PGC 2015 Finalists



International School Almere, Almere, Netherlands

Nathanya Seyed Mehdi

I was born in the Netherlands, Almere. Yet, my entire family is born in Iran. Farsi is therefore also my mother tongue. I speak Farsi, Dutch, and English fluently, and have primary knowledge of Spanish and French.
I currently study at the International School of Almere. This school follows the International Baccalaureate program. I am in DP 1 (diploma program), grade 11.

I have a dog, named Kaiko. A Japanese Akita. She is super cute!
Also, I love to take pictures and videos of moments in my life. I also love editing short movies.

I play volleyball (for about 14 months now), and am currently playing in the team representing our club, in my age category.I joined PGC because I was interested in how to live more Green. My family is already invested in Bio products a lot. After hearing about this project, I got super excited.

Unfortunately, I did not take the subject ESS. In this subject, PGC was introduced. Therefore, I found out about it later. It was super cool to see the two teams in our school work hard on the project. After a few days, Team 50 Shades of Green was falling apart. They were stressing a lot about the projects. I helped them with a few challenges, but the teamwork didn’t improve. The original team members quit, and Nefeli was left alone. She did not want to end the project just like that. So we agreed in continuing the project, together. And look where it got us! From one of the last, we raised to top 10! I am super proud of us. The teamwork, the motivation and positive aura was great. We completed almost all of the Extra Credit challenges, and the daily challenges. The feeling of achievement is great. And not only this, our knowledge improved heavily! I know so much more about environmental and health risks of daily products or habits. And that feeling is amazing. To be able to adjust my knowledge, to be able to help in order to make a change!

As ‘sustainable ag’ day taught me, everything on earth is important. Especially our soil, which is the most precious resource on earth. Because without soil, we wouldn’t have plants, without plants animals couldn’t stay alive, and without those, humans would be extinct, too. The soil gives us life; the world gives us life. This is just one fact of more than 50 which we learned during our PGC journey.

We learned that our world needs help, the future generations need saving. Our mistakes need correction. Our world needs us to speak up, to step up, and to act! We need to be more conscious global citizens, to save our Mother Earth!

Nefeli Syriopoulou

I come from Greece. I used to live in Brussels, Belgium for 3 years. Last year, we moved to the Netherlands due to my mum’s job. I speak Greek, French and English fluently and i have primary knowledge of Dutch and Spanish.
I currently study at the International School of Almere. This school follows the International Baccalaureate program. I am in DP 1 (diploma program), grade 11.

I have two brothers, Theo and Anastassis. In my free time, I like listening to music, sing and watching youtube videos. I love traveling the world, so far I visited most of the European countries, I have traveled to Asia, New York and Washington DC. I like taking pictures, as pictures make memories.

I want to become a journalist, I want to major in media studies. I’m working on my website and I had an experience of internships with TV channels.
I joined PGC because I was interested in how to live more green. I liked the idea of learning more about green products and green world as I am not really familiar with it. Also, I had a lot of motivation because I coulduse my creativity. The goal was very attractive, to go to San Fransisco and participate in the Finals of PGC. Plus, there was a friendly-competition between the other team who was participating from our school.

Therefore, when my ESS (Environmental System & Societies) teacher introduced PGC in class, I decided to join. It was super cool to see the two teams in our school work hard on the project. After a few days, Team 50 Shades of Green was falling apart. The rest of my team start stressing a lot about the project or they stopped working on it. The original team members quit, and I (Nefeli) was the only person left. I didn’t want to give up, so I asked Nathanya if she would like to join me. And look where it got us! From one of the last, we raised to top 10! And now we are 6TH PLACE!!!! I am super proud of us. The teamwork, the motivation and positive atmosphere was great. We completed almost all of the Extra Credit challenges, and the daily challenges. The feeling of achievement is great. And not only this, our knowledge improved heavily! I know so much more about environmental and health risks of daily products or habits that I wouldn’t know without PGC. We learned that our world needs help, the future generations need saving. Our mistakes, need correction. Our world needs us to speak up, to step up, and to act! We need to be more conscious global citizens, to save our Mother Earth!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Exciting, Inspiring, Motivating, Activating and Social

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

The PGC journey was incredible, every time I talk about it, different thoughts come up and I tell people different stories about all the different themes and topics. Everyday is a new experience, and I will miss it for sure!

PGC made me a better person. During PGC, I learned different things interesting things about environment, fair-trade, water footprint, fast fashion, etc.

