Engaging Students of All Ages: Interview with Global Nonprofit Grades of Green

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

AS (00:09): Hey, everyone. Welcome to Get Real, a podcast to empower you with sustainability know-how so you can improve your quality of life while doing your part to protect the planet. I'm your host, Alissa Stevens, an ecopreneur, Star Wars nerd, and relentlessly positive champion for transformation. Join me as I delve into global sustainability issues, break them down, and most importantly provide you with actions so you can be an eco leader and your everyday life. In this episode, we are talking with an organization called Grades of Green, which is truly the embodiment of the get real mission. We're talking about how to engage students of all ages around the world, with the resources they need to discover their passion and turn it into environmental action. Before we jump in a bit about our guests, Kim Martin is a co-founder of Grades of Green and associate director of LA Waterkeeper with over 25 years of experience as an environmental lawyer, Robin Murphy is part of the Grades of Green programs team and has been with Grades of Green since the beginning, inspiring environmental stewardship and local youth. And Max Riley is a high school senior at Mira Costa high school in the South Bay of California, and has been active with Grades of Green since forever. Welcome you guys.

KM (01:34): Thank you, Alissa. Thank you

AS (01:36): So great to have you, so I've been thinking about this episode for months. No kidding. And the here's why? So when I was starting to get real, I was thinking about all of the different approaches that could be taken and really what I came to is empowerment, education and action. And that is Grades of Green through and through. So let's talk about the story behind Grades of Green. And I want to hear all different perspectives from all four of us, because we have a really unique mix of people with Kim and Robin. You guys are, have been with the organization from the get-go, you're also parents. And then max, you're a student who's grown up in this world as I believe, gen Z, right? I think you're, you're a Zoomer. Okay. And then myself as a millennial. So I think we bring some really unique perspectives to the conversation and I'm excited to break that down. Now, I know Grades of Green has helped more than 600,000 students you've passed 12 bills and resolutions, and you've expanded your impact to 47 States and 27 countries. So kick. So I want to start with Kim, tell us about the really hands on approach that Grades of Green takes and how you engage, not only students, but parents, schools, et cetera.

KM (03:08): I I'm, I'm so excited to tell you all about it and how these two individuals have, have really embody great screens, mission and vision. So when we started grades agreeing, we are in half, we are happenstance. Non-Profit we did not intend, you know, or set out to start a nonprofit. We just wanted to, you know, volunteer in the school in a way that was meaningful to us, several of the parents and for, and for some of us that meant, you know, helping to green the school, what we learned along the way and, and, you know, touches on what you, what you said, Alissa, is that by doing, taking action by having the students actually learn by doing that was literally like a light bulb moment that went on for, you know, that the four co-founders. So as an example, you know, we had, you know, programs such as, you know, Trash-Free Tuesdays where we were at the school and teaching kids, how to store their waste and how to compost.

KM (04:10): I'm excited to have Robin diamond delve into later she's our composting queen. And so we would, you know, go to these schools and teach them how their leftover food waste on can turn into this rich soil and they'd see it, you know, with their, with their eyes. And so it was like this hands-on science lesson, like right in front of them. Similarly, we had to walk to school, Wednesdays, you know activity. And so they were learning about emissions reduction, but they were learning about it while doing it. And, you know, for me as an environmental lawyer who was always getting at problems after the fact, you know, I loved my career and I believe in it whole heartedly, it genuinely was like an aha moment for me. And I think most of us had grades agreeing where it was like, this is more than just like a nice little way to give back to the schools.

KM (04:58): This literally could be the answer to society's problems if we could instill these environmental values in these kids just as they grow up, then, you know, that could literally, if we educate and inspire and empower enough of these kids and they just grow up with this being like part of the fabric of their being that could reverse this, the course that is on, you know, if we reach enough that there's a tipping point, then all of a sudden you really do have society, you know, living in harmony with the environment and not looking at it like this either or thing. So the hands on education, it was critical. We did do our research at the time. We didn't need to start a nonprofit if that was already being provided by other organizations, it really wasn't. There was a lot of curriculum that the hands-on port part really was lacking. And so that, that is sort of the origins of why we started grades green and any iterations that we're excited to tell you about today, but it still, I think, forms the premise of why, who we are at our core.

AS (06:04): Hm. And how has this, what does this look like in different areas around the country or even internationally? I mean, that might be a big topic with lots of nuances to talk about, but just, you know, I imagine the approach to education and even different parts of the us versus internationally is quite different. So how do you address those changes and what does that look like?

