It's Our Obligation to Protect the Environment
By Blake O'Connor, 11th Grade
*Honorable Mention, Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Contest*
As the dominant species of our planet, humans tend to take advantage of our planet by exploiting its resources on an immense level and failing to recognize the damage caused by leaving behind so much waste. Most people are either unaware of the consequences of their actions on the environment or do not care what the environmental consequences may occur on our planet after they are gone.
No longer can people use the excuse “as long as nothing happens in my lifetime,” because the time to act is now. Now is the time for people to take responsibility for taking care of the environment. For this reason, I have vowed to do everything I can to protect and improve the environment.
I cannot estimate an exact date or year when my environmentally conscious personality first appeared. I had always been opposed to littering and wasting materials such as paper. My knowledge of environmental conservatism expanded sometime in elementary school when a speaker came to my school to inform my class about recycling. He explained why it was important to recycle and what ramifications recycling had on the environment.
He spoke to us about the illustrious three R’s: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. These three R’s then became words I lived by. I felt it was my responsibility to protect and better the environment by doing each of these three actions. I remember telling my parents about recycling; but at the time, it was difficult for us to find places in the community where we could recycle, and a recycling collection service could not be provided to my family because we lived in an apartment.
Throughout middle school years, I would pick up trash along roadways in my neighborhood. Once my family moved from an apartment into a house, we immediately started to consistently recycle paper, plastic bottles, glass, and aluminum. It was at this time in my life that I really felt I was making a difference. I began to look at the world from a different perspective – an environmental prospective.
When I went to the homes of friends and family, I would tell that they should start recycling, if they had not already. When I returned to my grandparents’ house after I told them about recycling and saw that they had not started to, I would leave my empty water bottle and soda cans on the counter accompanied by notes saying “for recycling” or “please recycle me!”
As a contributor to the Earth’s waste, I am obligated to make up for my waste by performing environmentally friendly behaviors. In order to carry out my duty to the greatest extent possible, I can educate others about why they should and how they can improve the environment.
At my high school, I was bothered by the amount of paper that was used and thrown in the trash. I realized it was necessary for the school to start recycling and that I could make an immense difference by establishing a paper recycle program. After doing my research and becoming a member of Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful, I have become a connoisseur of starting school recycling guides. First and foremost, I needed a group of supporters or a “go green” team. At my school, an excellent way to get students involved with something is through clubs; thus, I decided to establish a “green club.” After completing all the paperwork for establishing a club and finding a club sponsor, the club was official.
During Club Rush, I advertised and explained that the purpose of the club was to start and maintain school-wide recycling and to partake in environmental activities in the community. Just fewer than two hundred students signed up, but the club was restricted to fifty members because of our meeting room’s size limits. With help of the PTSA and several school faculty members, enough money was raised to purchase bins for paper recycling.
At the beginning of the 2008-2009, school year, bins were located throughout the school to increase the frequency of recycling paper. To ensure that collection of the recycling was successful, Green Club members were given responsibility to empty each bin weekly during the time allotted for Patriot Primetime, our school’s morning show. Each day four to six members emptied into the school’s paper recycling dumpster.
After the Green Club’s first priority was accomplished, I chose to have the club adopt a park with the Mayor’s Beautification Program’s Adopt-A-Park program. As the adoption organization, we promised to pick up trash and twigs from the New Tampa Community Park for a year. Each month, about ten Green Club members volunteer to clean up the park. By adopting a park, our club will not only increase its recognition as an environmental organization, but our school’s recognition as well. As a result, my school has become more aware of what our club is trying to accomplish in our school and in the community. Through the adoption park more students in the school have become aware of how they can improve the environment.
The Green Club plans to increase its impact on the students by launching a plastic bottle recycling program. We plan to conduct eco-friendly fundraisers to protect the environment and teach people about improving the environment. I have also applied for grants to purchase bins for the plastic bottles. Adding a plastic bottle recycling program would further my influence on others to start being environmentally conscious. It would also teach others that it is their obligation to protect and better the environment.