I have definitely expanded my knowledge on the world. PGC helped us discover and encounter environmental problems in a fun and educational way. PGC made me improve my team work and social skills. Especially the Starbucks petition, it made me speak up to complete strangers; something I had never done before.

I have come to know my community way better. I learned new things, which I had never thought about. For example, FLOSN businesses close by my home. I have visited 2, Venkel and Dr. Blend. Both sell delicious Organic foods and drinks; fresh, local, seasonal, and non-GMO.

Because of PGC, there are many habits and daily routines which I changed. For example, now I recycle and separate my waste more correctly. Also, I look out for chemicals in personal care product & I became more conscious about water waste and pollution (by micro beads). I also look out for Fair-trade, Biologic or Organic products when I purchase foods.

I learned and I discovered things that I could never learn or see in another way. I am extremely excited to be in the top 7 (right now) with my team. I had a really good time doing the challenges despite school work and other activities.

Overall, I have become more conscious about the things around me. I will miss the challenges and the collaboration, but I know that I have learned enough to grow. It is a great feeling, to know that I am able to make significant changes, and ‘ripples’, by doing small things or applying small changes in our lives.

We take the things we have in live for granted. I did not realize this fully, before the PGC journey started. I now view things completely different. Everything I do, say, buy, influence the future. I am not an activist, but I know that I can make small changes. Hopefully, I will be an example to many more, and thus make sure of one big change within my community.

PGC was a fun, educational, and exciting way to learn more about the impacts of our daily routines and on the environment. PGC gave me knowledge about daily life and also a new, close friend (team member).

In one month, I have learned so much about the world. PGC was like an additional subject, learning about life and the impacts of the things we do, to nature and human health. It is incredible, to think back and realise that my knowledge expanded heavily – more than any other subject taught me in one month. This is also what I liked about PGC, that students get engaged in a fun way. The best way to learn, is to be active with the topic and to have fun with it. PGC successfully did this, making me a better person today. I have no regrets, the stress, the frustration, it was all worth it. Because in the end, our hard work paid off; with greater minds and achievements within the project.

Thank you, PGC, for this experience!

What have you learned about yourself over the course of the challenge?

During the last 30 days of PGC, I learned different things about myself.
For example, that I can manage my time correctly – being able to finish projects within 24 hours.

Another thing I learned is that I can be a leader. Sometimes this can be a negativity, as I tend to be a perfectionist and finish my assignments more than correctly, but in other cases this pays off and is shown as outstanding work.

Besides this, I also become more knowledgeable about the environment and human health + their risks by our daily habits. I have learned that I can be dependent, and that I am able to speak up. The Starbucks petition made me more confident, and it gave me the feeling that I am able to make a change. Even though it is small, and that might be switching to using a re-usable bottle, but it still matters! A re-usable bottle means less plastic bottles or cans wasted!

I have also become more conscious. I now realise that I cannot simply go shopping, without checking any labels or ingredient lists. I wish to no longer support products without Fairtrade, Organic or Biologic labels. This choice is not entirely in my hands, but I have been pestering my parents about this!


Jericho High School, Jericho, NY


We are the AMEnvironment Team, residents of Long Island, New York and sophomores at Jericho High School. The team consists of three fifteen year-old work driven students, Annie Yu, Margaret Cheng, and Emma Zhang. Our group came to be after we were placed in the same science research class. It was hard to believe that the book nerd, music-lover, and athlete would end up joining forces to establish a change for the better of the environment. Truthfully, our initial purpose for participating in this challenge, was to fulfill the requirement of completing a self-chosen, science oriented competition for class. As the month flew by, and we accomplished more and more of PGC, we found ourselves immersed with genuine concern and interest for the topics being addressed. What inspired us most was that while we put a month into completing PGC, learning about subjects that had been of little interest to us before, we grew to know about people who have dedicated their whole lives to help the earth. In addition, these people may not have had the privileges or resources that we have had at our disposal. Although we were not particularly close at first, we bonded over our parallel quests to learn and reform, and developed an irreplaceable friendship through green, greener, and greenest!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Eye-opening, inspiring, memorable, challenging, and incomparable

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

We’ve become so insightful over this past month. Before PGC, we threw away plastic water bottles and used toxic personal care products without a second thought. Coming into the competition, we knew very little about conserving resources and we were unaware about the dire situation of our environment. We never thought that we would come as far as we have. Now words such as sustainable agriculture, zero waste, and carbon footprint are significant to us. In the past, when such terms were used, they seemed foreign to us but now we know how they apply to our everyday lives. Our lives have also been changed in many different aspects. First and foremost, we realized the strength of social media. Before starting PGC, social media was just a platform for entertainment, without much purpose. However, throughout PGC, and the social media challenges, we’ve come to realize the increasing influence that Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook have on our community. In school, many of our friends have been approaching us and asking us about what we were posting. This opened up an opportunity to share our ideas and what we had personally learned. This spread awareness about how humans impact the environment. In addition, many of our friends changed their habits to include eco-friendlier practices. Social media is not only a recreational way to keep up with the latest trends, but is also a way to convey our thoughts and ideas to members of our community.

