Selfish or Selfless?
A quick search on Amazon displays dozens of books touting how to market to, manage or inspire Millennials, describing them as selfish, self-centered and self absorbed. We believe this generation is actually profoundly Savvy, open to embracing ways to protect the health of this planet and all that call it home. Did you know while we explore tips and tools to create healthier homes, teens across the country discuss GMOs or watch “Food Inc” in philosophy classes, often continuing the discussions outside of school with their parents? And colleges offer environmental health, science and technology majors across the nation? When given a support system, Millennials’ fresh outlook and ‘can do attitude’ can lead to a range of creative solutions, as seen in Maxwell Sheldon's story.
Max, a recent 2016 grad from Oliver Ames High School in Easton, MA, was inspired to “reconnect with nature and harmonize with it” after connecting online with ‘Earth Guardians’, a like-minded tribe of youths leading the charge against climate change. As president of the Class of 2016, Max and his fellow student government officers, Zach Stern, Gianna Ferrini, and Jake Aronson took the initiative to fund an environmentally conscious gift for their school to increase sustainability, and to set the stage for green fundraisers to come.
They Made It Look Easy: How Can We NOT Do This?
Max presented a proposal to Principal, Wes Paul and school advisors to install water bottle refill stations in high traffic locations throughout the school. Maybe you have seen them in airports or other public spaces? Like a drinking fountain, these filtered stations autofill sports and drinking bottles. After some research, Max contacted Global Industrial and inquired about their retrofit products that can attach to the school’s existing water fountains.
These sustainable upgrades feature display counters which track the number of water bottles filled. Students will experience a sense of pride and immediate gratification, as they’re able to see the ticking number of plastic bottles that have been potentially saved from landfills.
Over the course of their 4 years at Oliver Ames, the senior class has saved up enough money from fundraisers, dances, and the development of school spirit items like blankets, towels, and t-shirts to place purchase orders for four water bottle refill stations for a little over $500 each.
But They Didn't Stop There...
Max is moving on to the University of Rochester to major in Sustainability and International Business, but not without planting the seeds for future eco-friendly fundraisers and environmentally conscious class gifts at the high school. He drew up a fundraising plan for a reusable Oliver Ames water bottle, and will pass along the manufacturer contacts and product design to the eco-focused Green Team, a move he hopes will turn the newly installed refill stations into valuable assets and empower them to expand their efforts as time goes on. “They have so much potential, and I’m confident they’ll continue to succeed in setting the tone for a more sustainable OA community.”
An ongoing challenge was implemented as the 4 year class president posed this question for future officers to consider when choosing their class gifts, “How will your contribution impact the school’s relationship with the environment?” He readily suggested ideas such as insulated composters and raised organic food beds.
Somehow our generation handed millennials cell phones during their preteen years, and then we criticize them for their selfie-taking ways. But when we believe in them, when we engage them in discussion, listen to their insight, and support their ideas, our world will have a better future. They are our future.
- Send us a story. We should be very proud of their stories - and if you know more like Max and the Oliver Ames Class of 2016, send them our way! We would love to hear about them.
- Use This Story. Share this with your high school teachers. Teens. Green teams and National Junior Societies. Boy scouts and Girl Scouts. Maybe your role is to plant the seed? Get the bottle rolling?
- And Your Town? In the meantime, “How will your contribution impact your school's relationship with the environment?” If a bunch of kids could do this, what is preventing your group, work, town office, library, church, baseball field or community space? It just takes a little leadership.
Turns out, younger generations are empowered humans. Born into the green revolution, they reduce, reuse, recycle and celebrate with understanding. They embrace these ideas unabashedly. Somewhere deep in there DNA, afar from marketer's reach they too understand. Their dreams may shift, but I am sure one day when they leave their dorm rooms on a Saturday afternoon sporting tousled hair and flip-flops, they will peruse a local farmer's market to stock up on groceries, refilling a water bottle along the way.