We asked our Project Green Challenge 2021 winners to reflect on their experiences with Project Green Challenge 2021. Here’s what they said:
Project Green Challenge is more than just a competition. It’s a challenge that changes perceptions of people from around the world. By educating PGC participants on environmental issues, empowering them with accessible solutions, and providing the necessary resources to make change, Project Green Challenge has transformed us all into changemakers. The investment of the PGC staff, mentors, and ambassadors have equipped us to arrive at our goals long before the world expects us to. Before PGC, many of us felt powerless to make an impact on global climate change, but joining Turning Green has empowered us to take action. So yes, Project Green Challenge is so much more than just a competition: It is universal change—the future.
PGC 2021 Champion
Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Nigeria
In October 2021, I started Project Green Challenge. These past six months have been a tremendous journey. The challenge kicked off on October 1st, the same day as my country’s independence day celebration. Because of the events of our independence day, I wasn’t able to join the first day of Project Green Challenge. I was sad. Would this put me behind? Regardless, Turning Green encouraged me. They said that there was always hope to become a finalist even if I couldn’t attend the first day. Those words meant a lot to me.
My school is on an isolated island. We don’t have the same technology that some of the other PGC participants do. I know I had a lot to offer, but I felt hopeless that I wouldn’t be able to show off my potential because of a lack of accessible technology. What I learned along the way was how to break barriers that come my way. I worked with Turning Green to get a better internet connection. I worked with the tools I had available. I observed my environment to discover responses to the daily PGC challenges. I took pictures of the ocean, plants, and animals. I made a video to encourage fair trade products. I tried to participate everyday in the Green, Greener, and Greenest stage of the daily challenges so I could be chosen as a finalist.
It was not always easy. I was eventually selected to be a finalist. I wasn’t able to attend the four day PGC summit in California like other participants. I was disheartened, but I presented my thoughts and passion virtually. Even though I could not be there in person, my efforts came through. Turning Green awarded me the first place grant funding to carry out my project.
I then began my Climate Action Project. That period of time changed my life. I focused on educating the public on what climate change is and its impact to our ecosystem, especially through the use of single-use plastics and fossil fuels. I published an article on sustainable development with a newspaper. I visited a very popular radio station in Delta State. I was offered the opportunity to share my knowledge with my campus’ elementary school students. I talked to my campus community chief and chairman. I personally met with the Vice Chancellor of my school. I, and a marine environment and pollution control team in my department, spoke to my community about ocean conservation and environmental justice. Following this, I provided waste receptacles and a landfill for my community to dispose of single-use plastics. Finally, I led the charge to install solar panels on my school to reduce its overdependence on fossil fuels. This all happened in just a couple of months.
I fought to become the only African finalist and the overall champion of Project Green Challenge. I became my own inspiration. Everyday, Turning Green helped me discover my super powers and hidden potential. I can’t think of a way to give back to Turning Green for all they have done. I will continue to fight for environmental and climate justice. I am incredibly grateful for my team of passionate environmentalists and my project mentors. I can’t say enough about the magic of PGC.
PGC 2021 Second Place
Bloomington High School North in Bloomington, IN
Why would governments and community leaders in a coal state like Indiana take a 16-year-old environmental activist seriously? That is what I used to think, before Project Green Challenge. Now, after learning the PGC way of thinking, I understand that change must start somewhere by someone. I expect leaders to take the youth seriously. We have real climate concerns, and we are devoted to taking significant climate actions. There is no time to wait for when we are older. We have to, and are able to, lead now.
For my Climate Action Project, I captured in a survey the climate change anxiety and urgency felt by my local community to benchmark off an international climate anxiety survey run by Hickman et. al (2021). I received over 1,300 responses and found that my high school is more worried about climate change than the US average. My high school put more emphasis on the need for government action, reporting more often that the government is not taking climate concerns seriously enough and that political leaders are failing young people. Extending my original survey efforts, I have been working with Turning Green to create a global climate survey that gauges existing climate change knowledge and ideas for climate solutions.
I know that demonstrating climate anxiety alone is not enough to convince leaders to invest in solar, so I also had to show that solar investments will pay off. To do that, I created a detailed cost-benefit analysis based on the energy use of my high school. With conservative estimates of installation costs and solar production potential in Bloomington, IN, I forecasted a break-even point before year eleven and anticipate more than 125% return on investment.
With my climate survey findings, as well as my cost-benefit analysis, I have been meeting with leaders in my community (both Indiana Senators and House Representatives, as well as officials in my school district) to advocate for more investments in solar. By having relatable data, people took me seriously and we dug into details and made more progress in each meeting. I am proud to report that my high-school’s principal has committed to (i) complete a city-sponsored energy assessment audit valued at $3,000, (ii) apply for a $10,000 city energy efficiency grant, and (iii) install solar panels at my high-school, where the total capacity is to be determined after we have details of the energy audit to be completed soon.
Looking back, I am proud of the journey that I have accomplished as it has given me more confidence in activism than I ever could have thought possible. I never would have imagined that I could have led an environmental movement in my community, but with the support and mentoring of PGC, I was empowered to make change, and I am determined to continue to lead in this important movement.
George Warfel & LCDS Green Committee
PGC 2021 Third Place
Lancaster Country Day School in Lancaster, PA
On September 30, 2021, our faculty advisor for Green Committee introduced us to a mysterious 30-day challenge beginning the next day. After briefly looking at the online description, our team decided that we would join. This was the beginning of our journey with Project Green Challenge 2021.
Project Green Challenge starts with a 30-day sustainability challenge. We loved completing the first few challenges and decided to give it our all from that point forward. We did not expect anything to come from our efforts, but soon after, we received our first daily prize. We were ecstatic. None of us had ever thought that we would be recognized for our work amidst all of the other amazing daily submissions. There was also daily encouragement from the Turning Green Instagram account. Of the hundreds of daily posts tagging Turning Green on social media, the organization took the time to respond to the majority of these posts—dedication that we never had expected. When the challenge reached its final days, we realized how much it had truly impacted us.
Then came the email in our inbox a few days later, telling us that we had been selected to participate in the 2021 finals in San Francisco. Our hard work had truly paid off in the most wonderful way possible. After meeting the fellow finalists in California, I was inspired by their past work during the challenge, and the passion that they shared with us for environmental activism. Over the past five months, we put our inspiration to the test, completing our Climate Action Project. While we encountered unexpected challenges, with the help of our amazing mentors, we adapted and strove to make as much of an impact as possible on our community. Project Green Challenge has fundamentally changed our perception of the world and the change that is required to heal it. This experience will always be a part of us, and we will always be a part of the Turning Green family.
Each of us has had our own unique journey and barriers to overcome. Each one of us has persisted in the face of adversity to make a net positive impact. As a fellow 2021 finalist declared, “We have learned how to respond to NO.” We will always find ways to make change in our community and beyond as we use the skills we learned to adapt and overcome adversity. Leaving this challenge, we are more empowered than when we joined it, we are now a part of the Turning Green family, who we know will support us, wherever we go.
Interested in Project Green Challenge?
You can help heal the planet and connect with like-minded students from around the world. It’s not too late. Sign up today to join the next Project Green Challenge!