3 Teen Changemakers Rock 30-Day Eco Lifestyle Challenge
Youth-led nonprofit Teens Turning Green just chose its Project Green Challenge (PGC) winners for 2014. PGC is a 30-day eco lifestyle challenge, in which teens "transition from conventional to conscious living." After a three-day summit in San Francisco, a panel of judges chose the top three finalists. PGC 2014 had 3,984 student participants—representing 49 states, 31 countries and 435 campuses worldwide—who completed daily calls to action on sustainability-related themes.
Examples of these daily challenges that students took on include volunteering at community gardens; interviewing farmers about sustainable practices; cooking sustainable meals; radically decreasing their water usage and changing their personal care and cleaning routines; starting eco clubs on their campuses; launching petitions advocating for social and environmental causes; meeting with their school administrations to advocate for transitioning to environmentally friendly practices; and making phone calls to help support the Prop 92 GMO labeling initiative in Oregon.
The Top 3 Finalists
First Place: Ana Zabala
Zabala, who hails from Colombia, organized a student group at her high school in Bogotá to do an awareness campaign on the virtues of hemp, clean up a polluted area of her city and work with her administration to improve sustainability efforts. Reflecting on her experience, Zabala said:
This weekend changed my life and my perspective. It showed me that everything can be taken to the limit and that even the most outrageously visionary idea is possible with enough determination. I felt extremely supported by people who were so kind to me just because of my existence. For the first time in a long time, I felt that I wasn't wasting my time and that I don't stand alone in my non-conventional vision of the world. I experienced the feeling of empowerment as I had never in my life. The whole weekend was full of this imminent desire to act! There's so much to do! And I can do it! It opened a new world of opportunities and relationships of human quality. I love the fact that these extremely influential characters would just say hi to you with a warm hug. I bet that doesn't happen in most of the circles of businesses or companies of the world. It was a model of how humanity should work. It felt like everyone was a vital part of the tribe! Everyone was important and essential!
During her presentation, Zabala emphasized that change starts with oneself. "Change happens with a group, but starts with one! We are changing the world with passion, love, respect and kindness; change also implies thought ... This is for the world. This is not the work of a month; this is the work of a lifetime.”
Second Place: Jessica Hespen
Hespen's passion for water quality and conservation comes from her experience playing in the lakes in her native Ohio when she was younger. As she grew up, the lakes became too polluted to swim in. Hespen, who wants to become an environmental engineer, has played an active role on her campus at Ohio State University as the Treasurer of Project Green OSU, the first ever Teens Turning Green chapter on a university campus. During her presentation to the judges, she spoke of her transformation in PGC:
I started out knowing the basics: recycling is good, buying organic and non-GMO are good, composting is good and I did some of those things before this October. I call myself an environmentalist and a tree hugger, but I don’t really think I knew what those labels entailed. But Project Green Challenge filled in the gaps in my knowledge and pushed and inspired me to confidently become that tree hugger, that environmentalist.
Third Place: Jenny Fang
Fang, a high school senior in San Leandro, CA, mobilized students and started an environmental club, Green Way. For Fang, PGC was just the start of her eco-revolution:
Many of the challenges have inspired or helped me develop a more comprehensive plan for action in my home and school. I’m extremely excited to [bring] more sustainable dining to the campus. Reflecting on all the things I learned from PGC, I had the courage and motivation to go up to my food service director and talk to her about my ideas. Now, we’re collaborating on forming a garden on campus. Yay!
The PGC 2014 Grand Prize:
The PGC 2014 Champion, Ana Zabala, won a Grand Prize package valued at more than $12,000, including:
- A $5,000 Green Award from Acure Organics
- A trip to the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim from Aubrey Organics
- Tickets to the Organic Center dinner at the Natural Products Expo from the Organic Center
- A $1,000 Whole Foods Market gift card
- An Acre of Land via the World Land Trust from Natracare
- Trip to the Gaia Herbs farm in North Carolina from Gaia Herbs
- A head-to-toe eco makeover, including clothing, bath and body products; and other great gifts from our extraordinary PGC partners
- A Suja Juice Party for 100 friends from Suja
- Chipotle catering for 20 friends
- An organic duvet and pillows from Earthsake
Since its inception in 2011, PGC has engaged more than 15,000 participants. This year, Teens Turning Green helped students to build out the initiatives developed at last year’s Challenge Finals, including Project Green U, a network of college chapters; Eco Engine, a hub for student research on sustainability; and the TTG Conventional to Conscious blog. It's truly exciting to see youth step up and create the kind of conscious living we need to live on a thriving planet.
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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