KM (06:29): I, I'm going to ask Robin to chime in on this one as well, but I'll just kick it off by saying that when we first started, we have this youth core program and that's how I was introduced to max. He was one of our very first, you know, student leaders. So our program was there to inspire and empower all the students in the United States and in the world. But then we had some select students that we would work with to become equal leaders. And max was one of those. And in the beginning, we, and these students were from all over the world. So we had students from the U S meeting with and talking with students from, you know, Australia and Thailand. And so that was how we first kind of brought in students from other countries. But now, you know, one of my our, you know, visions when we started, it was to have these global campaigns where students from all over the world could virtually take part in grade screens programs, and that has really blossomed over the years.

KM (07:27): So that right now, and I, I do, I would love it, Robin, if you could chime in now and tell them all about our most recent of the global campaigns, which is our climate change campaign, but each basically semester grade screen rolls out in different virtual campaign for student leaders, which is great. Absolutely. like Kim said, right now, we're in the middle of our climate campaign and this does include students not only in Southern California, but all over the country and all over the world. We have multiple teams in Africa. We have teams in India, we have teams in South America. And you know, we're not experts on the environmental challenges that people face in all of these different areas. So really how we approach it is a lot of listening and just meeting them where they're at. When these teams sign up to be a part of Grades of Green, you know, it's a lot of going escalating back and forth with them and really listening to what their environmental challenges are because they're very different than the environmental challenges that our students are facing here. And so we really find out what they want to focus on and the the differences that they want to make in their community. And we just meet them where they're at. And we look for resources in their community to help them. We guide them, we met, you know, provide mentorship for them and really try to be advocates for the challenges and the the tasks that they want

AS (08:56): To take on in their community. So really it's a lot of us learning alongside these teams from other countries and finding out, you know what their challenges are and what they want to do in the community to make, to make their community greener and more climate I'm like, that's so cool because I think there's, it really is just looking at what's wanted and needed in any local community. And then from that perspective, and from that approach, you already know that what you're going to execute on is going to provide value and it's going to be real and tangible and applicable. And I, I imagine that that makes the impact all the more all, all the greater, because these are what people are actually dealing with every day in their local community. That's so cool. So max, tell us, where did you get started with Grades of Green? Why, why have you stuck with it for so long? I want to know everything.

MR (09:57): Well, to be completely honest I started with green screen when I was in like second grade and I don't know, second graders aren't that great at making their own decisions. And my mom was doing grade screen. She was one of the volunteers at the organization. And so she was kind of like, Oh, like try this thing. And I was a second grader and I just kind of wanted to eat candy. So I was like, okay. And we had the lessons at our school. So I started learning more about the environment through Grades of Green. And I started going to meetings with the grade screen youth board, which later on became the youth Corps where we started learning how to do set up our own environmental projects beyond like what grades agreement was already doing. And so from there, yeah, we developed, we, we learned a lot of the leadership skills to start doing stuff. And as I got a little bit older I started doing some projects.

AS (10:54): What's your favorite project? Ooh,

MR (10:56): That's tough. I don't know. There's, there's kind of lots to choose from.

AS (10:59): Or maybe when one that you're most proud of, let me toot his horn for a second. And then you operate because max has actually been in the Washington post you know, for his work and trying to get styrofoam out of schools. I've seen he and his sister lead a climate change activity where they planted trees in the community. And max is single handedly responsible for the city of Formosa beach, you know, convincing them to ban plastic bags and styrofoam. So max, elaborate on any one of those or all of them.

MR (11:32): Okay. I think, I think, I think single-handedly might be, might be a little, but yeah, so styrofoam started when I was a really like little, I was in, I was in about third grade and we were having this battle about over like whether or not we should ban styrofoam in our city.

AS (11:50): Oh,

MR (11:50): Well, me and the other people in our city, because I lived in Hermosa beach. It's a pretty small like town, like our school had, our school had grades of about 150 kids. And so

KM (12:02): You say we like you and your peers at school. Me and my peers. Yeah. We're talking about banning styrofoam. I just want to like, just want to like, get the like perspective there. Cause that is, yeah, that is unique. Okay. Continue.

MR (12:18): This is the perspective because like so our town is like really tiny. And so this issue is front and center. Everyone was like, not everyone. But some of the adults were saying, some of the parents were saying like, yeah, we need to ban the styrofoam. And so I, I would go to school and be like, guys, like, you know, when we're at the beach and we get sandwiches from Martha's and then the birds like take the trays into the like, ocean, like that's really bad. We need to stop that. And everyone was kind of like, yeah, yeah, let's stop that. All of us, third graders sitting around the lunch table. And so, yeah, that's what we did. I organized, we organized and we a couple of times over a period of I think it may be a month or two.

