Some adults have been slow to grasp the need to change our old ways. But we have no time to waste—and girls all over Australia and NZ certainly aren’t waiting around. They’re creating imaginative new ways to green our lives. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges the planet faces, but girls have the energy, brains and caring spirit to come up with the ideas, and just get on with it and make it happen!
We talk a lot at Enlighten about the damaging role models and expectations girls are bombarded with in the media and in advertising. What this generation of green girls shows us is that sometimes we need to look no further than girls themselves for better role models. (Not to mention inspiration for adults, too.)
These girls are not only making a real environmental difference but are also developing communication, leadership and entrepreneurial skills that will set them up for success later in life. Take Year 11 students Jessica Gill and Laura Ryan, from Perth, who created Switch Off, a competition in which 65 schools vied to show the greatest reduction in energy consumption. The girls approached companies for sponsorship and managed to raise $14,000 worth of prizes such as solar panels. What an extraordinary achievement.
Friends Kate Charters and Millicent Burggraf were only 14 and 13 when they decided they’d had enough of shoppers using plastic bags that ended up all along the beaches near where they lived in Melbourne. So they did something about it, designing their own reusable bags, and lobbying retailers and shoppers. There was such a huge drop in plastic bag use in their neighbourhood that they were nominated for the UN World Environment Day awards in 2007, among adult environmentalists.
Fourteen-year-old Parrys Raines, aka Climate Girl, has been running a website full of useful environmental information and links, since interviewing other children and finding that many wanted to do something to save the planet but weren’t sure where to start. She is a WWF Youth Ambassador and has also made documentaries about the environmental threats to polar bears and orang-utans. (I’m happy to say that coincidentally Parrys is one of the beautiful girls Enlighten worked with recently at St Mary Star of the Sea College, at Wollongong.)
Many girls out there really care about others and about planet Earth. Do you have any examples of great youth environmental projects that are going on in your area and that might inspire other girls? I’d love to share them with the whole Enlighten community.
Here are some internet resources that give girls the tools to go green:
Conservation Volunteers Australia (and NZ)—offers opportunities for young people in Australia and NZ to volunteer in environmental efforts, and volunteers can work towards the Certificate 1 in Active Volunteering: www.conservationvolunteers.com.au
Greening Our Schools network (Australia)—provides materials such as solar panels, water tanks, insulation and technology improvements for schools, and classroom activities for English, Maths and Science: http://changeandswitch.org/campaigns/greening-our-schools-network/
NZ Youth Environment Forum—each year all regional councils in New Zealand are invited to select three young environmental leaders (15-18 years) to attend a four-day forum “designed to inspire and build the capability of young environmental leaders”. The website also has resources for getting involved in environmental projects: www.sirpeterblaketrust.org/environment/youth_environment_forum/
Switched On Schools Program—Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s teaching resources such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, lesson plans, in-school speakers and workshops: www.aycc.org.au/switchedonschools/wordpress/