There’s something new in the air—and it’s more than just those rising carbon emissions. Across the country, high school and college students are banding together to combat the threat of global warming. Beyond the protests and petitions that have marked movements of the past, students are embracing creative initiatives to raise awareness and have a practical impact on their campuses.
In February 2008, high schools and colleges throughout the nation are participating in the National Campus Energy Challenge, a contest to see which school can save the most energy during the month. Each school will strive to have the highest-percent reduction compared to its campus baseline for the previous three Februarys.
The NCEC demonstrates students’ growing awareness of what works. Rather than leaving students feeling helpless after listening to gloom-and-doom commentary, the competition offers them the opportunity to build on school spirit and see tangible results. In the NCEC’s pilot project last February, for example, Carleton College cut its overall electricity consumption by 10.1 percent—that’s the equivalent of about 30 tons of coal, or of shutting down 140 average American households for a month.
Membership in student environmental groups is on the rise, mirroring an increased involvement in grassroots activism that is becoming the mark of the “Millennial Generation.” According to a study published last October by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement, the Millennial Generation (those born after 1985) is more engaged in grassroots activism than Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1985). And members of the Millennial Generation are more likely to be involved in activist causes that produce tangible results.