MR (13:01): We got big groups of like 10, 15, 20 kids all coming to city hall and they had the meetings on the styrofoam. So for public comment, yeah. We would be all these little kids and we went up and usually I would go up and give like a big, like main speech about like, you know, styrofoam and it's bad for, you know, X, Y, Z reason, you know, I, styrofoam is bad. And then yeah, all these kids would come behind and say, yeah, I don't want plastic in my sushi or stuff like that. And through that, through the, the pressure that we continue to push along with, you know, actual, like legal content from some of the adults, I assume we were, we were able to push through the styrofoam dance successfully. And it was, it was pretty awesome. Another, another big project we worked on that wouldn't similarly, but that I was, I was not really like a leader of, but I definitely played a major role in was the Promosa beaches, no, on Oak campaign, basically what happened is her, most of beach made an agreement with ENB oil, like a really long time ago. Like, I remember this. Yeah. You remember this? Like, it was like a hundred years ago or something, I don't know. But yeah.

KM (14:11): Well, I don't remember that. It was, it was a while ago,

MR (14:18): A long time ago, they had this contract that allowed them to like drill for oil and her Mosa, but then we voted no a while ago. So then they were that, that like vote was expiring. So they were going to get to vote for oil nap, or they were going to, they wanted to drill for oil a couple of years ago because they had the opportunity to, so everyone was like, we don't want this. So we put it up to a vote again in the city, like, and we were, yeah, we were going to vote whether we were going to allow them to continue to drill for oil or if we were going to basically just buy them out and come out of our town. And so, yeah, me and a lot of other like activists from around Formosa beach started a pretty big campaign to say no on, Oh, because they called it measure because, because oil, I guess and we successfully fought off ENB we, we won the vote by like 30 or 40 points or something like that. It was insane.

KM (15:14): That's so cool. And for the record, this is way more than I was doing. I was a third grader. I was just eating candy. I'm pretty much

MR (15:24): Candies.

KM (15:27): And it wasn't like organic low sugar, like good for the ears candy either. It was like recess. Anyhow, if I made that Robin and I have seen so much that touches on what max just said is, you know, Robin and I were, you know, a couple of the adults also going before some of these city councils, you know, throughout Southern California, speaking to styrofoam straws, plastic bags, et cetera. But what we have found time and time again, is when you have students like max, get up and speak. I say single-handedly because he really did lead the styrofoam one, but on the other bands, just even having them get up and speak to the issue was far more impactful than any legal, any laws that I could provide any provide. We were happy to do that, but Robin wouldn't you agree? That was, that is always with convinced city councils you know, all the time. Absolutely. Absolutely. When the students speak the adults, listen, it's way more impactful. And Manhattan beach going to a hundred percent clean energy. You know, at the end of the meeting city council members, many of them said, I I'm doing this for the kids. I'm doing this for the next generation because the kids spoke and, you know, really made it clear that, that it was a huge priority for them. And you know, that was ultimately what, what tipped the boat?

MR (16:52): I mean, yeah, that's, that's like why grades agreeing is so great. I mean the environmental lessons are obviously super like useful for kids. And it's created a generation where we pay like gay kids in my grade, basically ignore the fact that we know how to recycle and that we can't litter on the ground, which is kind of grades of Erin's fault in our community using the word ball kind of liberally. But yeah, especially with the, with the, with the youth Corps, giving kids the tools that they need and like the resources that they needed to get involved in their communities and speak out because yeah adults do listen to kids because we don't speak up much. And I think that, that's my biggest, the biggest thing I learned from your screen,

KM (17:34): Max, what is this for, for yourself? And, you know, even those friends who were with you and even the other students in your school, what do you think participating in this kind of real-world education has done for

AS (17:50): Your perspective on what the future looks like on what you can do what's possible or not? Because I still have days, you know, I have empowerment and taking action certainly brings that empowerment. I still have days though, where I like just going out myself, like I sit on my couch and I'm like, Oh my gosh, am I doing enough? Is anyone doing enough? I don't know. And I still have those kinds of like doom and gloom days, but what has this done for you?

MR (18:20): Well, I think, I think a lot of the attitude, a lot, a lot of people just in general life, not just kids, but especially kids kind of this, and in this environment that appears to be like unchangeable. Like when you're, when you're a little, you know, elementary school kid or middle school kid, like in a school with like teachers telling you what to do with your principal is telling you what to do. Like, there is no indication that you can do anything to change your situation. It seems like you're kind of just along for the ride. And that's what pretty much every single kid thinks. Like you kind of just have to sit there and work within the system to do what you can. But the reality is that you, you, don't, there's so many different like levers and pull and stuff, levers you can pull and stuff.

MR (19:03): You can do that if you're just willing to like, you know, go to the office and ask for a meeting or like speak to the right person. They're almost always willing to talk to you, especially if you're a little kid and it'll like, if you have a good idea, it'll almost always lead to the change that you are trying to get to. I learned this, I mean, yeah, I learned this through these environmental projects with Grades of Green going to the city council and demanding that we ban styrofoam. Right. going, you know, walking into my little, my little school's office and asking the assistant, Hey, can I talk to the principal fleas with just no other prompting then, and then telling her that, that we need to get new trays because we can't have styrofoam trays at our school. It leading to, you know, bigger, bigger moves up in like middle school where I talked to, I worked with my school to organize a couple of tree plantings along the Formosa beach Greenbelt.

