Guest Post: Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge Truly Changed My Life
Tamsin Stringer is a senior at Bloomington High School South and was named Project Green Challenge 2016 Champion. She was born in the UK, spent her early childhood in Japan, and has now lived for ten years in Indiana. At school, she is a student leader for the club Students Advocating for a Greener Environment (SAGE).
Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge gave me the chance to create positive change in my school, community and life. It gave me the confidence to step up for things bigger than myself and the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world.
Before October 2016, like many people my age, I had fallen into a conventional lifestyle. While I was part of an environmental group in my high school and participated in student initiatives to better our community, I didn’t actually know what it meant to live sustainably. I was being pulled into a world of consumerism and waste that I didn’t even know existed, and I didn’t think my daily choices had much of an impact.
But after participating in more than 90 of the PGC challenges – advocating through art, interviewing local farmers, co-leading a school recycling effort – I began to have a different perspective on the world.
PGC taught me about the importance of fair trade, the significance of renewable energy sources, and the benefits of a sustainable food system. The challenges me forced me to come out of my comfort zone and advocate for the environment by taking real action. I wrote to my senators to support the legalization of industrial hemp, I spread awareness about the horrific labor conditions that make fast fashion possible, and so much more. Eventually, I completely changed my lifestyle habits. I started to minimize personal waste and made efforts to become zero waste with U Konserve’s fantastic lunch containers, glass water bottles, and reusable sandwich baggies. I started eating FLOSN (Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Non-GMO), and I made an effort to start buying products from more ethical companies – healthy hygiene products from Acure and Everyone, and organic food products from Amy’s and Clif Bar.
However, what really surprised me was the fact that with every new challenge, people around me were also affected. I wasn’t sure how my friends and teachers would react, but the ripple effects of each challenge were amazing. Everyone was so supportive, and several people I knew started making changes in their own lives as a result of what I was doing. Some pledged to stop buying fast fashion, some started drinking from reusable water bottles, and others became more conscious about sustainable food choices.
The PGC Finals, held in the beautiful rolling hills of Marin County, were some of the most inspiring days of my life. It was so motivating to be able to meet not only the peers I had engaged with online, but also the community leaders and company executives who took part in the eco-summit. Learning from these incredible people as they shared their diverse life and work experiences was such a privilege.
Since the PGC Finals, I have been ever-more inspired to create lasting change in my local community. I have continued my Green Resolutions project which involves individuals making pledges to live more sustainably, and I have been working with an elementary school teacher to raise awareness about environmental issues in younger children. One result of this last project was that the school decided to abandon the use of disposable styrofoam trays in the cafeteria, in favor of reusable trays.
A realization that I had after participating in PGC is that people have to come together to create change. Even though this program was a competition, it consistently spread the message of community and togetherness, which has inspired me to become more conscious of the world I live in from a local and global perspective. I feel like this kind of collective consciousness is even more important in the current political climate which sometimes seems to encourage extreme individualism and divisiveness.
I believe that any young person would benefit tremendously from taking part in Project Green Challenge. The journey itself is amazing, whether or not a participant makes it to the finals. Though it may seem like a lot of work and some late nights, I feel that every effort I put in was worth it, and it made me become a better person. Thanks to PGC, I have become an advocate for the environment and will continue to create positive change in our world as I take on new challenges in the future. Sign up today if you want to change the world.
I continue to believe in the words of Margaret Mead, who once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Tamsin Stringer, PGC 2016 Champion