$1 Million in Grants, Scholarships Awarded to Next Generation of Environmentalists

Thornridge Biodiesel team
Lexus and Scholastic Announce the Winners of the Lexus Eco Challenge Finale
 
 TORRANCE, Calif., April 16, 2009 – Producing biodiesel from local fast food restaurants’ used vegetable oil and sending solar ovens with “green cuisine” recipe books to hurricane-ravaged Haiti were the two top winning projects in the second annual 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.
 
Student teams from Thornridge High School in Dolton, Ill., and South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla., each earned a grand prize of $50,000 in grants and scholarships. Fourteen first place teams also won $30,000 each. In all, $1 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded throughout the seven-month-long program.
 
“It has been incredible to see so many young people from across the country who have joined this program,” said third generation oceanographer/environmentalist and Lexus Eco Challenge spokesperson Fabien Cousteau. “Each participating team has started its own grassroots initiative, which is one of the fundamental ways we are going to solve the environmental challenges we currently face.”
 
The two grand prize winning teams have demonstrated how great ideas can inspire an entire community. For their efforts, each school will receive a grant for $10,000, the teacher advisor will get a $5,000 grant, and the students will share $35,000 in scholarships.
 
The “Eco-Geeks” team, made of nine students from South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla., aimed to assist with relief efforts in Haiti. Their project included sending solar ovens, seedlings, and low-impact “green cuisine” recipes to the struggling refugees there. The solar ovens reduce the need to burn firewood, while the seedlings contributed to the reforestation efforts. The recipe books, translated into multiple languages, focused on using local foods that are grown organically. The “Thornridge Biodiesel” team of seven students from Thornridge High School in Dolton, Ill., built a biodiesel processor that has produced more than 100 gallons of usable biodiesel from used vegetable oil donated by local restaurants. They recently added a solar panel to generate some of the electricity needed to run the system. They educated the community about their project through a blog, YouTube videos, a MySpace page, and an extensive media outreach effort.
 
“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 has generated so much positive action, and it’s inspiring to see these young people discovering their voices and realizing that they can make a difference.”
 
This year’s winners emerged from the 775 registered teams representing 5,100 middle and high school students nationwide. The 16 winners were selected from 48 teams that qualified for this Final Challenge by winning in one or more of the three previous Challenges that were held from September to February. The earlier phases of the contest, which asked teams to address the topics of land, water, and air/climate, challenged teams to make a difference for the environment in their local communities. The Final Challenge required teams to reach beyond the local community and inspire environmental action around the world. The 14 first place winning teams are:
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 will enter its third year in fall 2009. Teachers and students are encouraged to visit www.scholastic.com/lexus to view all the winning entries and to learn how they can take part in next year’s program.