Youth Environmental Leadership: Community Sustainability Stories

Beginning in July of 2012, Human Impacts Institute (HII), has been partnering with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) to facilitate a series of workshops for the Go Green Western Queens! Summer Youth Leadership Program (see our past blogs here!).

High school students became more aware of their own human impacts on the environment by interviewing each other in the first workshop. Their next step was to learn the communities’ opinions on being green. In preparation, youth discussed issues of climate change and natural resource shortage, as well as water, air, and land pollution in the local community. Students were interested in investigating: How these problems can improved in the home and backyard of each of us and How much more can be achieved through community action?

On August 1, 2012, after brainstorming and finalizing their questions, students hit the streets with cameras! For many of the students, approaching strangers for the first time was a challenge. With a little bit of practice and positive feedback, however, students developed confidence and strong engagement techniques. Many groups found that they had to adapt their initial questions to fit more with community interests. Others decided to practice a more conversational approach to their interviews–ad libbing their questions as they talked with interviewees.

Students questions ranged from specifics on organic food and transportation to general questions like, “ What do you know about the environment already?” and “What are the green habits that you are most proud of? Most not proud of?” Other questions investigated perceptions of some “greener” ways of living, including: “Do you own second-hand stuff? What’s your opinion about owning second hand stuff?”

As the questions varied, so did the respondents. Youth talked to local business owners, customers in supermarkets and thrift stores, women waiting at the salon, and passengers waiting at bus stops, among others The responses were diverse and students’ next steps are to help Human Impacts Institute crew to edit the final community interview video. This activity was the students’ first time hitting the streets, and it prepared them well for future public outreach.

For more information on this and other programs, take a look at our blogs and website!

By Celia Cui, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Service Intern

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