“Thank you for helping us learn how to recycle. I will soon call my family in Minnesota and in Ecuador to start recycling. I admire you for helping the earth.”
– Cheryl, 3rd grade, Great Oaks Elementary
When I first began my Girl Scout Gold Award Project about going green, I did not anticipate that the culmination of my project would be to share my findings with younger children in my local community, but I now believe that it has become one of the most precious outcomes of my undertaking. My initial aspiration for my project was to raise environmental awareness in a unique way after witnessing the eye-rolling from my classmates that accompanied the usual leaflets, brochures, and packets about “Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling!” I wanted to educate people about ways to help the environment that would blend easily into everyday life, while interweaving my approach with another passion of mine – art.
I began by organizing an outdoor bazaar open to the Austin community that communicated the theme “Going Green…It’s Easy!” I collaborated with a variety of local and national organizations, such as Austin Water Utility, the National Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, City of Austin Solid Waste Services, Keep Austin Beautiful, and Ecology Action to set up booths at the event to educate and provide information about their services to visitors. Guests loved the “Keep Austin Beautiful” bumper stickers and low-flow shower heads that these organizations distributed along with their environmental expertise.
To add my personal touch to the bazaar, I created interactive artistic booths that focused on the fresh concept of “upcycling,” a sustainability method in which waste materials are used to create new products. My art-centered upcycling booths displayed arts and crafts made out of recyclables and other miscellaneous objects, and provided the visitors a chance to exercise their own creative talents in fashioning new things from used items.
Through the great response I received for my upcycling ideas, I became conscious that hands-on involvement is an amazing way to introduce people to the creative nature of sustainability or “Going Green.” I then decided to take my project a step further and developed a brochure that provided instructions for crafts that can be made from used objects. I mailed this upcycling brochure to the art teachers at various public schools in my community as a way for them to foster environmental awareness in youth through art lessons. They were very enthusiastic about my idea of approaching environmentalism through art and many of the teachers incorporated the upcycled crafts into their curricula. Within weeks, I was invited to visit elementary school art classes and events. I discovered that the most fulfilling part of my Gold Project was interacting with these elementary school students. The opportunity to share my knowledge of the green movement and passion for art with children energized me to continue my involvement in this cause.
Though the environmental movement has many facets, I have found an aspect within it that has special significance to me. In order to continue reaching out to youth about environmental topics, I have become involved in the national Girl Scout “Forever Green” Community Action Project, a pilot project in which I will guide groups of girls to help them create and carry out their own environmental advocacy projects.
As I continue to educate children and other Girl Scouts about the benefits of being green, I realize that the many notes I receive illustrated with smiley-faces and renderings of the earth represent exactly what I strive for: to enrich environmental awareness for others by adding a smile and individuality to the process.
-Dipona, Girl Scout Ambassador
For her project, Dipona has been recognized as a 2009 Silver Service Award Winner by the Wildlife Conservation Society.