MR (20:02): And later in high school where, I mean, I have a lot of stuff there that yeah, long list we can get into later, but knowing that people are going to listen to you, if you talk to them is really important, it gives you the, I feel like, I feel like I can make a difference. I can solve the problems I see in the world, wherever I go. I feel like I can do it. It's not, I'm not locked in like a system. That's just telling me what to do. And yeah, I think that's the most important thing I learned from these experiences.

AS (20:39): Ugh. So it's so inspiring. What Robin and Kim as parents, what has this organization,

KM (20:48): How has it impacted what you see as possible for your kids and for your families and all of that? I would say very similar along the lines of what max said, and I'm speaking from a parent point of view and from, you know an advisor with Grades of Green, that's worked with all of these student teams. It's really the empowerment, the empowering students. I think students, I know that kids think so much bigger and bolder than we do. I think as adults, we've been conditioned to think within certain limitations of what we think is possible and what we think is feasible and what's cost-effective, and, you know what our society is going to accept, but students think so big and bold. And so as you know, as a, as an adult working with these students, we don't say no to anything.

KM (21:43): We don't say, no, that's not going to work. You know, that's too, that's too crazy. When students come up with these ideas, we say, okay, well, let's, let's try to find a way to make this happen for you. So it's for me, it's really given me so much hope because just empowering students to be able to follow through with their big ideas and their big, beautiful vision for the future that they want to see is, is awesome. And for me, it's made me think bigger and bolder and you know, it's given me a lot more hope for where our world is going and I, I'm not so perfectly put, and I would just add that. One of the funny things we saw when we started grade screen, that, that we still see is that, you know, the same parents that maybe it's difficult to make a shift, right.

KM (22:38): You know, in your mindset. And also, you know, it's, it's hard to change a habit. You know, the older you get it's, it's difficult. You're, you're doing your ways. You're doing it automatically. You're not even thinking about it. So it's just hard, even if you want to do better, it's just hard to change your habits, but with kids. And when we started educating the students, you know, they're forming their habits. So that was the whole premise. Like, they're just, this is their, the clean slate. They can just have this be how they operate in the world. Like, of course we recycle, like that's just not even something you think about. But the interesting transition we saw, or the translation to parents that we saw is that those same parents that were like, Oh my God, like, no, I'm not going to set up a compost, you know, area at my house.

KM (23:19): Like, that's, you know, there's gonna be bugs and, you know, it's so complicated, but you know, I, as my, myself as an example, I, here I was teaching composting at the elementary school. I didn't have one yet in my own home. And my daughter was in kindergarten and for Christmas that year. So like, well, I mean, we're composting. Can we get a composter? So Kelly got a poster for Christmas and we started composting and we heard that time and time again, I think you'd agree Robin, but all of the other three, you know, founders and myself, like, we'd hear from parents like, Oh my gosh, my kids come home. Like no way, mom, we can't pack lunch and Ziploc bags like reusable containers. And all of a sudden the parents are changing their habits and they're doing it gladly. And they're, you know, because they're doing it with their kids and they're having fun with it, you're asking for the change. So that's the really interesting thing I think that we've seen is that through the kids taking action and becoming, you know, environmental, you know, leaders and just, you know, just environmental, you know, people on this earth just leading their lives that is changing the behavior of their parents which, which never happened without them.

AS (24:29): It's like reverse accountability. Exactly. Yeah. That's so awesome. That's so, so awesome. And I mean, I'm an optimist relentless optimist, but I imagine that the receptiveness and the openness among parents and among educators among, you know, maybe even local legislators and whoever, whatever stakeholders you're engaging, I imagine the agreement hasn't always been there. And as I understand it, there's, there was a specific strategy that you guys took when starting the organization to really make sure that you could cut through the whatever people's personal opinions were about things and make sure that you could make that impact. So tell us about how this, the climate change aspect in particular was addressed when Grades of Green started

KM (25:31): Mean, I think, you know, when we started, we did not want to be another, a burden to the schools like of what they were already doing. Teachers are busy and have their plates full, same with administrators. And so what we found is this focus on the hands-on learning, you know, the learning about trash reduction by sorting your waste by composting the learning about emissions reduction by walking to school, these were things that could be done outside of the classroom, often complimented with curriculum. If the teachers were interested in so motivated, but not, you know, not required. And so it wasn't like a, you have to do this extra thing now, but instead here's this extra resource to compliment the work that you're doing in schools. And so how that translated for us with climate changes, you know, at the time we started, it was right when Al Gore's documentary had come out in inconvenient truth, and I was already an environmental lawyer, but the, you know, that the other three co-founders, you know, had had different careers, not in the environment.

