Anna Hankins ‘Turns Green’ Through Project Green Challenge
I signed up for Project Green Challenge (PGC) because a friend of mine suggested that I look into it. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I didn’t realize I had signed up for a monthlong challenge that would change my entire lifestyle. PGC was run by the California-based organization Teens Turning Green, to transform my life from conventional to environmentally conscious. The challenge ran for the entire month of October, and each day was assigned a different theme.
For example, one day the challenge would be to go through all of the cosmetics that I use and research the different chemicals in them, and then do research and select eco-friendly alternatives.
As I entered my final year of high school, I kept telling myself that when I go to college I will become this big environmental activist, and that when I go to graduate school people will have to listen to me. And then when I get my Ph.D., I will change the world. But what PGC taught me was that I did not need to wait. I could become an environmental leader now.
Before my involvement in PGC, I was very focused on global environmental problems, but I was not thinking about the environmental and social implications of my conventional clothing purchases or the sheer number of plastic bags that I used each and every day.
I was spending a lot of time and energy worrying about the melting of the polar ice caps, the water pollution in India, and the hydraulic fracturing of America’s shale plates. PGC taught me that I needed to change my own life before I could change the world.
All of the daily challenges were thought-provoking, interactive, and enjoyable. It was usually the challenges I was least interested in that ended up having the largest impact on my day-to-day life.
For example, one day the theme was fashion. The challenge involved looking at the content of my own wardrobe, specifically at how my clothing was made and what it was made out of. After doing a great deal of research, I realized that the production of organic cotton is crucial to the well-being of people and the planet.
Another part of that day’s challenge was to take my knowledge a step further. I decided to conduct a clothing drive through my local library. After I put out a small collection box in the entrance of the library, I honestly didn’t think that I would receive many donations.
Every day for almost four weeks, I went to the library after school to collect any items that had been dropped off. Every day, my collection box was overflowing. By the time I ended the drive, I had collected over 25 large bags of clothes that I donated to Abby’s House, a women’s shelter in Worcester, Mass.
My clothing drive gave me insight into consumer society. After folding and sorting all of the donations, I realized that the majority of people, similarly to me, were not buying organic cotton. Suddenly I was becoming an advocate for something I had not even thought about a month ago.
That was the sheer magic of PGC: It was about learning, teaching, and then learning some more.
After PGC finished, I was then selected as a finalist and flown out to San Francisco to participate in Green University. During this weekend, the other 13 finalists and I were given the opportunity to work with environmental leaders and each other to build campaigns. We learned how to become activists within our own schools and in the world.
At the end of the weekend, I gave my presentation in front of a panel of judges and the other finalists, recapping my 30-day transformation.
I was selected as the second-place winner out of over 2,600 students from around the world who participated. PGC helped me to find my voice as a young environmental leader.
It helped me to change my life so that someday I can change the world. My ultimate goal is to be a hydrologist. I want to be an activist, a scientist, and an educator.
I have been drawn to the study of water because every water issue is so interdisciplinary, and thus solving these problems will have to come from an environment, economic, political, and social standpoint.
Water is so universal and so unifying. I hope that if I can teach people and corporations to respect water, then I can teach them to respect one another as well.
Young people are incredibly powerful, and young people are the ones who will change the world.
I think people need to lead by example—change your life first and show others the way. I believe in the power of each individual, and subsequently I believe in the power of all of us to work together to make change happen.
I would encourage any student, from anywhere in the world, to get involved with Project Green Challenge.
Project Green Challenge (www.projectgreenchallenge.com) is a global call to action for high school and college students from around the world to transition from conventional to conscious living.