Also, a large impact PGC has had on us, is that it allowed us to be more conscious about our health, and the environment. After doing the body, food, organic, wellness, meatless Monday, non-GMO and fitness challenges, we have become more educated on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’ve developed good habits such as opting for organic and non-GMO foods as well as reducing the amount of meat in our diet. Regarding beauty products, we now read the ingredient labels to check for the presence of chemicals that could potentially harm us. In terms of the environment, topics such as sustainable agriculture and fashion impacted us the most. These topics are so common in our lives, yet most people, including us before completing these challenges, do not understand the potential societal and environmental damages that their decisions can cause. By first identifying the problems that are associated with our actions, we were able to avoid making the same mistakes. For instance, sustainable agriculture has influenced the way that we look at how certain crops are produced. We now purchase products that do not use pesticides, are non-GMO, and do not mistreat animals. For fashion, this includes buying clothes that are made with organic cotton and are not produced in sweatshops, where working conditions are substandard and child labor is often present. All in all, PGC has completely changed the way that we view the world and has caused us to reevaluate ourselves and lifestyle. It has honestly been a rollercoaster ride, with highs and lows, leading us to new discoveries that might not have been possible without PGC. Participating in this challenge has been a unique experience, one that we will never forget. We know that one day we will impact others the way that this challenge has impacted us. All the gifts provided by nature are what define humanity. Then what are we without nature.


George Washington University , Washington DC

Claire August

My name is Claire August, and I’m a junior at the George Washington University studying International Affairs (concentrating in International Environmental Studies & International Development) and Geography, and minoring in Sustainability. I’m originally from Southern New Jersey, where in high school I was the lone member of the environmental club, which prepared me to lead Green GW, GW’s environmental club, as a sophomore. I was a PGC campus rep last year when I recruited my friend Charlie Cevallos to participate, and I watched him succeed throughout the month and all the way to the finals in San Francisco! He inspired me to fully commit myself to PGC this year, and that I did. The best part of PGC for me was taking the basis of environmental knowledge that I had and expanding on it, and then sharing it with my friends and family.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?


Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

After a month I am blown away at the amount I’ve learned, the actions I have taken to make the world a better place, and the responses I’ve received. I have made an impact in these past 30 days, but more importantly, I learned how to make an impact for the rest of my life. I’ve learned about the importance of living in a non-toxic environment, the energy/water/carbon footprint one person can have, and the value of a grassroots movement. I learned about toxins from reading the labels and researching ingredients of some of my foods, items in my living space, body products, and cleaning products. The footprint calculators really put the way I live and the impact that has on the earth into perspective, and made me realize that changing my habits can have a difference. Finally, creating change was so much easier when there were a bunch of people on board. Sometimes it felt silly doing things like calling ACE Hardware asking them to remove bee-killing pesticides from their shelves. But then I realized that almost 3500 students are participating in Project Green Challenge, and that many students are telling their friends about what they learn. So the difference we make is magnified exponentially when thousands of students are asking for something- there is undoubtedly power in numbers, and lawmakers and companies listen when thousands of people ask for something.


University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

The Greatful Deadheaders

The Story of Two Gardeners

Matt and Summer met in spring of 2015 at a meeting on the University of Arkansas campus for student leaders in sustainable agriculture. They met again at an honor society meeting, also for students in agriculture, and began spending time together rock climbing, hiking, camping, and generally enjoying the Ozark Mountains. A fun fact about the two is that over the past year they’ve learned to can and preserve fresh garden food and enjoy making homemade apple cider. They were inspired to participate in PGC as a team by the idea of collaboration – they both have a shared love of sustainability but from different angles so the idea of collaborating and sharing this learning experience seemed as though it would provide even more to explore than participating as individuals. The team name is actually a play on words. The Grateful Dead is a band they both like. Fans of the band are often called Deadheads. “Deadheading” also happens to be a horticulture term for a pruning technique – “The Greatful Deadheaders” combines Matt & Summer’s love of music and festivals with their shared passion for horticulture and tending plants. The most inspiring aspect of PGC for the two was finding that the challenge theme they were both most passionate about was the same (Sustainable Ag) and connecting through that issue to each other and the Northwest Arkansas community.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Fun, Sustainable, Profound, Educational, Life-changing