KM (26:33): And that documentary really spoke to a few of them. And we really wanted to do something about it, but we were quite aware of the fact that at the time, you know, not all adults and still a lot of adults, you know, aren't in unison about, you know, the man manmade causes root causes of climate change. And so we really didn't want to turn anyone off. We really wanted to make sure that everyone was excited about teaching our kids. It was sort of an, it was this perfect apolitical thing. Like how could you argue with kids, you know, wanting to recycle and sort their waste and you know, reduce toxins in their school and plant trees. Like that's going to be good, you know, no matter what your stance is on climate change. So we really focused on that, just the positive you know, things that kids can learn and do in this world to be protective of the environment, without taking a political stance. Here we are a decade later and it's particularly gratifying for me to see that, you know, that society has changed and that grade screen is now taking on the climate change issue, head on with its new global campaign. And I'd love her often to tell you a little bit about that.

RM (27:47): Absolutely. And you know, our campaign topics really come from feedback from our students. For instance, last year, all of our topics focused our, all our campaign focused on reducing single use plastics because that's what the students told us that they wanted to focus on. And that was what was you know, forefront in their minds. And, you know, we, we took their feedback again. And this year the students told us we want to focus on climate change. That's what, you know, we're hearing about. That's what we're, we're worried about. And that's what we want to take on. So we you know, spent the summer completely remaking our campaign and, you know, ourselves learning about all the different ways that you know, we are impacting the climate and giving the students as much knowledge around that as possible. And so this year, our campaign is the climate solutions campaign.

RM (28:41): And all of our student teams are allowed to pick from five different areas that impact the climate. So they can pick waste transportation, energy, food, and trees as an area to focus on. And each team picks one of those areas and picks a project within that topic that they want to focus on to take action on in their community to you know, to combat climate change. And you know, it's been really exciting and it's also exciting that we're at a point now where it's not a controversial topic anymore. You know, everybody is really starting to rally behind the fact that we do need to take action and you know, combat climate change as a global society,

KM (29:30): If Robin could. She was telling me yesterday when we were talking and getting ready for today, how many schools now are involved in this latest campaign and the geographic

RM (29:42): Diversity from where they come. And it was just, I have to say it was a super exciting and proud moment for me to see how far the green has come. We are very excited. It's growing every year and it's very student driven. Now we have students coming to us saying, we want to form these teams and we want to take it on. And this year we have 87 different student teams that we're working with and they are all over the country, but more importantly, they're all over the world. And we've seen huge growth, especially in Africa, which has been really exciting. We have teams and Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania Cameroon. And then we also have global teams from India, from South America which has just been so exciting to see the growth of this organization from where our or awesome founders started it, you know, years ago and in Manhattan beach to now is this, this awesome worldwide program that we're able to touch students all over the world and empower students all over the world to take action.

AS (30:50): I keep going back to, in my mind, this idea of real world education and the notion that you know, this webinar in February is things that people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. It's not information coming from some higher, you know, high away place or from people with certain political affiliations. It's like, you don't have water in your town. That's a real thing that people are dealing with. And you're dealing with quality of life. You're dealing with skills that will help you be able to take care of your family and skills that will help you learn how to be an adult, like fully functioning adult. So I think this is, so I'd be curious to hear, you know, I know obviously in education today, it's still a lot of like memorization regurgitate and then forget the information, but this stuff really sticks around. So some people say that sustainability education should be like standard and curriculum and math and reading. What would you guys say to that? And I know there's like not wanting to force things down force a particular agenda or perspective, but if that were a part of education, what do you think that, that, what would that do for education across the board?

RM (32:14): I can speak to kind of the origins of like an actual curriculum for our space. And then, and then maybe max, you can, you can talk to how you think it would be valuable to have that tab more of that in schools, of course, Robin chime in, but when we first started grades agreeing a former colleague of mine as an environmental lawyer was very, very active in working with the state California and actually

KM (32:40): National geographic and coming up with something called the environmental education initiative, the EEI, which would actually be formal curriculum and his formal curriculum, it, it does exist now. It is no longer a pipe dream that was available for school, but on a volunteer basis you know, to, to educate them on the science, behind a lot of the environmental problems that we see. So that has been a great step. But I do think, you know, more needs to be done. I think you know, making sure that these kids you know, we're, we're providing the hands-on education where really, you know, trying to create these, you know, eco leaders and thought leaders that at the same time, just to have the basics from a scientific perspective I think would be really, really really valuable and really important because I think it makes kids light bulbs go on as to like, well, wait, if that's happening, I can do something about that. Or why aren't we doing something about it and what should we do about that? It gets, gets their juices going. And that's probably a perfect segue to turn it over to max and to see how kids feel about that. But I'm a very strong believer in, in getting more federal environmental curriculum into the schools.