As the greatest contributors to the destruction of the Earth, people are responsible for improving the condition of the planet they live in through environmentally conscientious actions. Everyone must do his or her part in protecting the well being of the environment. As an environmental steward, it is my responsibility to educate and bring awareness to the importance of improving and maintaining the environment. Through my efforts, I strive to inspire my peers and community to “go green.”
Student Leads by Example in Renewable Fuel Research
By Apurv Suman, 9th Grade
*Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Award Winner*
In my community, I, Apurv Suman, am quite the environmental steward. I lead by example and through many of my accomplishments in environmental fields. I am recognized within my community and I place an enormous emphasis on environmental development and progress.
Perhaps my biggest involvement in environmental activity is through my research. I have been doing research at the University of Florida for the last three years. My main focus has been renewable fuel and specifically ethanol.
Although other factors such as science competition and lab experience were important factors that contributed to my being involved in research, it was my interest in renewable fuels that inspired me to learn more. The matter of renewable fuels and global warming is perhaps the biggest challenge of my generation. In my opinion, it is the centerpiece towards developing environmental stability in the future.
My research received enormous recognition when I won 1st place at the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair. I also received the award for the best agriculture oriented project from the Florida Farm Bureau.
Recently, I have embarked on a new project that will grab greater attention of the public in my community. My school is building a small biodiesel plant. The project is student led. I, along with three other students, will collect leftover cooking oil and use it to create biodiesel. This will then be used in lawn equipment around our school and eventually, hopefully, in our school buses.
The goal of this project is to raise public awareness about what we can achieve through the re-use of products. Other schools have already contacted us as to how to go about building plants for themselves. We have already been recognized by publications in the area and have caught the attention of the families in our school.
I have recently been added to the school’s sustainability committee. This committee focuses on how the school can be more environmentally friendly and reduce costs in the process. This is a very serious group consisting mostly of faculty, the school heads, and the headmaster.
I am also the founder/president of the school’s Biker/Green Awareness club. By riding our bikes to school, we save gas. We are leading by example. This helps us to raise awareness in the area by educating people on how to be more energy efficient.
My environmental theory is based on two things: education and renewable fuels. So many people are ignorant of the problems at hand. Some know of the problems but don’t see the advantages of being eco-friendly. More people care about this issue because it is a material thing that affects them every day (especially with gas prices). It plays a large role in the economy. I teach people that in order to see progress in the future we must become environmentally friendly.
My philosophy is this: we must stop our actions and be more environmentally friendly because we are the ones that are going to suffer. We have not been responsible in our actions and we are starting to feel the effects. Not only should we be environmentally friendly for our survival, but because it will eventually improve our lives in the long run.
Congratulations to Emily Torlak, Science Teacher and Club Advisor, and to all 44 ECOmmodores members for winning the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Awards.
Eau Gallie High School of Melbourne will receive $200 for their outstanding commitment to our environment.
Each member of the ECOmmodores will also receive a personal certificate.
Eau Gaillie’s ECOmmodores Soar above the Average Environmental Club
*2007 Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Award Winner*
Student Aims to Improve Community through Environmental Responsibility
By Carrie Ray, 12th Grade
*2006 Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Award Winner*
Being an environmental steward is, has been, and always will be a characteristic I carry with me wherever I go. Garrett Hardin, an ecologist, once wrote an essay titled “Tragedy of the Commons,” which describes how free access of a finite resource, such as a public beach, ultimately dooms the resource through over-exploitation. I do not overlook a single piece of trash. Since day one, I was taught to leave with more than I came with including beaches, parks, soccer fields, etc. I believe that environmental stewardship starts with each individual at the local level. If all citizens left their outdoor activities with less trash than when they arrived, the environment would be beautified and more sustainable.
On a personal note, I am currently investing a considerable amount of time in my high school’s environmental club, Green Group. Being president of a club with 150 active members entails more than just a few abstract ideas. It requires hours of planning, discussing with fellow officers, and getting active. We participate in activities aimed at improving the community. I have organized monthly beach and campus cleanups and started an activist group called the Water Spotters. The Green Group participates in a sneaker and an ink cartridge recycling program, as well as works with the National Wildlife Panther Preserve by planting trees.
