively spread the word.
- Colorado (Loveland): “WCMS Cougar MASC” – Walt Clark Middle School – Encouraged teachers at their school to use less paper, turn out lights and recycle more. The school is well on its way to reaching its goal of reducing paper use by 20 percent.
- Georgia (Decatur): “Team Glow” – Arbor Montessori – Encouraged local businesses to participate in the Glow Challenge, a contest created by the team to encourage participants to reduce the amount of energy they consume. The winning business received a certificate of recognition for being the greenest business in the community.
- Illinois (Manhattan): “Lights Out Little Girls” – Manhattan Junior High School – Organized a “Lights-Out Hour” to encourage the community to conserve energy and turn lights off when not in use. Outreach tools included a YouTube video, a news release, school PA announcements, fliers, t-shirts and banners.
- Kentucky (Lexington): “The Bottle Battle” – SCAPA Bluegrass – Reduced the number of disposable water bottles being used by their school, friends and families by educating everyone about the benefits of instead using aluminum re-usable bottles. They used surveys, posters, letters to parents, and a Web site to communicate their message.
- Michigan (Byron Center): “UCK – Untitled Carbon Keepers” – Byron Center West Middle School – Raised money to purchase nine acres of rainforest to offset their school’s carbon footprint while in the process educated their school and community about ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
- New Jersey (Manahawkin): “Here Comes the Sun” – All Saints Catholic School – Investigated the number behind the SPF of sunscreen and educated their classmates about the importance of protecting their skin. Using ultraviolet lights and computerized probes, the team determined that an SPF of 30 offers 100 percent blockage of UV radiation.
- New York (East Greenburg): “Goff Gone Green” – Goff Middle School – Organized an Energy Convention at their local library. The event featured educational stations where attendees could learn different ways to use renewable energy sources. One station allowed visitors to calculate their carbon footprint so they could find ways to lesson their impact on the environment.
“We’re all being touched by these tough economic times, and it’s easy to get drawn into all the negativity,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “This program is generating so much positive action, and it’s inspiring to see these young people discovering their voices and realizing that they can make a difference.”
In addition to the ongoing contest, the Lexus Eco Challenge also includes educational materials designed by Scholastic to encourage teachers to integrate creative lesson plans into their classrooms to help teach students about the environment. For each challenge, the Web site (www.scholastic.com/lexus
) has lesson plans and teacher instructions including questions to help guide a discussion about the current challenge topic, facts about the topic, and guidelines for a specific classroom project.
The Lexus Eco Challenge, now in its second year, is part of The Lexus Pursuit of Potential, a philanthropic initiative that generates up to $3 million in donations each year for organizations that help build, shape and improve children’s lives.