Koleigh Vachereau

PGC 2019 Champion, Sophomore, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

PGC PORTFOLIO VIDEO

Koleigh is from Burlington, Vermont and currently attends the University of Vermont.  She currently majors in Anthropology with a minor in Law and Society. In her free time, she likes to hike around Vermont and spend time with her family. She is passionate about coffee and the cultural importance that surrounds the coffee bean. In January, she is attending University of Leeds for six months to study cultural anthropology through the British lens. After her undergraduate degree she plans on going to law school to become an international rights lawyer or attend graduate school to become a cultural anthropologist.

 

What five words would best describe your PGC experience?

Vitalizing, informative, impactful, persistent, innovative

 

Think about yourself pre-PGC, just 30 days ago, and then think about who you are today. How have your changed? What have you learned about yourself?

“30 days ago, I was just a college student who cared about the environment but had the basic knowledge about climate change. Through this challenge not only am I more educated on climate change and different topics that are related it to. I have become more conscious about my purchases, lifestyle choices, transportation and any action that is taken during my day.”

 

What was the most memorable aspect of PGC for you?

“The most memorable aspect of PGC for me was the food waste challenge. As I educated myself on food waste, the misconception of labels and seeing how my community treated food waste opened my eyes to the possibility of change in my community. This was an issue that impacted me tremendously as a child and to think that is a resolution out there excited me. I saw an opportunity in my college community to start a climate action project aimed at disposing food waste another way, decreasing the hunger in the community as well as creating a safe space for students to go to get food without public stigmatization.”

 

After 30 days of bold and brilliant work and newly acquired wisdom, how will you best put it to use? 

“I’m going to continue to educate my friends and community after this challenge has ended. I’m studying abroad in England in the spring and will spread this knowledge across the pond! I believe that when one person is aware of something that makes them responsible for spreading that knowledge. I’m excited to continue having engaging conversations surrounding climate change, single use plastic, food, and nature. One person can truly change the world one step at a time, and I see my impact already after a short 30 days.”

Team Green Queens (Tatum Robinson, Sarah Cipollini, Holly Francis, Ariel Simpson)

PGC 2019 2nd Place, Senior, Champlain College, Burlington, VT

PGC PORTFOLIO VIDEO

Tatum grew up in the woods in New Hampshire, and learned at a young age how much she loved nature and exploring the outdoors. She knew early on that she wanted to be a part of conserving the nature she had grown up so closely to. As she started learning more about the environment and the things that humans did to impact nature, she began to see the ties between humans and the environment, and how important those ties are. She has always been passionate about helping the planet and trying to make the world a happier place for everyone to live. She decided to attend Champlain College in Burlington, VT and major in Environmental Policy and Studies. She did not know exactly what she wanted to do after graduation, but knew that she was in the right field. Her time at Champlain has taught me much more about how humans and the environment are connected. She has learned about environmental justice, and the many ties between justice and climate change. She has had the opportunity to travel to Uganda and spend 5 months in New Zealand through Champlain, and have gathered global experiences that gave her a passion for sustainable travel and ecotourism, which she hopes to pursue after graduation. Her dream is to work in Antarctica on the United State’s science base. She loves to explore new ways to travel sustainably, keep up with politics, and get into nature.

 

What five words would best describe your PGC experience?

Mobilizing, reflective, collaboration, justice, transformative

 

Think about yourself pre-PGC, just 30 days ago, and then think about who you are today. How have your changed? What have you learned about yourself?

“Before starting PGC, I was environmentally-conscious, and had a lot of education on sustainability and how to lower my own carbon footprint. However, even with this knowledge, I found myself not always acting in accordance with my values. I was in a bit of a sustainability rut where I knew where I stood on the issues, but was feeling really burnt out and defeated in light of the climate crisis and current political situation in the U.S.. As I started completing Project Green challenges, I began to realize again why I cared in the first place. I was able to apply my knowledge, learn new things, and do something fun! Doing small challenges each day, and working with my team to do them gave me a reinvigorated sense of hope and excitement to tackle the issues that I care so much about. This sense of hope helped me rediscover the importance of acting out my own values and making sure that I was leading others by example. I learned that I need fresh engagement to keep myself motivated, and PGC provided me with fun new ways to remind myself of how important these issues are to me. I am more ready than ever to hold myself accountable for living the type of lifestyle I believe in, and have a newfound appreciation for leading others in doing the same.”

 

What was the most memorable aspect of PGC for you?