I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to take care of our environment. It is easy to get caught up in our daily routine and become indifferent about our surroundings. I feel that through education and awareness people will respect our planet more. One of my main goals as president of this club is to motivate and inspire students to get involved and be more environmentally conscious.
I have volunteered at the Southwest Conservancy, the Collier County Extension Office, the Naples Botanical Gardens and the Rookery Bay. I feel so privileged to live in a community surrounded by opportunities for environmental involvement. Additionally, I participated in a mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, with my church youth group helping to clean up trash in the urban area. We spent several days simply picking up trash. By our final day, despite our sore backs and exhausted bodies, we felt empowered and passionate about our cause.
In this free country, we have the liberty to pollute, kill, and destroy Mother Nature. We also have the option to make a difference and contribute to improving the sustainability of Earth. I choose the latter.
Pluto is No Longer a Part of the Milky Way Planetary Alignment
The International Astronomical Union, dramatically reversing course just a week after floating the idea of reaffirming Pluto's planethood and adding three new planets to Earth's neighborhood, downgraded the ninth rock from the sun in historic new galactic guidelines.
Powerful new telescopes, experts said, are changing the way they size up the mysteries of the solar system and beyond. But the scientists showed a soft side, waving plush toys of the Walt Disney character - and insisting that Pluto's spirit will live on in the exciting discoveries yet to come.
"The word 'planet' and the idea of planets can be emotional because they're something we learn as children," said Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who helped hammer out the new definition.
"This is really all about science, which is all about getting new facts," he said. "Science has marched on. ... Many more Plutos wait to be discovered."
Pluto, a planet since 1930, got the boot because it didn't meet the new rules, which say a planet not only must orbit the sun and be large enough to assume a nearly round shape, but must "clear the neighborhood around its orbit." That disqualifies Pluto, whose oblong orbit overlaps Neptune's, downsizing the solar system to eight planets from the traditional nine.
Learn more about the downgrading of Pluto
Student's "Turtle Talks" Educate and Inspire
By Alexander "Zander" Srodes, 10th grade
September 21, 2006
*2005 Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Award Winner*
Turtle Talks is an educational program that I designed in 2001. At age 11, I presented my idea to the Venice Foundation and received a Youth Grant that I used to launch my program. I began asking teachers and librarians to let me come and speak to school-age children about the endangered sea turtles that nest in our area.
I tell my peers that they can make a difference in the environment, that if they have a dream or an idea grown ups will listen and help them develop the project. My educational talks are about sea turtles that we share our beaches with and the marine turtles in our estuary. I show my audience a bio-degradable chart and talk to them about the care of our fragile shoreline. I have a turtle costume that I put on a young student. My PowerPoint presentation is composed of slides that Mote Marine Lab shared with me.
The first year I spoke at several area schools and libraries and have been going strong ever since. To date I have spoken at 16 schools in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties, making speeches to a number of classes to special need students, preschoolers and adults. The program has been at six area libraries. In 2002 I was given a mini-grant from the National Estuary Program. Combining two grants, I purchased a lap top computer and designed my own PowerPoint presentation that I use in my talks.
I was honored by Mote Marine Lab in 2002 with its Sea Turtle Conservationist of the Year Award. In 2004 I received from Keep Sarasota Beautiful its Land, Sea and Air Award. I was nominated by Deborah Zeilman, Sarasota County Natural Resources.
In 2003 I was give a national grant from YouthVenture.org a group in Washington, D.C. Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program has had me appear on two live Internet broadcasts on National Estuaries Day. I have had booths and spoken at three reading festivals and two nature festivals.
In the spring of 2005 I was named the Florida Wildlife Youth Conservationist of the year. This summer I received recognition for my project from Action for Nature in San Francisco. In September, Earth Island Institute invited me to California to participate in a trek to Point Reyes National Sea Shore and to speak at the Oakland Auditorium, where I was one of seven students to be given the Brower Youth Award.
