What started out as an assignment for Ben Dougherty’s Environmental Science class ended with one dedicated Derryfield junior placing third in a worldwide eco-lifestyle competition.
Each year, the youth-led environmental non-profit, Turning Green, runs a 30-day competition called the Project Green Challenge
. “From October 1 through 30, 4,200 student participants representing 536 campuses in 50 states and 37 countries completed rigorous daily challenges on key sustainability-related themes designed to transform mindset, habit, and action.”
According to Mr. Dougherty, “I introduced them to it and required them to submit one of the challenges to me per week. They were all excited about it, but after the reality of the amount of work set in, most only did the minimum amount. Taylor Carrobis, however, continued to be very excited about it and [was] in third place globally with only four days left.” While her initial involvement in the project came from a natural interest in the topics, that investment quickly grew: “eventually, every morning at 9 AM I would be checking the website for the next challenge to light up. I can’t really say at what point I decided that I was going to complete every challenge every day, but around a week in it had become my driving force each day.”
Among other tasks, finalists interviewed farmers about sustainable practices, cooked FLOSN (fresh local organic seasonal non-GMO) meals, radically decreased their water and energy usage, changed their personal care and cleaning routines, launched petitions advocating for social change, met with their school administrations to work toward better practices and planted pollinator gardens. At the end of the 30 days, Taylor had amassed the most points of anyone in the competition - keep in mind this was a world-wide competition for high school and college students. “The commitment I made to PGC became a passion,” said Taylor. “It helped define who I was and changed my view of my 'conventional' life. But most of all, it helped inspire me to change my school's future, my community's, and my own.”
Her top-ranked finish earned her a trip to San Francisco as one of sixteen finalists competing in the PGC Finals at the end of November. At this three-day eco summit, finalists worked with like-minded peers and esteemed eco leaders, while sharing their PGC experiences and competing to become the PGC 2016 Champion. On the last day, each finalist presented their PGC experience before a panel of esteemed judges (watch Taylor’s presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O_AAo0oKLc
), and Taylor placed third overall.
As a result of this experience, Taylor has become a citizen scientist for 5 Gyres Institute, is taking part in West Virginia University’s Pulsar Search Collaboratory, and has instituted countless changes in her own household to drastically reduce her carbon footprint. But beyond those projects and opportunities, Taylor has taken away something even greater from her experience. “I have learned that I am capable of making a change within the community. Before PGC, I thought that it would be impossible for someone like me to make a change, but I have learned that it is possible for me to make gigantic impacts. This lesson, of my own strength as a leader, is the most important aspect I have learned about myself the last 30 days.”