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

We got involved with Project Green Challenge when the Conscious College Road Tour came to the University of Arkansas. We were very excited to learn about it and could not wait for October to come around. We decided to participate as a team in order to share the challenges and experiences, learn more about one another, spend some great and fun times together, and to be able to share the burden of time commitment. On an average day in October, we woke up every morning and looked up the challenges. We then would go through our days, working on the projects when possible and thinking of ideas on how to do certain activities. In the evenings, we sat down together to really complete the activities and deliverables. We were out of town for two weekends, the first being when we went to Louisiana for the Gal family reunion. We stayed in a hotel with Matt’s family and internet access so we were able to complete the challenges. It definitely made it more difficult as we did not have the materials available to us that we normally would have. However, because of our background and hobbies, we happened to have certain materials on us and were able to plant a seed while out of town for the Biodiversity Greenest challenge. The other weekend we were out of town for, we did not have access to internet so we were unable to satisfactorily complete the Fair Trade and Clean challenges. However, we were able to do some extra credit to make up the lost points. We really enjoyed doing our informational table on Starbucks and conventional milk – it felt like a really great introduction to activism, making a difference on campus with limited resources and just the two of us to work at it. The Biodiversity extra credit we somewhat intentionally skipped because we are already working on getting a pollinator/biodiversity garden installed on campus. Matt, as the garden manager for the Horticulture Club, and Summer, as the president of the Student Sustainability Club, have been using connections and pooling resources to make it possible. It is already in the works but the timeline for the project did not fit the timeline for the extra credit assignment. Rather than rush the project and not give it our full attention, we chose to skip that extra credit assignment.

Possibly the best part of our Project Green Challenge experience was getting our electric bill at the end of October. During the challenge month we were more conscious of our resource usage and carbon footprints so we made some changes to our electricity usage. Since the weather is fantastic in the Ozark Mountains during October, we turned the AC off and just opened the windows for almost the whole month. Our electricity bill dropped from $55 to $28 and our kilowatt-hour consumption was cut in half! We could not have been more excited, as PGC participants and as conscious-living individuals, to see such a change.


Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Valeria Frolova

I grew up in Krasnoyarsk, Russia and moved to Philadelphia in the summer 2014 to study Architecture at Temple University. I first discovered my passion for sustainability in middle school whilst researching how to reduce humanity’s negative impact on the environment, continuing the passion through a Sustainable Design course at college. I attended the Conscious College Road Tour in the spring semester of my freshman year where I first learned about PGC. I immediately got excited! I registered for PGC in August and since then I was impatiently waiting for October 1st. Now, a month later, I cannot believe how much I changed. It was an extraordinary month that inspired me to believe that I have power to make a huge difference!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Empowering, eye-opening, challenging, life-changing, unforgettable

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

Project Green Challenge has been an amazing learning experience because it was fun yet thought-provoking. I have always been a creative person who, enjoys DIY projects, taking pictures and making videos, PGC challenged me to involve my imagination and be original. At the same time, it has been truly challenging time for me. Combining school, work, personal life and daily challenges was not an easy task. I had to stay up late at night, work beyond my limits and say “no” to relaxing weekends. However, it all payed off with the knowledge and skills I acquired. I received a great amount of support from family, friends and the Turning Green team. Whenever I felt down, I looked at other participants’ work using the #PGC2015 to be inspired by thousands students like me who are changing the world together. It made me realize that I am a member of a huge, international family, a part of the great challenge! When you know that you are a significant part of something so important it makes you feel extraordinary, it gives you strength to work hard and achieve your goals.