This year I have also written an activity book. It is a handout that each person who comes to hear my conservation talks can take home. I used award money and grant money to have it printed. It has been very well received. I was asked to come and speak at the Sarasota Reading Festival and tell students and adults how I went about writing and getting a book printed. Since the book came out, I have spoken to students in Hardee County, Florida. I spoke to every fifth grade class to tell the students that they, too, can come up with an idea and put into action.
Returning to Brazil Provides Students with International Awareness to Environmental Issues
By Raphael Franca, 12th grade
*2005 Role Models Foundation Environmental Stewardship Award Winner*
I was born in Brazil and then moved here to the U.S., so my view of issues such as environmental concerns has always been a little more international than that of my peers. So in my efforts to do what I can to help the environment, I have tried to expand my opportunities to an international level. In addition to taking on projects that help locally, I also decided to help my home country, where this past summer I spent a month working for The National Institute of Amazonian Research(INPA,) a federally funded research institute in Manaus, Brazil, considered to be in the heart of the Amazon.
I worked with a wildlife veterinarian and his assistants. We were located mainly at the Aquatic Biology Department, which housed large tanks for the Amazonian River Manatee. In Brazil it is still common practice among locals to hunt manatees, which involves using the infants to lure the mothers. The infants are usually left, and if spotted by the right person, they are quickly taken back to the tanks at INPA, where they stand a better chance of survival. Many infants though still die.
INPA also contains a forest where animals, such as different species of monkeys are released after being treated for man-inflicted injuries or due to habitat loss resulting from construction. Many birds are also relocated to the forest at INPA after being confiscated from smugglers or abandoned by owners who can no longer care for the animals.
I worked 10 hour days from Monday to Friday. While there, I learned to feed and monitor the relocated animals, to prepare substitute milk for the orphaned manatees, to take blood and milk samples from manatee females, to take care of the sick animals and to capture and relocate certain animals, such as the Poraque, an electric fish native to the Amazon’s many rivers.
Before my trip to Brazil, I was working to help the environment closer to home. At Cape Florida State Park, located on Key Biscayne, I’ve been working as a restoration volunteer since I went to the park last year on a field trip with my AP Environmental Science class. At school I learned about exotic plants, and at the park we got a first-hand look. So I decided to start a community service project at the park, where I would go each Saturday from 8 to 1 and help the park ranger in charge of the restoration.
I learned how to identify certain species of exotic and/or invasive plants and how to hand remove them from certain areas of the park. I also tended to the native plants being raised in the nursery and later planted them in the areas where exotics had been removed. My work has inspired my friends to take those field trips more often (there are several throughout the course of the year) and one friend to come out with me on Saturdays to work.
I also intern at a park called Parrot Jungle Island, which contains many wild and exotic animals that have been abandoned by people who can no longer take care of them. Parrot Jungle allows me more of an opportunity to interact with the public and to teach them a little about each animal and how much of a responsibility it is to keep them. Many of these animals are facing extinction in the wild. I’ve also worked to establish a saltwater aquarium at school to commercially raise coral to relieve stress from harvesting wild coral.
There is a wide variety of things you can do to help the environment. Helping your community is a good way to start but in no way is that enough. Environmental problems span the globe and require everyone to work together if they are to be solved.
Student's Eagle Scout Projects for the Environment Soar
Matt Authement, 9th grade
*2004 Role Models Student Environmental Stewardship Community Service Award Winner *
I became interested in conservation and environmental improvements when I joined the Boy Scouts of America, one of the world’s oldest environmental organizations. In a letter I received, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton stated that Eagle Scouts are stewards of our nation’s natural resources. My Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project was to research, design, and construct a large bird cage for a teaching bird at Boyd Hill Nature Park. The number of hours spent on designing and constructing of this project was 113 hours. This bird is used to educate the children of Pinellas County about the importance of birds and their habitats. After I completed this project, I remained as a volunteer with the park’s Avian Education Program and have volunteered 88 hours do date.
I am currently working on the Boy Scouts of America’s William T. Hornaday Award for Distinguished Service to Natural Resource Conservation. On the average, less than 10 people earn this award nationwide annually, since it requires four long-term, substantial projects that are from a different conservation category. I am currently working on three projects for this award.
