Adapted from The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.
Small actions can have a big impact. While tackling large environmental issues such as climate change can seem like an insurmountable task, starting small—starting local—can make a difference. Encourage your students to take action in one—or more—of these nine ways.
1. Eat local.
Buying locally grown food helps reduce the environmental costs of transporting food. Point teens to simplesteps.org/eat-local to find out about farmers’ markets in your area where they can learn which foods are in season locally at different times of the year.
2. Be an animal advocate.
Endangered animals aren’t the only ones that need help. Many cats, dogs, and other animals are abused or abandoned. Teens can volunteer at a local animal shelter or fund-raiser for an animal-related cause. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website can provide more ideas.
3. Make music.
Make a musical statement on behalf of the environment. Have your students write and record a song to use in a public service announcement informing others about threats to our planet. Or, organize a Battle of the Bands contest to raise funds for an environmental cause.
4. Spread the word about green housing.
A greenhouse isn’t the same as a green house. Green homes use recycled materials and are energy efficient. Encourage students to learn more about earth-friendly buildings and cities at Global Green. Turn it into a service project by having teens attend local committee meetings and present a case for community investment in green buildings.
5. Track the health of a local body of water.
Take a group of science students or the environmental club to study a local lake or river. Determine if chemicals or other contaminants that could harm fish or wildlife are present. Check for invasive, non-native species that have displaced native plants or animals. Consider involving local or regional environmental experts and officials in the project.
6. Teach others how to go green.
After your students have investigated living a planet-friendly lifestyle, have them publish a pamphlet on environmentalism or talk about environmentalism to a school or community group that addresses current affairs. Students could practice their technology skills by setting up a website with information people can use to help the environment.
7. Adopt a local park.
Students can volunteer for a variety of tasks that help make areas in your community greener—including planting trees and gardens, picking up litter, or maintaining lawns. Have students start in their own backyards—their school—or contact your local park administration for opportunities.
8. Help make homes more energy efficient.
Many people don’t realize the impact that our everyday habits have on the environment. While some changes are costly at first, they often can save people a lot of money in the long run. Empower your students with the knowledge and language to encourage their families and friends to winterize their homes, limit their use of air-conditioning, and install low-flow showerheads. Campaign Earth provides other valuable ideas for making homes energy efficient.
9. Clean up indoor air.
With your students, go to epa.gov/iaq to investigate what nasty particles might lurk in the air you inhale and how to reduce them. Have your students create and distribute a flyer with your findings.
For more ideas on ways teens can take local—and global—action on issues, check out The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.
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