Team EcoHawks (Benjamin Wong | Benjamin Yao | Robert Yu | Rohan Reddy)

Senior and Sophomores, Jericho High School, Jericho, NY

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Monumental. Enlightening. Influential. Reflective. Together.

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

One of the most vivid and lasting memories of my PGC experience was the first time my team and I inspired a non-group member to take their own action. It was the first time I realized the weight of my actions and that in me changing the way others live, I was changing other’s environmental impact and mindset. On PGC Day 3, my peers asked me about my experience thus far, and I told them about how I had barely begun PGC yet was so energized to protect the environment. Many began to think of their own ways to contribute to the cause, while others even signed up for PGC. After starting a #foamfree movement, we began to see the ripple effect after other challenges (i.e. our non-GMO party and Van Cortlandt Park adventure). It was only until then, after inspiring others, that we truly completed each challenge.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I have learned over the past days of the dependence that I have upon the environment, and the incredible dependence the environment has on me. By learning about the many different ways in which I play a role, sometimes unknowingly, in writing out our planet’s future, I learned that my impact on the environment is a double-edged blade. I can either continue to live an unsustainable life, drain the planet of its resources, and destroy our biosphere, or change my habits for the better, but either way, my actions regarding the environment will eventually “mirror” back to me. For centuries, Earth has given us clean air, clean waters, plants, and animals. Mistreat our earth, and it will give us toxic air to breathe, dirty water to drink, barren plants, and animals which will no longer be of any help to us. Treat the Earth well, and we will receive an amount equal to what we gave. This all lies in my hands and in the hands of others. It is our decision, ultimately, over the future of our planet, and therefore ourselves.

Team Sustainable Urban Pioneers (Lauren Kim | Jinno Vicencio)

Sophomores, Yale University, New Haven, CT | Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, CA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Motivational, transformational, fun, collaboration, rewarding

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

For one of the challenges, we were called to make our own version of a “Better Burger”. Inspired by Lauren’s Korean heritage, we decided to make a black bean and gochujang (a traditional Korean red pepper sauce) burger. However, Jinno did not have any Korean ingredients at home, so we enlisted the help of Lauren’s mom who let Jinno borrow some of her gochujang and some homemade pickled vegetables. Through sharing resources and bridging communities, we were able to create a more sustainable burger. Lauren’s mom was even inspired to think of her own ways in which she can live more sustainably. PGC unexpectedly built a community and showed us that any opportunity is one to inspire others to live more sustainable lives. This experience just showed how our PGC challenges have built community connections and engagement on all sorts of levels.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

Lauren: There are many layers to sustainability that I discovered through PGC. As I continue to learn more about sustainability, I realized just how much I need to work on improving my own personal self. It does not mean anything unless I ACT on what I have learned. In order to form successful habits, I need to first recognize what is lacking in my own life. To really be an environmental advocate, I need to make sure that I am living my own life in the most sustainable way possible. I have always considered myself a very straightforward person, but I realized that I have a creative side as well. I really enjoyed exploring different mediums during the PGC challenge and pushed myself to draw and design.
Jinno: Over the last 30 days it has further reinforced why I choose to pursue an environmentalist lifestyle. I felt small in what is was doing, whether it be eating vegan, thrift shopping, or just spending the extra money to encourage local businesses. Seeing all the amazing participants makes me feel that what I am doing is the right thing for my health and the environment. I have learned that there are TONS of young and inspiring students, just like me, wanting a better future for all of humanity.

Team Johnston Dragons (Sophie VanZee | Libbie Smith | Joseph Haggerty | Angela Cai)

Juniors and Seniors , Johnston High School, Johnston, IA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Educational. Inspiring. Impactful. Intense. Sculpting.

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

The most memorable experience I had was traveling to both a landfill and a waste water treatment plant in order to provide further background for the footprint challenge. Many intricacies of our infrastructure are often taken for granted, and so it was fascinating to learn about the systems that are set in place to help mankind. I learned so much more from first hand experience I never could have gathered from a news article or a TED talk. It also served as important because it provided knowledge of an aspect of daily life that could be modified to be much greener.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I have learned that I have a passion for helping the environment and saving those in need. I crave opportunities to serve those who need assistance, and I have learned the greatest way I can help the most people is through environmental action both with my community, and on a personal level. In addition to this, this challenge was allowed me to understand how, and why these efforts can help shape the Earth’s future. Through a cumulative 30 days of change, I now understand specific actions I can take to change our planet, whether it be through recycling, emailing representatives, or sharing ideas with friends. Every small action taken by me has big impacts, and I have learned that I crave this payoff of making others happy. I have also learned that much of what was holding me back from taking environmental action every day was a lack of faith that my actions would spark change. Through participation, I have seen many actions fruit success and have learned that by recognizing I can change the world, I am much more likely to invoke such progress. This opportunity has allowed for introspection upon what I want my future to look like. Participation has helped change my life. I have learned that I desperately crave a life, both professionally and personally, centered around the betterment of Earth’s global ecosystem, and all of its over seven billion people.