The whole experience as a PGC participant made me do things that I had never done before in my life. For example, I managed to conduct a great interview with the owner of a sustainable Restaurant, even though I was so nervous I thought could faint. I had great conversations with farmers discussing the importance of sustainable agriculture. I excluded 95% of meat from my diet and as a result discovered new food, like lentils, which are a great source of protein. I discovered amazing organizations, like Krochet Kids, that is empowering people to rise above poverty. Furthermore, PGC has changed the way I perceive my daily life. Now I pay close attention to labels because I am aware of toxic chemicals that can be found in conventional products. I think about the impact that any product has on people and the environment before I buy it. I avoid packaged items as I am trying to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. Most of my cleaning and body care products are DIY, made of natural ingredients that are safe for the planet and my personal health. Finally, I realized that each small step matters and if I choose to be conscious there will be people who might be inspired by my actions to live a more sustainable life for the sake of their health and the health of our planet. This notion makes me excited every day when I choose to bring my homemade lunch to school or use my own cup at the coffee shop. My actions can be noticed and my voice can be heard. And that what empowers me to move on and change the world!


Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT

Mia Nixon

My name is Mia Nixon and I live in Greenwich, Connecticut, and go to Greenwich Academy. I am 16, and am in 11th grade. Outside of academics, I play lacrosse and run. I always have a busy schedule, so it can be at times hard to find time to do other things, but I always try to do what I love when I can. I have always been passionate about the environment and the outdoors, and have wanted to make a positive change. This year I decided to brainstorm ways I could bring change to my school and lifestyle. When I found the Project Green Challenge online I knew it would be a great fit for me and my partner Anna. Together we have worked so hard and overcome so many obstacles to get where we are now. We are so proud of our work and are excited about what is to come. Thank you for this opportunity!

Anna Sargeantson

My name Anna Sargeantson, and I am in 11th grade at Greenwich Academy, a private school in Greenwich, Connecticut. I live in Wilton, CT with my mother and father. I am 16 years old. I was inspired to sign up for PGC due to previous initiatives I had taken in my school to make it a “greener” institution. I wanted to continue my efforts, but in an alternative way. Last year I worked alongside a teacher at my school and another student, and we were able to convert all of the toilets in my school to Sloan’s Dual-Flush system, which reduces water usage per flush. We also converted all of the printers in our school to double-sided printing, and eliminated all of the plastic utensils and paper cups from our school’s lunchroom. I was so excited about our success, that this year I decided to work along side another peer, Mia Nixon, on the Project Green Challenge. Amongst all of our schoolwork and sports commitments, we have been able to find the time for this project, and have worked incredibly hard. The most inspiring aspect of the Project Green Challenge for me has been going on social media and witnessing all of the incredible work everyone has done with this project. Each day the “hashtags” are trending with posts from other participants. This has motivated me to work harder and push myself to do my best work possible. Thank you so much for this opportunity!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Inspiring, galvanizing, fun, life-changing, passionate

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

When I was told about PGC, I thought it would be a fun diversion from my studies and sports schedules. I grew up collecting eggs and shoveling sheep manure on my grandparents’ farm; I have hiked and rafted 19 U.S. National Parks; I have tagged turtles on a Science-at-Sea expedition; and I have studied climate change and natural resource management at BELL (Brown Environmental Leadership Lab). I considered myself a conservationist, an environmentalist and a naturalist, but after 30 days of PGC engagement, I am now also a proud activist who passionately wants to live and teach what those labels represent! I am a different person. More aware. More motivated. I found my voice. I am now an empowered global citizen. I have changed more than what I eat (FLOSN) or buy (Fair Trade) or wear (organic deodorant). I have changed how I interpret and act upon what I see around me. Knowing more about the people who make my clothes, the farmers that harvest my food, the Senators that are working on a hemp or personal care products bill, the dining services staff that care about the cleaning products, the grounds staff that are working for pollinator-friendly habitats on my campus — I feel more interconnected to the people and world around me and inspired to do my part. It’s not enough to pick up a cigarette butt on my beach; I want to educate and mobilize a group of friends to participate in a coastal cleanup. It’s not enough to know which stores offer organic and Fair Trade; I need to support them and tell others about them.

Being an empowered global citizen does not mean I have to spend a lot of money or travel far. As I learned doing challenges like Fitness, Economics and Clean and creating shopping lists and dorm rooms, it just takes some forethought and budgeting to live more sustainably. Making even small tradeoffs greatly lessens my carbon footprint. Doing the Fashion and Sustainable Ag challenges, I learned about international practices and human rights issues that helped me understand that my choices impact people as far away as Pakistan. Challenges like Organic and Water taught me that by being a conscious consumer I am protecting precious global resources and living more in harmony with my global neighbors. By looking for ethical and sustainable alternatives and mobilizing others to be more mindful and actively engaged in the movement to heal our planet (for instance, the Mobilize and Ripple challenges), I am proving that one person can really make a difference at home as well as halfway across the world. I did not have to leave home to support farmers and businesses that place consumers and the environment first. I did not have to leave my room to be inspired by activists like Bill McKibbon, Cesar Chavez, Livia Firth or Vandana Shiva or to learn about EcoWatch, the EWG, Friends of the Earth International or the World Wildlife Fund. In 30 days, I have a new and refreshed sense of responsibility to fight for human rights, support community partners, promote sustainability, protect our future generations and help heal the planet. I have transformed from an everyday student to an engaged activist and global citizen leader.