“The most memorable aspect of Project Green Challenge for me was working with my team to complete the challenges, and being able to share a passion for sustainability within my team. We had so much fun doing the challenges, especially the extra credit challenges like getting together to cook a group dinner! Everyone on my team has very busy schedules, so PGC gave us an opportunity to make time to spend time together and work on what we are passionate about. Since three out of four of us are seniors, it was so memorable to be able to participate in something that brought us all together and gave us a common goal to work toward. I will never forget how dedicated we all were to the challenges, and how that dedication continued throughout the whole month. Also, we all supported each other throughout the month, picking up the slack when someone was having a busy day, cheering each other on, and dividing up the work according to all of our schedules. Because of this, we were all able to get so much out of this experience, and made memories that will last long after graduation.”

 

After 30 days of bold and brilliant work and newly acquired wisdom, how will you best put it to use? 

“I will effect change by keeping up the fight for a more equitable and sustainable world. I intend to incorporate sustainability and environmental issues into all that I do moving forward, and continue to make positive changes in my own lifestyle. I am very passionate about environmental issues, and am pursuing careers in this field. I will advocate not just for sustainability as it relates to the environment, but for justice and equity. It is my dream to run an ecotourism company that uses sustainable tourism to benefit local people in the areas that tourism is happening, and tourists seeking a better way to travel. It is my goal to combine the terms tourism, and ecotourism, and make sustainable and socially conscious travel the norm. In whatever I do, I hope to keep learning. Continued learning cultivates positive change because it will allow me to not get stuck in one mindset. There is so much for me to learn, and I will try to learn as much as I can through travel, connections with others, and formal education opportunities. 

I want to embody my values in all that I do. I know that this will take a lot of work, but this will enact positive change for the planet by lowering my personal footprint, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I aspire to be an advocate standing with the marginalized groups most impacted by climate change, but too often go unheard. Educating myself more on the impacts and learning how to best stand with these groups will help me in making this change. Thinking about how I want to make change makes me feel ready to get out and do it! I felt this many times throughout PGC, and can’t wait to keep working on enacting positive change.”

Josephine Sparks

PGC 2019 Co-3rd Place, Junior, Bloomington High School South, Bloomington, IN

PGC PORTFOLIO VIDEO

Josie is a junior at Bloomington High School South. Born and raised in the Midwestern town of Bloomington, IN, she grew up on the lake at the Lake Monroe Youth Sailing Camp where she now work as a Certified Instructor, spent weeks in the woods at the McCormick’s Creek girl scout camp, and went to Bradford woods every summer for their kids Environmental Explorers program. She was a competitive gymnast for 8 years and has played viola for 6. She is a part of the Hoosier Youth Philharmonic and work in the St. Mark’s Nursery, taking care of the infants during services and meetings. She loves writing, especially poetry, and have been trying to find a field she is interested in to pair with my hobby as a career. Photography, stained glass, and orchestra are her favorite classes, and having a career in the arts is her ultimate dream.

 

What five words would best describe your PGC experience?

Momentous. metamorphic, enriching, enlightening, strenuous

 

Think about yourself pre-PGC, just 30 days ago, and then think about who you are today. How have your changed? What have you learned about yourself?

“I have always known that if I commit to something, I can’t let it go. PGC has just solidified that for me. There were days that I was tired, researching and writing and brainstorming at 2 in the morning, but I found that I didn’t care. There is a quote by Simon Sinek, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress, working hard for something we care about is called passion.”, and I think that that encompasses my thoughts around the challenge. I loved the way PGC challenged me to commit to a goal that I knew nothing about, and it made me realize that these issues are something that I have a passion for, truly care about, and want to pursue past the end of the challenge. I would stay up all night if I didn’t have to sleep if it meant I could make progress on any one of the issues that PGC focused on. I have learned that I had a hidden passion that could be my career, that these issues are so much more complex than I perceived them to be, and that I can meet standards higher than those I set for myself. I have gained an immense amount of confidence on these subjects, and I feel like I am a new person that sees the world differently.”

 

What was the most memorable aspect of PGC for you?