One project concerns Invasive Species Control. I am removing Brazilian Pepper trees from Weedon Isle Preserve. I do so with trimmers, a handsaw, and a shovel. I am an Official Volunteer of Pinellas County in the Environmental Management Division. I have volunteered 53 hours to date and have cleared by hand three-fourths of an acre.
Another project is Resource Recovery and Hazardous Material Disposal. I am collecting batteries from the Sandhill Scout Reservation and in my neighborhood. Once they are collected, they are separated and taken to the Pinellas County Household Electronics and Chemical Collection Center. I have collected 45 pounds of batteries and have volunteered 13 hours to date. I plan to extend my battery recycling project to the St. Petersburg fire and police departments.
My third project is Forestry and Range Management. I helped build a Migratory Songbird Habitat on a one-acre oak-pine hammock at Boyd Hill Nature Park, which is on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s West Coast Florida Birding Trail. To fund this project, I applied for a State Farm Good Neighbor Service-Learning Award from Youth Service America. I was awarded a National Youth Service Day Grant of $1000.00. National Youth Service Day, the largest worldwide service event, occurred on April 16-18, 2004. My service hours prior to April 17 were 37.5 hours. On April 17, I directed 15 youth and 18 adults in planting 360 native plants in the bird habitat. The students who helped with this project ranged from elementary school age to college age. Service hours on April 17 totaled 109.5 hours. Combined hours were 147 hours. The youths learned about erosion control along a small stream, native plants and invasive species and their effect on the environment. Both Mayor Rick Baker and Governor Jeb Bush wrote proclamations for National Youth Service Day at my request.
I am always looking for funding for my conservation projects, and this award would help pay for project expenses.
Student Embraces Earth Day Everyday
Kiran Naidoo, 12th Grade
*2004 Role Models Student Environmental Stewardship Community Service
Award Winner *
April 20, 2005
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein
In order “to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature of its beauty,” we must as a society be committed to helping the environment. Each person must play his or her role in conserving and preserving the world for future generations to enjoy. As a student, child, and family member, I have helped the environment through various activities.
The past two years I have been involved with Patriot Publishing, the school-wide copy center. As a supervisor for the past two years, I have advocated using only recycled paper in school copies. Last year, I brought to the attention of my administrator the excessive number of copies being made that were only one sided. As a result, my administrator consulted school officials and changed the copy room policy. Now, the school requires all copies to be double sided and puts limits on the number of copies teacher can make for a year.
For the past three years, I have been involved in the Science Club recycling initiative. As part of the initiative, each teacher has a recycling bin for white paper, newspaper, and wide rule paper. Thus, teachers as well as students are able to recycle paper instead of throwing it in the trash can. As an officer in the Science Club, during club days we collect all recycle bins and deposit them in a City of Tampa approved recycling dumpster. I have also volunteered on teacher planning days and student day off to collect the recycling. Collecting the bins is an arduous job, especially in the hot sun, but protecting the environment is a worthy objective. This year, as vice president of the science club, we have increased enrollment as well as places that recycling bins are placed. They are now available in all classrooms, the copy room, main offices, as well as the guidance office and the library.
Last year, I participated in the Sulfur Springs Community Clean-Up, a community beautification volunteer effort. During the week, I picked up trash and litter, which included non-perishable items, and safely disposed of them. As part of the project, we also cleaned up a community lake and park. In the beautification project, I was able to clean up an area of Tampa that is often overlooked because of its neighborhood. As a volunteer at the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Medical Center for the past two years, I have saved trees by using a lunch pail, rather than a paper bag each day. During my volunteer hours, I have also picked up litter that I saw in the hospital and recycled whatever could be recycled.
At home I also have a commitment to the environment that I am determined to fulfill. For example, to conserve water, I turn it off while brushing, use less water in the shower, and only hand water the yard on approved watering days. I am a firm believer in reducing, reusing, and recycling through the activities I engage in. At home my family has two recycling bins: one for newspaper and the other for recycling aluminum, glass and plastic. Every Wednesday I place the bins on the roadside for collection by the City of Tampa. When my family goes to the grocery store, we bring reusable cloth bags, instead of using plastic bags. In the winter, my family and I lower the thermostat and wear a sweater instead of wasting energy. I have also encouraged my parents to invest in solar panels for our house and pool since we live in Florida.