MR (33:57): Yeah, I mean, I, I agree with Kim on a lot of that stuff. I think that what grades a green is doing, at least what I went through with the hands-on stuff, just learning how we can be environmentally conscious is really, really good from a very young age, like you know, a second, maybe a second grader, isn't going to understand the science behind climate change, but they will understand which things go in the blue bin and which ones go in the black men and things like that. Using reusable, water bottles other, other environmentally conscious stuff that stuff we need to have straight away and really should be ingrained in the common curriculum. As for like more advanced stuff, maybe I'd open up some more, like in sixth grade we have earth science. And so I think that might be an appropriate place to add some stuff on just more like rudimentary science on like climate change in the environment.

MR (34:48): I know there's some environmental stuff in bio biology too, but I think the biggest place where we can teach kids, like the best, the best place where kids are getting taught, at least right now about the environment before they go off, like to live their lives is in AP environmental science. It's a class I took last year. It's actually pretty great class where kids learn a combination of, you know, about like climate change and the causes behind it. We learn about environments and like, what is destroying them, how they can be protected, basic environmental law all stuff that's really important in like a world where the environment is probably the most important thing over the next, like, you know, couple of years, once coronavirus assault, of course. And so what I'd want to see is an expansion of I'd want to see more this class more standardized, because right now the information we like that we're learning in this class is only going to the kids who sign up for AP environmental science, which is a pretty big chunk of kids at Kosta, but it's not that many kids at most other schools.

MR (35:52): And it's really like important information. I found it, I find the stuff I learned in that class, you know, pretty key to just understanding the news and like what people are saying. And so I'd like to see more of that throughout school and more, more ubiquitously across the state and country.

AS (36:11): It's so what I'm hearing is that from a young age, there are things that could be implemented that are accessible for kids like the bottles and sorting and all of that kind of stuff that really is accessible. And one of the, my favorite ways to approach sustainability are from a way where it's, it's like a, win-win where you're not just learning about this for the sake of protecting the environment, you're learning about it and actually contextualizing, like, what does this do from how does this make your life easier? How does this create efficiency? How does it make you more productive? How does it make you save money? Whatever other lens you can look at it from. And to me that makes it more palatable for maybe the, I don't want to say this unlikely participants or not, you know, people who maybe didn't grow up in a, in a household where this was like at the forefront of the conversation, but I'm curious to know, and anyone could speak to this, like, where are you still met with opposition? Like what, what is that conversation? Where are people saying, no, what, what are the challenges that you have in expanding into areas that maybe aren't as or this isn't as integrated a topic of conversation?

MR (37:40): It's very all snow here. And then we'll, we'll, we'll go to your Robin. I think in, in my experience I've seen across like a lot of this like direct sustainability stuff, like yeah, water bottles, as we said before recycling things that are pretty easy to like do there's not a ton of pushback. Honestly there's probably a lot of social pressure against like using like regular water bottles that aren't reusable which is good. One of the biggest places that I think needs, we're going to have to see change in, in the coming years that seek that I see a lot of resistance to is in like diets. Yeah, one of the, one of the things that like was not taught in a lot of the like environmental education and is taught pretty heavily in environmental science is how bad meat is for like the environment.

MR (38:33): The like meat is like really like really aggressively bad for the environment and not eating meat. It can do more than pretty much anything else that you can do in your daily life. But it's pretty taboo to like ask people to become vegan or vegetarian. And there's also, I mean, I'm not even a vegetarian because it's, it's tough to do. And so there's a lot of pushback there and I think a lot of, a lot more work needs to be done, like to just get people, to make small changes in their diets that can help the environmental law.

KM (39:05): It's a good max saying that is actually such a, it's a little like microcosm of like a bigger, I guess, shift or suggestion. Simple we've always celebrated at grade screen is like every little step. I mean, it literally was our tagline. We first started every step different. So using neat as an example, you know, we had a meatless Mondays activity and it's something I have an environmental blog and that's what I focus on is like little habits that people can adopt that, you know, add up to big changes and, and, and then be happy. So proud of yourself that you did that and celebrate that change. So when it comes to me, you know, maybe you don't become a vegetarian or a vegan, but maybe you do just on Mondays. You know, maybe that's just one day a week that you don't eat need, or maybe there's one meal a day and, you know that you don't eat meat.

KM (39:55): So, you know, just not letting yourself be overwhelmed by the sheer, you know, just how daunting it all can be, but just taking one little step and being really excited about that step and the impact that it has. And then building upon that success. I think that's easier for kids to do. I really do. I mean, I've, I've worked with both the red to green, you know, obviously working with students, you know, my environmental law career with adults when this blog, you know, it was really about changing the habits of adults. And I, I think not really get it, they just naturally get it. And but anyhow, so to, to what max was saying, it's, you know, not letting yourself be overwhelmed and just taking that first step. I think that's where you need a lot of resistance with adults as it can feel really daunting.

