Do you carry a reusable lunch bag? Buy recycled computer paper for your printer? Prepare vegetarian meals once or twice a week? In other words, are you concerned enough about the environment that you’re doing something to protect it and the humans and animals that live within it?

If so, you’re not alone. In 2006, the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program joined Weekly Reader, publisher of classroom magazines, in conducting a national essay and art contest for kids and teens from grades seven to 12. The How Green Is Our Future contest attracted 20,000 submissions, double the expected response. Of this number, 5,000 essays focused on a specific environmental problem and offered suggestions to help.

The results of the survey paint a good picture of what today’s kids and teens think about the environment. One in four teens polled said they consider themselves environmentalists and are very worried about the environment and issues such as pollution, global warming, and loss of natural habitat. Ninety-one percent said they believe they can make at least a small difference in the state of the environment.

This is good news. Why? When people are concerned about something, they are more likely to be motivated to act positively–one small step at a time. Each one of us can do simple things every day that eventually add up to big changes. The top three ideas in the How Green Is Our Future contest were: 1. Take school and other activities outdoors; 2. Speak up about the environment; and 3. Recycle and reuse. So ride your bike to school or work, volunteer at the next environmental event, and buy only what you need, not what you think you want. These small steps really go the distance when it comes to helping the environment.

What if you already support your local organic farmer’s market, volunteer at your local humane society, and purchase only cruelty-free cosmetics and personal products? If you’re wondering how else you can help the environment, or if you want to learn more about such issues as animal rights or global warming, then check out environmentalist websites such as davidsuzuki.org, greenpeace.ca, and wildernesscommittee.org for more ideas about how to take action.

When we make small changes to our everyday lives, we can feel good knowing that we did our part in ensuring a healthy planet for years to come.

What Teens are Doing

  • Teens who participate in beach, stream, and park cleanups through the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program know that plastic bags are everywhere. They’re solving the problem by taking along durable, reusable hemp and cotton bags instead of plastic or paper whenever they go shopping. Order one at rootsandshoots.org.
  • Keleigh Annau, a grade 11 student on Vancouver Island, attended the July 2005 Youth Climate Change Conference in Victoria 2005 and then motivated fellow students Kristine Rowswell and Francesca Champagne-Holland to launch Lights Out Canada, a national one-day event held May 12, 2006, when high schools across the country turned off their lights and spent the day learning about global warming (lightsoutcanada.org).

About the Author

Dana Bidnall is an avid recycler who promotes a litter-free world.