Team Viscous Flow (Julia Murphy | Jon Raybin)

Graduate School, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

eye-opening, fulfilling, empowering, creative, inspiring

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

Meeting with the Associate Director of Campus Environment and the Associate Director of Campus Dining was the most memorable part of PGC. They are both very passionate about what they do and have worked to bring sustainability to UChicago’s practices. They were very excited that we were interested in their work and took a lot of time out of their day to meet with us and answer our questions.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I learned a lot about myself during PGC, but probably the most important thing is that I have the power to make a difference. The choices I make everyday can have a drastic impact on the planet, for better or for worse. What I purchase to eat, wear, or clean my home tells corporations what kind of world I want and where my values align. I can demand or even initiate change, on a small scale with friends and family or face my university. Each person who changes to a more sustainable lifestyle causes ripples that spread to others. There’s no need to feel helpless or sit around waiting for someone else to make the changes for us. We can take personal responsibility for our actions and change the world with whatever gifts and resources we have.

Team Rice University (Christine Dobbin | Travis Kwee | Meredith Carle | Amy Roush)

Seniors, Rice University, Houston, TX

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

enriching, engaging, enlightening, entertaining, enabling

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

We all agreed that the most memorable part of this was the formation of our team. Meredith and I were chatting about our ideas for a post-consumer composting project after Environmental Club at the beginning of October. We talked for a while about it and then got side-tracked by plastic-free project ideas. Travis and Amy joined our conversation, Travis, because he had experience working with the Rice administrators on environmental projects and, Amy, because she was interested in learning more about the solutions for environmental problems in our world.
We soon ended up talking about Project Green Challenge after Travis had brought it up to us. It did not take long for us to decide on joining and forming a team.

This was a very exciting time for us all because we discovered other people that were equally enthusiastic about environmental activism as we each were individually.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

Over the last 30 days, we have learned that it is possible to have an impact as one person or a small group. However, the caveat was that we had to recognize the need to focus on making a larger impact on fewer topics rather than smaller impacts on more diverse topics. These were important for us to recognize because they are key in making a sustainable and significant impact.

Jonathan Jusia

Senior, International School Almere, Almere, The Netherlands

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Life-Changing. Sustainability. Inspiring. Leadership. Awesome

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

Most memorable was when I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’. This documentary really opened my eyes, and as cliche it might sound I realized what the true cost of my products are and how many people are suffering by producing the clothing. I actually stood still at the fact that I am all happy when my package arrives, while someone that made my product actually could have died.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I learned that there are problems way bigger than my problems. For instance, me worrying about the fact that the colour of my new shirt doesn’t really suit me while there were people suffering because of producing it. I learned to think bigger than myself, and not only think of my own good when doing something but also think about the greater good. I realized that I still am able to bring change in this world.

Johannes Tre Maquiling

Junior, Philippine Science High School, Iloilo, Philippines

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

eye-opening, interesting, hectic, action-packed, humbling

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

I have two memorable experiences in PGC 2017. The first would have to be me delivering a lecture on soil. I enjoy talking and discussing things with friends but I am not someone who will go and volunteer to do a lecture when it is not a school requirement. It was our exam week and I had to ask my friends to meet me after exams to listen to my lecture. They were kind of making fun of how I had to have pictures of the activity and that I would be documenting it but when the lecture went underway, they were interested and ended up really asking questions about the topic. The other memorable one was when I submitted my “No Polystyrene” Policy proposal to the Campus Director. Getting it approved was an achievement because I know that it would be a start in reducing waste and raising awareness to the community.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I usually describe myself as easy going and friendly. I do not like confrontations or conflicts. I want to promote respect for others and I do not like discrimination. In PGC 2017, I learned many things. There were numerous concepts that were explained in different ways using multimedia. In all these things that I learned about the world, the environment, the many processes and the organizations around me, I also learned things about myself.