KM (40:40): And then maybe Robin, you can talk about, you know, what resistance you see from the schools and how you guys have how you you're lately addressing that. Yeah, from more of like a practicality and logistics standpoint with the schools, the pushback that we get is that they feel they're just completely overwhelmed. And the idea of taking on one more thing is it's really the pushback we get. Even before COVID you know, the amount of curriculum and the things that teachers have to cover is daunting. And you know, to ask them to do one more thing and to add one more program that they're not required to add is, is really hard. And that's where we see the most pushback. So really what we try to do as a, as a organization and as the, as a program is to be a resource rather than a. So we try

RM (41:34): To see you know, where we can add value, where we can take something off the plate and have our program be a resource to teachers and not something else that they have to do. And a lot of teachers now have started integrating our campaign into their, their classrooms and into their curriculum and using us as a way to teach these standards that they have to teach. And then at, you know, letting us come in as a resource to help them and to you know, to be a resource for them. So that's really the hardest thing that we've had to overcome. And then now with COVID, you know, it's, the teachers are really overwhelmed and, you know, they're trying to figure out how to teach through this and how to teach online. And so we really thought that that was going to be a, you know a real issue in terms of being able to recruit student teams this year, but it actually hasn't stood in our way and our, you know, our program stronger than ever.

RM (42:31): And like I said, we have more teams than we've ever had. So we have, we have been able to overcome this. And I think the fact that we've been virtual for a few years now and so we were able to come in again as a resource to teachers and tell them, Hey, we already know how to do this. We've been virtual, we've been meeting with teams all over the world on zoom. So, you know, let us come in and give you a break for, you know, a half hour, 45 minutes a day and work with your students and empower them to take on a cool project in their community and give teachers a little bit of a break. That's, you know, that's been where we can, that's been an area that we've been able to come in and kind of get past the resistance and get past the pushback and, you know, and get into some of these communities and schools that we haven't been in before completely free.

RM (43:19): I think that that's really important because you know, that's just yet another barrier for schools otherwise. So it's a completely free resource. And the thing that I think we've seen that really stands out with grade screen versus other environmental education programs is that there are people like Robin who are available to talk with these, you know, not just the student teams, but with the teachers. So it's a virtual program, but there are people behind it, you know, that are true mentors and advisors, you know, ready to help these schools, students, teachers, parents work through these issues.

AS (43:56): And I, I, I'm hearing a win-win so hearing a win-win and also, you know, these things take time. It's not necessarily like a X number of hours or X number of days. It really is just kind of like requires that partnership and that handholding. And that's a perfect segue into the actions. So speaking of environmental action, what actions can young change makers who don't want to stop advocating just cause they're home in COVID like, what actions can those people take?

RM (44:33): There's so many, it's hard to, you know what we've really found is that we're way better at this than we are. And in terms of connecting online and connecting virtually, so COVID has not stopped our students at all. It has not slowed them down. You know, the students are doing the same things they were doing before. They're educating their peers, they're educating their parents, they're educating their you know, their, their whole school districts are advocating for change, but they're just doing what online now. And they are so much better at it than we are. So you know, we've like I, I had spoken to earlier you know, we just had students advocate for Manhattan beach to switch to a hundred percent clean energy online and a city council meeting. And I think it's been so much harder for adults to switch over, to attend city council meetings online and speak at city council meetings online.

RM (45:32): Our students didn't skip a beat. They know how to connect virtually. They know how to connect with their peers, virtually our students are doing like awesome Instagram contests. You know, we have another great student at MiraCosta Cosa this year is doing exactly what max was speaking to meatless Monday, Instagram contest. You know, and that's something I think would have been hard for as adults to come up with, but, you know, she knew she wanted to do something teaching people how to reduce carbon emissions through eating plant-based and right away, perfect cram contest. So, you know our students are doing virtual beach cleanups where they're, you know, challenging their peers to go to the beach and pick up litter and post it online. So this is really it hasn't been that hard for our students to still take action safely and virtually, and for us, it's opening our eyes to all of these great possibilities that we didn't even realize were out there, like your Alissa, like your, your water bucket challenge, right? I mean, you're, you're actually the perfect embodiment of what Robin's talking about. When you took that on and work with, thank you. That was gallon challenge. That was three years ago already. Wow. Yeah. Three years ago. So what are either like three to five actions or resources that you think parents and students and educators should all get their hands on to start making changes in their daily life? Max,

MR (47:16): They should get an email. They can go into google.com and make one, and they should use that email to email the people who were in charge, because it sounds kind of stupid, but it almost always works. Email your principal, email, your mayor, email your city manager, because there's a pretty good chance that they're going to see the email. And if you have a good idea that they're going to listen and there's, yeah, there's no, there's no better way to do it than just going straight to the top and saying what you need to say and trying to make the change that you need to make.

