Generations are defined and labeled by an age groups reaction to its surroundings. The Buggles Video Killed The Radio Star helped define the MTV Generation, and the Beat Generation spawned out of a desire to break free from social norms.
Schoolchildren in Alexandria and across the country dont have a choice; their generation will be defined by their reaction to the problems of Earth itself, and they got started defining themselves on April 17 at George Mason Elementary School for National Environmental Education Week, a prelude to Earth Day.
Students walked, biked and rode the bus to school during a walk-to-school event that was coupled with classroom environmental education for both teachers and students. Students saved nearly 600 pounds of carbon by doing so, according to President of The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) Diane Wood.
Im absolutely blown away by these kids after meeting them, Wood said. I feel like our future is secure with those kids.
The event at George Mason was NEEFs east coast version of the signature event, replicated across the country in other regions. Wood said that the goal was to get kids thinking about the environment at an early age and beyond Earth Day.
Our goal is to maximize the impact of Earth Day, Wood said. Not just to plant a tree, but give teachers the tools to teach about the environment.
In the classroom, Wood spoke to students and educators about what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Instead of the usual my-dad-is-better-than-your-dad, the students bragged about whose family is greener.
Kids were like, My mom composts! and My dad bikes to work! Wood said. The kids were into it, Wood said, asking insightful questions about how pollution here affects the rest of the world.
NEEF has a no guilt trip approach to teaching about the environment that focuses on the positives; not the negatives like how or why pollution exists, but what people can do to stop it.
Councilman Tim Lovain was in attendance at the event, where students also brought plastic bags in exchange for reusable bags. Learning about the detriments of plastic bags on wildlife and the environment bent my ear and raised the hair on the back of my neck, Lovain said. It’s sort of catching on around the world that we have to do something about this. Lovain added that he wants Alexandria to be a regional leader in eliminating their unnecessary use, joining other municipalities in the country like Portland and Seattle.
When the national focus on Earth Week is over, the city will stay the course, holding an Eco-City Summit May 10 at TC Williams to gain feedback on the citys Eco-City charter. The summit will assist in drafting the Environmental Action Plan, a comprehensive approach to a sustainable city, focusing on open space, transportation and storm water quality. Its an issue that city officials hope will stay in the communitys collective consciousness.
Richard J. Baier, director of transportation and environmental services for the city, said that the environment affects each person differently, and the summit is meant to bring those concerns together. I think its always challenging when you have an issue non-specific to individuals, Baier said. The community will be basically telling us what they want to see happen in our community. Its a grassroots effort.