I learned that I may be a good public speaker but I get shy when approaching people in authority. I had to overcome this to do a few tasks. I learned that some of the things I do are actually good practices. The fact that I bring a re-usable water jug and that I have packed lunches for school are good starters. I am not into fashion trends and shopping and that I am not brand conscious. I want to be able to keep that kind of mentality. I learned that I do not easily get humiliated with such tasks as wearing a shirt inside out or stopping by the roadside to take a snapshot of a pollinator. When it came to social media, it was an effort for me to get into posting personal things. I learned that I was not too keen whenever I had to turn to social media. I also learned that I could come up with ideas quickyly since we had such a short time to be able to finish daily tasks. I also learned that I can do a lot if I was given enough guidance and direction — I could be a good follower. Finally, I learned that I find it really satisfying to be able to stick to a worthy cause.

Team Hooligang (Bridget Williams | Ella Fesler)

Juniors , T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, VA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Learning, Impact, Global, Green, Hope

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

Out of all the experiences I have had participating in PGC, the most memorable for me was learning about fast fashion. It made me upset to find out that large companies who have the money and resources to pay their workers fairly and be equitable all around participate in something like fast fashion. Also, it sickened me that I did not even know what was going on. These companies have millions of customers that are unaware of what is going on and how they are impacting the lives of workers.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

Over the last thirty days I have learned a lot about myself. I began PGC to see how sustainable I was, but I ended PGC with the urge to create resolutions for myself. PGC has made me realize that I was not as sustainable as I thought I was. I am immensely grateful for PGC because it has made me look at things in my life in a completely different way. Before I would throw a straw out and not realize how big of a negative impact that one straw could make. Now I am conscious of everything I do and its impacts.

Cami Provencher

Sophomore, Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

awakening, motivating, fulfilling, incredible

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

What was most memorable was getting the feedback I have gotten from friends and family, which have motivated me to keep going and to continue to follow through. It has been meaningful to not only see myself grow, but see those around me grow with me as well. Challenges such as fashion, adventure, and clean have really resonated with me and have changed my habits for the better.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

I have learned that my meaning in life is to be a change maker, and that with all the passion I have for nature and sustainability, I need to harness that passion into the positive change I want to make. I also learned I can communicate to many types of people- likeminded or not, and that is because I am able to find connections between sustainable alternatives, and why it would benefit not only one’s own life, but the wellbeing of the environment as well. I have learned that I am really proud of myself and what I have accomplished, and how through all the difficulties of balancing school and work and PGC, I am still able to stay motivated and happy.

Isaac Aguilar

Senior, Escondido Adventist Academy, Escondido, CA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Inspiring. Motivational. Enlightening. Enriching. Thrilling

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

The most memorable thing about PGC for me was definitely the fashion challenge. Never before had my life changed so quickly. When I completed the green challenge, I was left dumbstruck. I could not believe that my favorite retailers and brands caused such pain and suffering. So, once the greener challenge asked me to wear my shirt inside out, I was skeptical for a quick second, but then in an instant, I decided that I would not let some embarrassment keep me from advocating ethical treatment of humans in other countries. The look of my friend’s faces after explaining my shirt and fast fashion to them that I will not forget. But it was the Greenest challenge, watching “The True Cost” documentary that changed my life in an instant. It was after watching that movie, that I refused to let my clothing be stained with the blood of innocent people.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

Over the last 30 days, I have learned that the change I want to see in the world begins with me. Robert Swan put it this way “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Through PGC, I have learned that all power I have ever needed is already in my possession, all I need to do is be bold enough to use it. Whatever obstacle may arise, or whatever challenge I amy face, the power to overcome is natural to me. I have also learned how resilient I am against any forces. A sense of determination and willpower has been discovered thanks the the challenges presented by PGC. I now know that my dignity and virtue are able to withstand any opposing force. With dedication, time, and passion, the possibilities in my possession are infinite. If I truly believe that hemp is the future of society, or that labor laws must be passed in the U.S. to ensure that fashion companies are held responsible, then I must start the movement, because if I wait for someone else, nothing will ever be done. Through PGC, I have found self-worth and fulfillment in my life. My true passion is the earth and its inhabitants, I am committed to creating an environment of love and equality. I have discovered that my heart beats so that I can free the world of oppression and injustice. With the experience Project Green Challenge has given me, I learned that I have the power to change the world and that my true passion is environmental stewardship.