Belmont University, Nashville, TN

Missy Martin

Organic, fair trade chocolate lover.  Professional dancer (in her room).  Hot yoga and Whole Foods enthusiast.  Environmental advocate.  World traveler.  Missy Martin.

A sophomore at Belmont University from Naperville, Illinois, Missy Martin is pursuing a double major in environmental science and social entrepreneurship with a minor and concentration in public relations and contemporary social issues, respectively. She expresses her passion for environmental and food justice through her involvement in speech and debate team where she has competed nationally with a poetry program emphasizing food deserts.  Missy is also the project manager of Cultivate, Belmont University’s student-run garden, which exists to provide the Belmont and Nashville communities with sustainable agricultural options while encouraging individuals to take an active role in their food choices.  Her journey with Turning Green started when she volunteered for the Conscious College Road Tour. The experience inspired her to sign up for the Project Green Challenge because with this organization and the people involved in it, she felt an inexplicable, positive energy. Magical even. She could feel this energy being used to make change in the global community, and she wanted to be a part of it. Now having experienced PGC, Missy found the connections she created in her school and local community to be the most inspiring aspect. PGC provided her the tools and resources to communicate change, and now Missy has the support of many passionate leaders and school administrators. She is excited to continue to work with these individuals to advocate, educate, and implement conscious living. When not participating in school activities or PGC, Missy enjoys volunteering at The Cookery, a restaurant that employs homeless individuals and teaches them culinary skills, and at Salud!, the cooking school affiliated with Whole Foods. “There are so many opportunities to serve. My motto is to laugh abundantly, love greatly and serve humbly. Living by that phrase brings wonderful, often unexpected, joys,” she said.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Empowering, Meaningful, Life-changing, Moving, and Community-building

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

Empowering. Moving. Meaningful. Necessary. Life-changing. These words encapsulate my experience as a PGC participant. As the challenge progressed this month, I felt stronger and more confident as a global citizen. It is one thing to know how to act to create change for people and the planet, and it is a whole other thing to actually make those changes. PGC pushed me to act and be a changemaker. I am no longer someone who simply just knows the facts. I am a driven, passionate global citizen who wants to develop ideas, mobilize others, and change the world in the best way that I can. The daily overviews, challenges, and resources served as way to begin to accomplish all three of these areas. Each day I thought critically, met and talked to amazing people, and reflected on the theme. I learned how to make videos and a Pinterest board for the first time, met and talked with administrators, and made beautiful connections with inspiring community leaders. These new skills and relationships symbolize the growth I have experienced in the last 30 days. I am able to articulate and communicate my voice in a way that I never knew was possible, and I was able to do that with the people that I interviewed, informed, and talked to. The people in my community both at home and at college engaged in the experience with me, and because of this, these communities began to transition to conscious living too. One particular community that I saw the greatest impact as a result of my journey was in my residence hall. As an RA, my residents look to me as a role model. Many of them approached me daily about changes they were making in their lives to be more conscious. Some examples include upcycling a decorative tissue box to wrap a birthday present, thrift shopping for new clothes, and using non-toxic beauty and body products.

As the challenge provided me the opportunity to expand my knowledge on human and environmental issues the global community faces today, I began to really feel everything happening around me. I felt anger. I felt love. I felt joy. I felt passion. I have never been pulled in so many directions emotionally. I felt anger toward unethical industries like fast fashion where people are living off $10 a month and being beaten for trying to improve their working conditions. I felt love as people in my communities and other participants in PGC supported my journey. I felt joy as I learned about the people and companies making a difference by supporting organic, fair trade, non-GMO, and other ethical aspects. I felt passion as I saw change being made as I encouraged others to be mindful in their actions. By acting, connecting, and feeling, I truly felt the magic that being conscious can bring to one’s life. This challenge and the people involved, both directly and indirectly, touched my heart, and I feel like I touched many of theirs too. I cannot see the full result of the impact I have made from this challenge, but I know that it is there. The impact is still happening, too. People are continuing to watch my videos, read my posts, and discuss with me. PGC ignited a passion and newborn vibrancy inside me. This experience has led me into a new chapter of my life. A chapter filled with a social mission and purpose. I am ready to make and be the change. Change happens… allow for the possibility.


