Live Green and Earn Points


How to Lose the Soapbox and Inspire Green Behavior

By Green Schools Program |
A teacher in Clayton Public School District in Clayton, NJ, tells us about the first time she was inspired to encourage green actions in others:

The first attempt at inspiring others to be green might not go over well, but there's always another chance to make an impact.
A teacher in Clayton Public School District in Clayton, NJ, tells us about the first time she was inspired to encourage green actions in others.
WRITTEN BY: 3rd Grade Teacher Sharon Patterson of Herma Simmons Elementary School

The first time I realized there was a need to get people’s attention about our environment was in 1979. It was just a few years after the bicentennial celebration of this great nation and I felt a need to get people to see what they were doing to the world around them. So, in the style of the ever-independent 14 year old, I decided to make my stand and attempt to be the speaker at my graduation ceremony. Hey, after all, it was the 70s so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I remember spending a couple of hours developing the perfect words to stun the voting panel. What came out of my brain and into my hands was a masterpiece of divine inspiration. I was sure only the good Lord above could have possibly given me these awe-inspiring words. The day came when I was about to make my noble attempt at getting recognized for my oratorical genius. Oh it was scary, I give you that. Up until that point in time, no one in my circle of friends or family had ever touched on the topic of even noticing how their behaviors were affecting the environment. For me to stand up, in public, and make this grand announcement that everyone I knew was harming Mother Earth to the depths of her soul, was a true testament to my stellar, self-indulgent nature.

By now you may be wondering what happened at that grand soap-box of a speech. Tell you the truth, I don’t remember. Oh I do remember not being asked to give the graduation speech, but other than that, there is little recognition of the events that followed that decision.

Although I don’t remember much about the events around the graduation speech debacle, I do remember what influenced me to become passionate about the environment: My very special aunt and uncle. When Aunt Sally used to take my sister and I on picnics through the woods, we’d walk and talk about the nature that surrounded us along the way. On the fishing boat, my Uncle Clayton would catch and release fish with the utmost respect for each and every living thing he came across, and, he only ever kept what he could eat. My aunt and uncle taught me how to be conscious of the world around me.

Perhaps the most influential aspect of my time at their house was a magazine called Mother Earth News. This magazine had all sorts of information about how to live and use the earth responsibly. I used to spend hours engrossed in the pages reading about various ways to grow vegetables, or how to catch rainwater for reuse. Having access to this magazine influenced me to think in a different way. Remember, it was the seventies, and being environmentally conscious wasn’t popular like it is now!

There I was, a youngster, being exposed to topics like renewable energy, sustainable farming, and do-it-yourself projects that would make your head spin nowadays. I can remember being mesmerized that people actually lived the ways that the magazine depicted. Back then, people who were “earth conscious” were freaks, outcasts, people who didn’t know any better — but to me, they were my Aunt Sally and Uncle Clayton, two special people who made a world of difference in one little life, and probably, I’m sure, they never knew. Now I am all grown up and teaching my own kids to think responsibly; I only hope I can be as good at it as my aunt and uncle were.

Who most inspired you to be green? Share your memories in the comments below!

Recyclebank Green Schools Program awards grants to schools in order to fund environmental projects that empower youth to green their own communities. For every 100 points donated to an accepted school, Recyclebank donates $10 to that school.

Under the guidance of Sharon Patterson, Clayton Public School District and the Clayton Environmental Club will be repurposing the front retention pond and creating an open space where classes can venture to learn about local plant and animal species. Students in the club will directly participate in this remodel as they build birdhouses and other creative habitat enhancements that will attract local animals. The environmental club will also be involved in planting and maintaining the site in order to ensure its continued success at meeting the purpose of the space.

Learn more about the Green Schools Program!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • james and Ella Mae j. 4 years ago
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    Mother Nature inpired me.
  • 7 years ago
    I did a college paper and interviewed people whilr on vacation ... discussing the impact of 'too much trash'
  • 7 years ago
    I started to recycle when I realized most of the world STILL hasn't learned how vital it is to each of us
    and to our planets survival! There are a lot of things being done but there are still many opportunities to learn, to teach, to share! This fall I am in charge of a new recycling program just
    beginning in our local, where my granddaughter goes, and I'm very excited about the