Lauren Orosz

Sophomore, Clemson University, Clemson, SC

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Life-changing, Thought-provoking, Connection, Perseverance, Creativity

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

One of the most memorable moments of PGC 2017 was when I was completing Day 14 Adventure. I went on a hike in one of the state parks where I live with my mom and close friend William. We had so much fun exploring the trails and trying to spot different plant and animal species, as the scavenger hunt called for. I really do not get the chance to spend time with my mom that often, and going to Table Rock State Park was a great opportunity for my mom and I to share some happy memories together. I will never forget the beauty of the waterfalls, the peaceful sounds of water rushing down the slopes of the rocks, and rushing of wind through the trees and bushes.

During our hike it actually started pouring rain, and the three of us had to run all the way down the trail as a river of rainwater rushes down the slopes with us. Once we got to the end of the trail we were soaked with rain from head to toe. I thought it was a funny event that reminded me to not take everything so seriously and to enjoy the spontaneity of nature.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

Before Project Green, I always thought that my personal actions have little influence over others. Through my participation I have learned that my individual decisions have significant consequences relating to people and the environment in which we inhabit. Throughout PGC, I watched as my communication with others about the environmental issues expressed in the daily themes sparked interest within my peers, friends, and family, that caused them to adopt more sustainable daily practices. PGC has allowed me to believe in myself, that I have the power to accomplish anything that I set my mind to. One of the most inspiring videos that I had watched during PGC was the Ted Talk by Natalie Warne, in which her vision, passion, and hard work lead her to success in accomplishing her goal. Although I am young, and although I may not know everything there is to know, I can choose to be a part of something positive and work to make my environmental ideals become realities.

Catalina Lane

Senior, Tamalpias High School, Mill Valley, CA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Empowering, Stimulating, Energizing, Limitless, Striking

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

My most memorable experience from PGC the “Food” day. I thought my family was very food conscious, we only bought organic food from Whole Foods. After watching the video of the day (by Chipotle) I realized that we hadn’t even scratched the surface of conscious food buying. We would try and save money but just for that moment. We wouldn’t think about what food we’d need in the future. I planned my meals for a whole week with only $4 per day and that really made me understand the importance of food, food packaging, and food waste. That really made an impact on my future food purchases and it gave me an insight into what habits I will have to follow in college.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

These past 30 days I have learned that I actually can make an impact. In these past couple years I have thought and hoped that one day I would make a difference in the world. I didn’t think that it would be possible to start right now. By just completing the simple tasks of buying local, organic food, and turning off the lights when I leave a room, I am making a difference. Even if I am unaware of the impact in the moment, it matters to the workers and producers of my food and energy. I am now more confident then I was before about expressing my thoughts and environmental values.

Ilana Zeitzer

Junior, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

What five words best describe your PGC experience?

Inspiring, Mobilizing, Engaging, Educational, reflective

What was most memorable from your PGC experience?

One of the most memorable events for me during this challenge was when I hosted a showing of Time to Choose. I invited my friends, members of the Tree Club, and the Eco-reps. The day came for the showing and the crowd was smaller than I had hoped. But the small group ended up being great because it allowed for a very involved discussion. We discussed the PGC, our eco-heroes, city layout and its impacts on emissions, experiences around the world, and how different places recycle, take care of food waste, and bike. We also discussed change we want to see on campus and in our country and each chose a change for ourselves. Espoir is carrying her trash for a week, Paige and I are reading labels for palm oil, Nastia is using a reusable straw, and more.

What have you learned about yourself over the past 30 days?

It’s amazing how discovering the world helps you discover yourself. I began the challenge knowing I was going to learn about the environment and various issues, I did not realize how much I would learn about me. I slowly started to step out of my comfort zone. I talked to people I barely knew, posted on Facebook, I have lead discussion, organized events and done some strange things for these challenges. While I had been working towards this I believe I progressed more in the past month than the past year. I have learned I can speak out when I am passionate, and I can be heard. I can be an eco-hero just like I dreamed long ago in fifth grade.

I have also learned so much about my habits. I never would have thought my lifestyle used over a thousand gallons of water, or that some of my favorite snacks are causing deforestation. I have learned about areas in my lifestyle that I need to improve upon. I have also learned change is not as hard as it seems. I have switched out health products with scores of F and D for ones that score A on think dirty and I feel better than before. Food changes are not as hard as they seem, often some great alternatives are easy to make and find and eating vegan meals a few times a week is not a problem at all!