I Be Green
From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Victoria Brown
Recycle, Reduce, Re-use, and Relate: an improved version of an environmentalist’s motto. Last summer I attended a two-week program at Brown University on sustainable development. There, I discovered the necessity of sustainability and a passion to combat the worsening environmental problems that threaten all forms of life. I learned that the average consumer isn’t well informed on the reasons and benefits of being environmentally conscious. In my high school, there was no conscientious effort to recycle and live “green;” and as part of my sustainable development course, I designed an “Action Plan” geared to solve some of the environmental issues and lack of general awareness in my high school and community.
Within the large scope of environmental problems, the most immediate issue I noted in my community was the lack of recycling. Most cities in the Rio Grande Valley have no recycling pick up. People have to drive way out of their way to a drop off location, which is extremely inconvenient and inefficient. By establishing IB G.R.E.E.N (Getting Resourceful Environmental Education Now), members of my high school and I developed a recycling system for our school which installed distribution bins for waste separation. Previously, my school did not sort glass, paper, and plastic from unrecyclable waste. Informing the students and teachers on what is recyclable and why, also changed their attitude towards recycling at home, spreading sustainability.
At the “Green Living Festival,” a city sponsored event, IB G.R.E.E.N collaborated with the University of Texas at Pan-American’s environmental club in distributing waste and sustainability facts on post-consumer recycled fliers. Our booth, where club members were available for questions and answers on “green” living, interviewed 542 individuals, of which only 189 recycled. Students also learned about the negative effects of genetically modified foods and were asked to promote locally grown, organic food, which benefits the community’s health and economy.
Our favorite IB G.R.E.E.N project involved the construction of solar ovens out of recycled aluminum. Solar ovens parallel the green house effect, compounding the heating qualities of convection, conduction, and radiation until temperatures reach approximately 250 degrees. We used the solar ovens to cook eggs, cookies, macaroni and cheese, beans, and rice, without a single watt of electricity. In my impoverished county of Hidalgo, the knowledge to execute the construction and use of a solar oven would save natural resources and money.
Through the spread of education and the advancement of “green” technology, solutions like solar panels, wind mills, and solar ovens would help both our environment and the people living in it. Studying biology and environmental studies at the Brown University would allow me to pursue my passion for sustainability in a way that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Living “green” is more than recycling or organic foods. It is a way of life that asks: is this responsible? Are my actions sustainable? I realized that because I am able, because I know about the problems in my community, I am responsible to change; I am responsible to seek out solutions in science for problems that greatly affect our quality of life and may even, one day, help end our dependency on fossil fuels.