Mass Audubon and GOMI - Changing Behavior and Changing the Environment
Published: September 20, 2012
This summer Mass Audubon joined forces with the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI) to draw teens outdoors into the natural classroom and work to develop environmental leaders. The program brings teens and adults together in environmental stewardship teams to learn about issues facing the watershed that spans from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia. Mass Audubon education coordinator Liz Duff, led the “Climate Change and Solutions team”, in partnership with GOMI alumni, Pete Furlong, and Charles Nutter. A group of 50+ teenagers worked to see how they could change their day-to-day behavior to make a difference.
The participants chose between five categories: reduce water use, reduce waste, conserve energy, educate and motivate, and eat less meat. Within these teams everyone discussed how their daily activities might play a part. Then they created a personal intention to follow for the week. The variety in these goals (3-5 per group) shows how easy it is to help with one of these initiatives! In the conserve energy group pledges varied from not using a hairdryer, to opening the windows instead of using a fan.
During this short program GOMI made a noticeable impact. The Eat Less Meat group saved 53 lbs of CO₂ over 3 days by switching their diets to include more meatless meals a day. Over an entire year they could save 6,382 lbs CO₂. Eating vegetarian 1 day a week saves 702 lbs of CO₂ a year! In the Reduce Water Use group shorter showers saved 220 gallons of water in 3 days. This also decreased the energy costs of heating all that water.
Graph of the gender distribution of the participants in each group
Beyond changing their own behavior for a week, the Climate Change and Solutions group’s project also generated some suggestions for anyone else that wants to make a difference!
- Do not use a tray when eating in a cafeteria. Trayless dining cuts down on food waste by 25-30% per-person, which is about 5 oz a day, 46lb a year. This initiative also saves water, energy to heat the water, and detergent.
- Eat lower on the food chain by swapping some meat-meals for vegetarian ones! Every day you eat vegetarian you save 13.5 lb of CO₂.
- Swap out some of your time spent on electronics for some unplugged fun. This is a great way to improve your health as well as the Earth’s!
Visitors may remember seeing students armed with clipboards wandering around the Joppa Flats building in July. Those were “Climate Change and Solutions” investigators surveying the sustainable measures that have been taken at that Mass Audubon Sanctuary. With a mission of “Protecting the Nature of Massachusetts for People and Wildlife”, Mass Audubon strives to be a part of the Climate Change Solution, and lead by example. Participants explored the building and read the posted informational signs on environmental initiatives like an electric car charging station and solar panels.
Photo at right: James Nutter finds evidence of Mass Audubon “Educating and Motivating”. The poster on this vending machine, reads: “If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep 2 billion tons of plastic out of landfills.”
In addition to these green building features, the students also noted any areas where the site could be improved. This hands-on exploration gave participants a chance to see strides that are being taken and inspire them to be educators and motivators for others on environmental issues.