“Committing to PGC every day meant committing to spontaneity and interaction with my community. One day in particular, we went on a field trip for our APES class and were together when the challenge went live. It was the fashion get together. In twenty minutes, we had a plan to get together, bring snacks and drinks, watch the doc and have a discussion, and hang out afterwards. People I would never have put together wanted to come, and we had a party! The discussion that followed was amazing, and I would have never had it without the challenge prompt. Everyday I would text home what I needed to buy, what we needed to make or cook or draw, and my parents would change our schedule to accommodate that. Those were the most memorable moments for me, the moments where my whole day changed because I had something important to do! To some, that is stressful, but to me, it gave my day the interesting zing I needed to be productive and encouraged to work hard. I am not introverted, but not extroverted either, so being pushed to go out into my community was a very memorable experience because I don’t do it very often. Speaking in front of the school board, meeting with some of their members, and visiting the elementary school garden were three amazing experiences I would not have had without being challenged, and those were the most memorable moments.”

 

After 30 days of bold and brilliant work and newly acquired wisdom, how will you best put it to use? 

“I believe the best way to be a change-maker is to adopt a new idea and stick with it, however crazy it seems. You have to be willing to be bold and confident to put trust in the idea that you have the opportunity to be successful. I want to follow through with my action plan. Emails have already been sent out, messages have been written, our team is in place, and we have so many idea of what we each individually want to put into this project that there will be no waiting. Starting next trimester, I am going to be looking for a semi-permanent location for a club to meet and we will start with our own projects so we have examples for newcomers when we are more stable. We will be spending hours brainstorming, I am truly excited to get started on this project. Ultimately, the people participating now will be changing legislation in our county or country in the future. That thought is insane. I want to help it happen, and I intend to. Outside of the Climate Action Plan, I will be joining and possibly helping co-run our environmental club Sage within the next year, keeping them in close alignment with the non-profit so they have more freedom of choice on project ideas. I will also be decorating my room soon. I have been thinking of starting a YouTube channel about the non-profit, and might add in tips for how to make your room or space affordably Eco-friendly, how to cook cheap organic, and how to shop fair trade, all things I learned I had an affinity for through PGC! Maybe on the side I will attend protests and rallies, I always love a good change-making march. I have so many ideas!”

Rowan Stalnaker

PGC 2019 Co-3rd Place, Junior, Bloomington High School South, Bloomington, IN

PGC PORTFOLIO VIDEO

Rowan is from Bloomington, Indiana, a beautiful college town surrounded by the rolling hills and bluffs of southern Indiana. He spent most of my childhood exploring the area, and each year he continues to find new natural wonders. He was inspired to become an environmentalist after two major awakenings. The first began when he became active in the fly fishing community, and learned about all the threats posed to the rivers of the world and their surrounding areas. He pledged to help fight for the few wild rivers we have left, like the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska that is currently threatened by a proposed mine that could wipe out the largest single sockeye salmon run we have left. More recently he has delved into the world of benthic macroinvertebrates, which tell a nearly complete story about the health of a stream or river. He has spent countless hours out in several creeks in his area collecting samples and performing citizen science for an organization called Hoosier River Watch, which establishes baselines for and monsters the health of streams statewide. Through this program, he connected with my AP Environmental Science teacher at Bloomington High School South, who inspired him to take a leap of faith and educate myself further about both environmental and social issues through PGC. He is so grateful to have had the opportunity to do PGC, and plans to help further the environmentalist movement in his school and in the Bloomington community as a whole.

 

What five words would best describe your PGC experience?

Inspiring, Educational, Engaging, Motivational, and Stressful

 

Think about yourself pre-PGC, just 30 days ago, and then think about who you are today. How have your changed? What have you learned about yourself?

“Before PGC, while I did make an effort to be environmentally conscious, I really didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Through this month of difficult yet informative challenges, I have transformed not only what I thought it meant to be environmentally conscious, but also how I acted in accordance to that idea. I have learned not only to improve my environmental footprint, but also how to help others lessen theirs. I learned the environmental and social impact of clothing, which I had never realized affected the environment in any significant way. I will no longer support fast fashion brands like Hollister and American Eagle. Project Green Challenge also changed the way I think about my food. It taught me the importance of organic produce, and inspired me to go vegetarian, with meals heavily inspired by FLOSN criteria. This month has also taught me exactly how hard I can push myself, with the difficult workload layered on top of my other extracurriculars and school work leading up to finals. This struggle has taught me that taking time for self care and stress management can actually save time in the long run. This challenge has also inspired me to take initiative and form a group of concerned students (8 so far) at my school to help preserve biodiversity on my school’s campus, educating and inspiring other students to become more environmentally sustainable.”

 

What was the most memorable aspect of PGC for you?