Mt. Everest Academy, San Diego, CA

Megans Phelps

Megan Phelps is a 16-year-old from southern California, where she attends Mt. Everest Academy. She is passionate about social justice through environmental awareness, and she intends to advocate environmental sustainability and aid to people who suffer worldwide from the effects of environmental degradation in the years to come.  

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

impassioning, emboldening, powerful, genuine, compassion

What have you learned about yourself over the last 30 days?

Throughout my journey through PGC, I learned so much about the world. I learned about soil, and water, and the food I eat. I learned about people all over the world who suffer from the effects of my greed. But most of all, I learned about myself. I discovered that my passion is bigger than I realized, and I am most powerful when I am advocating for the welfare of other beings. I also learned that I am a stronger leader when I have support from other people. I also learned a lot about my values, like that I have a desire to help other people through my actions.

I learned that positivity and hope inspire me more than fear. As I watched the True Cost movie, I felt myself in the situation of the laborers, working in harsh conditions. This compassion inspired me to change my habits more than shame or guilt could. As I explored the challenges each day, I broadened my knowledge of environmentalism. Every challenge was a door to a new passion. The Fair Trade challenge inspired a new empathy for people all throughout the world. The Biodiversity challenge helped me find links between my own life, and all the things that make it great, and the world around me. I feel an indescribable sense of connection with the plants and animals around me. And the support that the Turning Green Team provided made me feel fearless in advocating what I believe in. PGC helped me gain perspective on my own life. It helped me connect to my principles and spurred me to envision the world that I want to live in.


University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL

Julie Polaski

Hello my name is Julie T Polaski and I am an Industrial Design major at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After graduating I want to create and design sustainable products. I signed up for PGC 2015 because I wanted to learn more about living a greener life. The past 30 days has been an incredible journey and I am inspired to pass on the knowledge I have gained to others.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Enlightening, Interesting, Fun, Educational, Rewarding

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

I have always considered myself a person who lives green and is environmentally conscious. I used power saving light bulbs and always recycled. Now I know that I was far from being considered environmentally conscious. Project Green Challenge has taught me so much on how to live a more sustainable life. Starting from day one I learned just how much my footprint has an impact on our planet and have moved forward with the mindset of making changes in my life. When I leave to buy groceries I now specially look out for and buy only fair trade, organic, and non-gmo labels. I have made swaps with most of the food I eat. I also cook more often rather than going out. The zero-waste challenge was a specifically eye opening experience. I now think about my garbage and if there is a way I can help to reduce it, such as bringing a reusable tumbler to Starbucks instead of using the given cardboard cup. The body challenge also stood out to me. I have learned that there are so many toxic chemicals I use daily and throw on my body. It is enough to make me sick just thinking about it. I will say I was a bit sad at first finding out how dangerous some of my favorite brands were to my health. The fact that these toxins in our products can be entirely avoided just grinds my gears! The government is supposed to protect the people yet they are allowing this to go on. All companies need to do is switch to more non-toxic healthier ingredients. Since that challenge I have been slowly swapping out my make up, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, perfumes, etc. for more green and less toxic products. I have also signed quite a few petitions to stop having these toxins in our body care products. I was also shocked to learn about the toxics in our everyday products such as my bed sheets! You spend a third of your life in your bed and for your sheets to contribute to health problems is completely ridiculous. After learning that from the space challenge I have invested in 100% organic cotton sheets and have never slept better! I have learned that there are green alternatives for almost everything and that every choice I make when buying a product is a stance for my beliefs.

Participating in the challenge was one of the best choices I have made in my life and was incredibly eye opening. I have become a much healthier person and I now live much more sustainably. I want to spread what I have learned and inspire others. This experience has incredibly rewarding and has only confirmed that after graduation I want to work for a company that designs and creates sustainable products.


University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA

Marina Qutab

My name is Marina Qutab. I am pursuing an undergraduate dual degree in Communications and Arabic at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. I will also complete the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies. I grew up in the rural town of Rutland, Massachusetts. From a very young age, I dreamed of using my creativity, intelligence and courage to build a conscious, sustainable world. This dream is what led me to PGC. In addition, my wonderful friend that is a past PGC participant encouraged me to join. In my free time I enjoy cooking, making music, blogging, writing, exploring in nature, volunteering and learning about world cultures.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

Motivational, Inspirational, Rewarding, Educational, Emotional.

