WBEZ | c3 http://www.wbez.org/tags/c3 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Conservation Corps cultivates environmental leaders http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/emiliano-zapata-students.jpg" style="float: left; height: 229px; width: 305px;" title="Students from Little Village's Emiliano Zapata Academy with power strips they distributed to classrooms to reduce their energy waste." /></p><p>The White House Council on Environmental Quality <a href="http://www2.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators">honored 12 teachers with a Presidential Award for environmental education Tuesday</a>, but in Chicago a band of green-minded volunteers added more than 700 new students and teachers to&nbsp;an environmental organization present in every one of the city&#39;s 50 wards.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/">Chicago Conservation Corps</a>&#39;&nbsp;student program has graduated roughly 6,500 students and teachers who have devoted some 150,000 hours of service since the program begin in 2006. <a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/about-this-weblog/c3-partner-organizations/">Partner organizations</a> can team up with the group for environmental service projects, drawing on volunteers from the general public as well as adults who have undergone environmental leadership training.</p><p>The program comes with some ready-made projects, like making household cleaning products from non-toxic ingredients and distributing home weatherization kits to promote energy efficiency. New clubs start by auditing their trash, food waste and leaky faucets &mdash; their leak-finding program reportedly saved 1.5 million gallons last year.</p><p>But many schools develop their own curricula. Students at North Lawndale College Prep, for example, filmed a video about the dangers of radon poisoning.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the movers and shakers of your age group,&rdquo; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum&rsquo;s Kristen Pratt, who coordinates the Conservation Corps program, told the graduating students assembled Tuesday, &ldquo;who are really making a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>John Hancock High School, located in the southwest side West Elsdon neighborhood, has been running Conservation Corps programs since 2006. Erin Niedt, who teaches at Hancock, says her students get a sense of pride from seeing the impact of their actions. This year her class handed out dozens of weatherization kits and spent Saturday mornings cleaning up Ottawa Trail Woods.</p><p>&ldquo;They made a visual difference,&rdquo; Niedt says. &ldquo;They could see what a difference they made.&rdquo;<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5186-2-300x200.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="North Lawndale College Prep students conduct a waste audit." />There are no shortage of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-04/unpacking-barriers-going-green-98425">ways to pursue a &ldquo;green&rdquo; lifestyle</a>, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347">environmental education initiatives, like Chicago&#39;s Mighty Acorns program,</a> are going strong in Chicago even after the city dissolved its <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111013/NEWS02/111019914/chicago-shutting-environment-department-adding-eco-friendly-measures-to-new-budget">environment department into other city agencies</a>. But <a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/05/why-your-green-lifestyle-choices-dont-really-matter/5501/">many have criticized the comparatively small-bore progress of personal action</a> in light of the daunting task of transitioning to a sustainable industrial society before the impacts of climate change become too great. True, shorter showers and recycled goods won&rsquo;t supplant our fossil fuel dependency, but education builds momentum for grassroots actions that can have far-reaching effects.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a culture,&rdquo; Pratt says. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s most exciting isn&rsquo;t even the collective impact of the individual projects, although we do tally them up and it makes a difference. The most exciting part is building awareness.&rdquo;</p><p>Pratt, who grew up in the West Lawn neighborhood, says she&rsquo;s living proof of the lifelong impact of an early introduction to environmentalism. A graduate of the Career Ladder for Youth program run by the Chicago Zoological Society and the Brookfield Zoo, she went on to earn a degree in zoology from Michigan State University. Though the science itself was interesting, she says her favorite part was sharing what she learned.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 16:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064