“For me, the most memorable aspect of this year’s Project Green Challenge was the adventure challenge. This challenge inspired me to push on and keep going with this year’s challenges. It helped me through a difficult spot where I had many hours of school work a night on top of Project Green Challenge, and the stress and lack of sleep from this routine was crashing my mental health. With the little bit of extra motivation to get outside that the challenge provided, I asked my friend if she wanted to carpool to a nature preserve with me, When we arrived, I felt kind of hopeless, like I was wasting time, but after only five minutes of hiking, I was smiling with a mind clear of stress. After more than three hours of exploration and observation, I was out of the hole and motivated to push through my workload. It inspired me to get outside and do hikes similar to it three more times afterward, and I can confidently say that my perseverance in this challenge was completely due to this experience. This increased focus on self care helped me to maintain my mental health for the remainder of the challenge, even when my workload got substantially heavier.”

 

After 30 days of bold and brilliant work and newly acquired wisdom, how will you best put it to use? 

“After my experience this October, I have a variety of Ideas on how I should use my newfound knowledge. In the short term, I plan to see my project of restoring south’s rain garden through, and to take a more prominent role as an executive in my school’s environmental club. Through this avenue, I will work on reducing waste and energy consumption at my high school, as well as working on education and outreach to younger students at elementary schools in my school district. I would lead the environmental club in a more active direction, encouraging Fridays For Future and carpooling with other students to protests both in Bloomington and Indianapolis. I would also like to educate the students in the club, and in each meeting I would go over one seldom discussed part of the environmental movement, ranging from fast fashion to regenerative agriculture. This would help inspire new students to go out on their own and learn more, be it through Project Green Challenge or some other resource. In the longer term, I would use the lessons I have learned from this challenge when deciding my major, and eventually, my career. I now plan to study something involving environmental science in college, and am so thankful that this challenge has pushed me in that direction. I am inspired to help lead this generation in the fight for comprehensive climate policy and reform, and I plan to pursue this goal both in high school, college, and my future work.”

Julia Leonard

PGC 2019 4th Place, Senior, Champlain College, Burlington, VT

PGC PORTFOLIO VIDEO

Julia is a senior at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, studying Broadcast Media Production and Motion Graphics. She grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire and is a sucker for fall foliage. She loves hiking, mangoes, bucket hats, and secondhand stores. She feels incredibly grateful to have completed PGC 2019 and has learned so much!

 

What five words would best describe your PGC experience?

Creating confidence and impactful outreach

 

Think about yourself pre-PGC, just 30 days ago, and then think about who you are today. How have your changed? What have you learned about yourself?

“The amount that I changed is considerable, although gradual. Day one I wasn’t even going to go through with the challenge because it required posting a video on Facebook and explaining why I was doing the challenge. Not only did I not know why, but I didn’t even know if I actually wanted to. That first step was the catalyst for everything to come. Each challenge pushed me a little more into seeing how to interact with the world but also how I am able to interact with it to instill change. Confidence is key. I’ve gained not only that, but I’ve learned I am powerful! I desire to seek out change, compassion and education. My voice is a tool and a gift and I finally see how I can use it.”

 

What was the most memorable aspect of PGC for you?

“One part of PGC that stood out to me was just about a week ago. I had been making those infographic calligraphy drawings for a little bit and posting on social media a lot more than I ever had before. I opened Instagram a bit after posting another story and I had a message from my sister’s best friend from high school, Ann. Ann shared a message from a friend asking her “Do you know any environmental people? I have a question about plastic.” She reached out to me after seeing my posts for answers to his questions. I was not only the first person she reached out to, but I was able to answer his questions in an educated and thoughtful way. They were both super appreciative and I was shocked. It was when I realized I had the tools! I could make change by doing things I loved like calligraphy and video!”

 

After 30 days of bold and brilliant work and newly acquired wisdom, how will you best put it to use? 

“Putting this new wisdom to work takes two different (but very predictable focuses): Changing within and Changing what’s around. The first step is challenging, but not as hard as the second. New practices have become habits and some changes are still a work in progress. Now that I know where I can improve my life, I will be taking those steps to vote with my dollar, reduce my waste, and continue to increase my confidence. This leads to changing what’s around. Yes, I have the climate action progress in place, but I also started a side project that I feel very passionately about. Reducing waste during Orientation and special events on campus is my way of building a more sustainable world and showing people how it can be done.I was led to this path by others and now I will lead by example.”