A recent study found that 80 percent of American teens are concerned about the environment, while 61 percent believe their generation will be more environmentally responsible than previous generations. But how can teens channel their concern for the environment and create positive change?
An environmental club for high school students is a great way for teens, parents, and teachers to become energized about taking care of the Earth and their community, while learning about critical 21st century issues. So if you're an Earth-conscious teen looking for tips on how to start your own eco club at school, you've come to the right place!
FORMING A GREEN TEEN CLUB
Step 1: Have an agenda. It's your club, what kinds of things do you want to accomplish as a group? You could, for example, advocate for and perfect a recycling program for your school; create educational programs for students about the environment; volunteer your time to help community gardens, environmental clean-up sites, and/or park restorations; improve your school's hot lunch quality; practice Meatless Monday as a group; fundraise for environmental causes; pick up local residents' Christmas trees; and have focused social events like Earth Day or Environmental Awareness Day parties.
Step 2: Find a teacher, community leader, or parent who's willing to sponsor your club. Their role is to advise students, offer their expertise on environmental concerns, supervise community outreach projects, and help ensure the continuity of the group from year to year.
Step 3: Make sure there are at least 6 or so students interested in forming a green club. If you're having trouble finding members, ask your principle for permission to advertise and hold a club agenda meeting. You can decorate recycled paper with brightly colored lettering and photos of green-advocate celebrities like Emma Watson, Adrian Grenier, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron, Hayden Panattiere, or Hilary Duff. You might also think about having some kind of incentive to get more classmates to show up, such as offering free green-colored, homemade cookies to all meeting attendees. In addition to the meeting's time and place, make sure your posters include some of the goals you hope to achieve with the support of additional members.
Step 4: At your introductory agenda meeting, explain what you hope the club will accomplish and why school-wide involvement is important. You won't have any trouble getting through to prospective members if you tell them employers and colleges are increasingly looking for applicants' participation in green-centered organizations and charities as part of the hiring and admissions process. But stress the point that your green club will not only be impactful and important to the environment, it will also be plenty of fun for everyone involved!
Step 5: Either at your introductory agenda meeting or afterwards, create a contact list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses, then decide on a time and place to have official, weekly club meetings. Lunchtime usually works best for most students to have meetings during school, so why not ask a teacher if you can borrow their classroom for the club to gather in once a week? Even better, have the meetings on Meatless Monday so everyone can eat vegetarian as you develop an action project plan together.
Step 6: Together with your club's sponsor, make a brief inventory of your school or community's most pressing environmental needs so you know how to develop your club's action plan. Look for projects that will have the greatest impact and search for local organizations that can provide resources and expertise in various project areas. Be sure to do your homework and research all sides of the issue(s) you identify as most needed. Check with local non-profit agencies, home and garden stores, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and your regional chapter of the Environmental Protection Agency for potential resources.
Step 7: When you get together to brainstorm project ideas, make sure to focus on one or several group-oriented projects that are local, can be accomplished in a school year, and have measurable benefits to the environment, school, and/or community. For each project your club hopes to complete, develop a timeline that includes clear-cut goals, dates, and responsibilities. The US Environmental Protection Agency's Student Center website provides resources and project ideas for school environmental clubs. The site also includes links to several partner nonprofit groups with club-worthy activities.
Step 8: Once you have your club formed and active, be sure you and the club's sponsor keep members excited and engaged. Set up a Twitter or Facebook page to keep everyone informed on previous, current, and upcoming events. A social networking site also gives students a place to offer ideas and suggestions for activities and to make comments outside of the regular meetings; they also provide further advertising for additional club members. Be sure to regularly update and monitor whatever sites you have dedicated to the club or send out regular emails so members are kept organized and informed.
Step 9: Have your green team work together and share experiences with other green teams. By finding school or community organizations who share your mission, you'll be able to pool both people and resources to increase everyone's productivity. Go to Ashoka's Youth Venture website to create a profile for your school's green team, or simply search for other green teams around the world.