AS (47:51): That might be the, that might be the mic drop, but let's expand on that

KM (47:57): Might be the microbes. Cause I mean, I, you know, it was ready to give all sorts of examples of like, you know, moving the renewable energy, blah, blah, blah. But what max just said, using your voice, you know, you know, I just love that Margaret Mead quote, never doubt that, you know, a group of thoughtful citizens could change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has just trying not to let yourself be daunted by the problems out there and just taking, you know, little actions within your own personal life, I think is so, so important. Just live, you know, with integrity in your own life with, you know, these, what you want to see in the world. But then also, I just love what max just said. Use your voice, just use your voice, speak up, send things to your representatives. Just do stuff on social media, like just use using your voice. I, I, I kinda think it's the mic drop.

MR (48:51): Yeah. I mean, we, we live in a democracy our country, like for all the problems that it has our government is designed to listen to us, the people. And so we just need to talk to it. You, you just gotta say hi. Yeah.

KM (49:05): I believe in that process with all the, you know, just political, you know, wrangles you seeing, you know, not, not just in the recent few years, but really just, I think a lot of the youth has become really you know, just frustrated, you know, with our political system. So to hear max talk about that, you know, he still believes in it and knows that that is how our democracy works and that it can, it can work for us is really encouraging as an adult to here. Couldn't agree more asked for the change that you want to see and continue to fight for the change that you want to see in our students. Like, you know, max is such a great example for that. Our students know how to do that now better than anyone, they understand how to, you know, how to email, how to, how to petition online and how to make their voices heard on social media. And you know, that's, that's really, what's going to change things and what's really going to drive the change forward.

AS (50:05): And I also know there's a couple of resources for people who might just kind of want to get like their bearings around what, in order to make change, you have to know where you're at. Right? So in order to like, I, I think there's on the Grades of Green website, a way to calculate your family's plastic footprint. And there's a sustainability

RM (50:28): Starter kit. Absolutely. The website is a great resources and we pull from other resources. So yes, there are, you go online and there's you know, all sorts of ways to figure out how much energy you're using, how much plastic you're using and what that translates into in terms of carbon emissions and your footprint on the planet. So yeah, go out there and research those things get involved get involved with Grades of Green. You know, as Kim mentioned, we are a free resource to anybody that wants to join our program. Any student that wants to get wants to get involved can join our campaign. And I, you know, automatically you have a mentor that will walk you through any environmental project you want to do. And you know, we're there as a way to open doors for students and teach them how to connect with their leadership, how to connect with our government, how to connect with their school district and ask for these changes that they want to see.

RM (51:26): Like I said before, our students have these big and bold ideas, but they don't always know, you know, the different channels to get there. So that's what we do. We provide mentorship, we provide leadership skills. We teach them how to build a successful project, how to reach their audience. So yeah, I definitely encourage anybody who has an idea of who wants to see change to reach out, to grades, agree, and sign up for our programs or just contact us to see how we can help them move their idea into action, to close it out. I'm going to turn it over to you, max, if you could send one message to people, your age, to people, younger people, older to educators, people making the decisions and the people who are going to lead this world. What's your message. What do you want to say to them?

MR (52:21): A lot of people like to say they, they hear about issues and they like to say, we should do something. And by we, they mean somebody else. And by something they mean, I have no idea for three. It isn't like, no, one's going to do it for you. If you see a problem in the world, it's, it's yours to fix and you have the tools in front of you to do it. You don't need like a fancy like team of lawyers. You don't need you know, designers and stuff. You just need to get out there, get on the streets, talk to the people around you, talk to the people in charge. Just do, do what you can, because what you can is probably a lot more than you think. No, one's going to do it for you, but you totally can do it for you. It's not impossible. And you can do it. It doesn't, it doesn't matter what it is. You can do it go, you know,

RM (53:13): Second mic drop and enough said, thank you all for being here today. I so appreciate it. And I know we're going to partner together soon. I don't know how, but it's going to happen. I have it. Thank

KM (53:26): You so much, Alissa, for getting out all the important messages you are and for having all of us from Grades of Green on here today. My pleasure

AS (53:37): From the bottom of my ego heart. Thank you so much for being with me today. I can't wait to see what we create together. If you loved what you heard and are hungry for more, don't forget to click subscribe in this app. Also, I want to hear from you, tell me your burning sustainability questions, or even what's inspiring you by following me on Instagram at get real with a S or liking the get real Facebook page. Talk to you soon.

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