All in all, due to the activities I have participated in, I have shown a commitment to saving the environment so that as a society we can “embrace all living creatures and the whole nature of its beauty.” I definitely live my life with the philosophy that “Everyday is Earth day.”
Student is a Proactive Environmental Leader
Timothy Hamilton Stripling, 11th Grade
*2004 Role Models Student Environmental Stewardship Community Service Award Winner*
February 23, 2005
I believe that I have positively impacted and contributed to the environment not only in the great state of Florida, but also in much of the South Eastern United States. This stewardship comes through various activities, such as participating in waterway and coastal clean-ups, working with park junior ranger programs, starting an environmental club and adopting a shoreline.
Primarily, I believe that I have affected the environment due to my administration of two waterway clean-ups, in addition to participating in many coastal clean-ups. I have been working directly with Bill Sanders of Keep Pinellas Beautiful, which is associated with Keep America Beautiful, and have organized and conducted two waterway clean-ups of a crucial local canal and estuary. The waterway clean-ups averaged approximately 30 volunteers each and collected over three and a half tons of debris from a one-mile stretch of waterway. I also participated in two Audubon Christmas Bird Counts in which my family was the only group to patrol a habitat and record important information about its feeding and nesting shorebirds. These environmental beautification and bird count activities are essential in that they help restore the health of the habitat and measure the use of the resource by many diverse species of birds. I am looking forward to doing this year’s counts as well.
Second, I believe that I fulfill the title of an environmental steward through my volunteering as a park junior ranger. For approximately four years I was a junior ranger at a large local nature park. Every Sunday, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, I would work with rangers and naturalists to restore and protect the environment, helping them pick up debris and trash, eradicate non-native plants, plant rare native plants, establish habitats, and tend to the display animals. I also worked under a grant to monitor the water quality of a polluted lake that the nature park borders. This was a wonderful experience and I learned much of my ecological and environmental knowledge through this program. Moreover, I have participated in similar programs in North Carolina and Virginia state parks and collected debris throughout the South. This experience helped me learn about many of the unique differences and similarities between these states.
Additionally, I believe I can continue to affect the environment in a positively through involvement in school. I am in the process of creating an Environmental Club of with I will be the president. The official start of the club is pending the school board’s finalization of paperwork, including the bylaws we wrote. Another valuable experience was entering into the Environmental Division of School Science Fairs, progressing to the state level and winning several awards for three consecutive years.
Friends who participated in and helped orchestrate the waterway clean-ups and I are officially adopting a shoreline. Once the Environment Club has started, we are also adopting a mile of adjacent roadway. Adopting either requires that each to be cleaned at least four times a year along the entire stretch. Both adoptions are going to be conducted by “The Green Team,” as we are called. We are St. Petersburg’s only permanent waterway clean-up team, working through Keep Pinellas Beautiful. I strongly believe in setting an example for what an “environmental steward” should be: not waiting for others to do something, but proactively finding a way to make it happen.
Congratulations to our 2004 Environmental Stewardship
Community Service Award Winners:
January 31, 2005
Mathew C. Authement, 9th grade; Kiran Naidoo, 12th grade; and Timothy Hamilton Stripling, 11th grade.
They will each receive $100 awards for being Environmental Stewards to their community and to assist them in their continued efforts to help the environment and their community.
Student Environmental Stewardship Community Service Award
What is a Student Environmental Steward?
Student environmental stewards are high school students who consider the welfare of the environment in their everyday actions. They try to make changes that will help the environment through their actions and involvement in activities and organizations. They also attempt to teach members of their community and future generations what they have learned in order to effect change on a larger scale. more...
How do I submit my application?
Submit application form and your Environmental Impact Statement by Friday, December 10, 2004 to:
Role Models Foundation, Inc.
4300 NW 23rd Avenue, PMB 144
P.O. Box 147050
Gainesville, FL 32614-7050
download the application...