By Megan Phelps
I have been an environmentalist, in one shape or form, for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I loved exploring our backyard, picking food from our garden, and playing in the ocean. When I got older, this love for the natural world grew into a desire to protect it; I became especially passionate about reducing my family’s plastic waste.
But, soon, my passion turned into frustration as I began to feel as though reducing my own family’s garbage couldn’t begin to tackle the problems we face. In caring so much about the health of the planet, I felt isolated from those who didn’t feel the same. I moved away from environmentalism, feeling powerless by the concept of saving the world.
I stumbled across the Project Green Challenge a few weeks before October 1st. I was intrigued. “Win a trip to San Francisco and a prize package valued up to $10,000!” it advertised. I was in.
I was inspired by the organization’s mission. I was so excited for PGC to begin that I checked almost daily to be sure that the challenge hadn’t started without me!
As I completed the challenges each day, I found my passion for the environment once again. I felt connected to a larger movement and with like-minded people, and a sense of connection to each of them grew.
Every night, I would fall asleep with excitement about what challenge the next day would bring. I loved learning of all the different ways I could make an impact. I felt empowered as I discovered that there were more ways to make a difference than I had imagined–every day, I began to learn, I could make choices that could change the world.
The Project Green Challenge was also, well, challenge-ing! I spent my energy making presentations, watching videos, preparing FLOSN (Fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO) food, connecting with my community, and writing articles about what I’d learned. It was difficult, but it was fulfilling.
At the finals, I met people who inspired me, who made me think, who helped me feel the sense of community that I had been missing before the Project Green Challenge. I learned about initiatives to reverse global climate change and connected with other young people who shared my values, many of whom I am still in contact with today.
The Project Green Challenge showed me how to deepen my positive impact on the planet, but most importantly, it showed me the power of education in effecting positive change. With this knowledge and power I gained from PGC, I am now designing and executing an environmental education program for elementary school students in my community.
And because of my love for environmental education, I hope that you, dear reader, will consider participating in this year’s Project Green Challenge.
You don’t have to commit yourself to doing every single challenge to win some pretty cool prize packages. You don’t have to spend your entire month of October participating in PGC to learn more about the world we live in, and how to make it healthier. You don’t have to be the champion (I learned the hard way) to recognize your immense power to change the world.
Megan Phelps is a senior in high school and 2015 PGC finalist from Southern California. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture, zero waste, and environmental justice and education. In her free time, Megan likes to read, hike, snorkel, and cook.