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

One of my friends who is a past PGC participant contacted me the day PGC2015 began and said, “Ahhh Marina, I am sorry I didn’t contact you sooner but today is the first day for the TG’s 30-day challenge!!! Go sign up! I’ve been following your conscious sustainable thinking blog, and this challenge seems perfect for you!” She gave me background info on what PGC is, and told me I would not regret it if I did it. I was hesitant because I had a huge exam the next day, and on top of it, it was already 9:30 pm. But, something inside of me said “do it”, so I did. The first challenge illustrated how many earths I needed to maintain my lifestyle (3-7), and it was SO eye opening. I thought I was already green-minded and lived consciously; however, I found that I could be greener-minded and live more consciously. I knew then that I made the right decision to begin the 30-day journey. Every challenge after Day 1 was equally as eye-opening as they were inspiring. I could not get over some of the terrible operations that went on around the world, such as sweat shop labor. Another thing that really shocked me was the fact that corporations are now bigger than the government. I was appalled, and wanted to change this while advocating for responsible, ethical solutions.

Motivated by the various challenges posed by PGC, I did things I normally wouldn’t think to do. Just a few examples include: I organized a tabling event advocating for Organic Milk at Starbucks, I met with two big decision makers for UMass Amherst Dining (to push for meatless Mondays and fair trade food), I conducted interviews with farmers and UMass Amherst community members for their opinions on various topics (including organic/local food, GMOs, waste management at UMass, pesticide use on UMass campus), I lessened my waste footprint (through composting, conscious grocery shopping, and making zero waste body products and organic all-purpose bathroom cleaner), and I hosted various conscious meal gatherings for friends (non-GMO meal, FLOSN meal, certified organic meal, fair trade snacks).

If there is anything to take from the PGC experience, it is to realize that in order to change the world, we must first start with ourselves. We must identify ourselves as the root cause of these global issues. Industrialization, consumer culture, irresponsible farming (GMOs, Monsanto, toxic pesticides, Roundup), dehumanization (sweat shops, non-fair trade), and animal cruelty (factory farming). This list could go on. Though these global issues are horrific and hard to face, they are an accurate, TRUE picture of what is really going on in our world. We must hold on to the truth, and say, “There is no planet b. I will not be a part of this vicious cycle, and I will stand up for earth justice and social justice.” Once we stand up for justice and decide we do not want to be a part of this vicious cycle, we will realize that we ARE the SOLUTION. We are the hope for a conscious, sustainable planet.


Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH

Reilly Reynolds

Reilly Reynolds is a senior at Ohio Wesleyan University studying Economics and Spanish. She grew up in North Olmsted, OH, a small suburb of Cleveland. Reilly hopes to go into urban farming when she graduates, and to eventually own a farm-to-table organic restaurant. Reilly stumbled upon Project Green Challenge two days before October by chance while doing research for a project for a class. She was inspired to sign up after researching Turning Green’s efforts all over the world, in particular their Humans of Turning Green page. The most inspiring aspect of the challenge for her has been seeing the huge amounts of effort the other contestants have put in all month, and the potential to make friends and connections through the challenge. Tree huggers Unite!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience

Inspirational, Challenging, Life-changing, Humbling, Beautiful!

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

When I began my month of PGC, I was very excited, but also curious as to how much I would learn that I didn’t already know. I felt like a pretty serious tree hugger already. The answer I kept getting over the course of the month was that I had a whole lot to learn. I went into the challenge pushing myself to get every ounce of knowledge out that I could, doing every challenge, and planning out when I was going to do every extra credit. I really enjoyed the artistic challenges where I got to draw or paint or make a video. Every day I woke up so ready to experience the next theme and challenge! Then, around Day 23, I hit a wall. I was tired and bogged down by the amount that I had to do, and I was really enjoying Project Green Challenge, but by pushing myself to do every single challenge, it became too much. I had run myself into a hole. I decided to give up on the challenge for the sake of my mental health, because simply cutting back didn’t feel like an option. Luckily, I had a very supportive group of people around me. Judi Shils reached out to me and encouraged me to take the time I needed, but to consider finishing the challenge after taking a few days off if that seemed plausible. That phone call and the support I received thereafter from friends, family, and the Turning Green staff have changed the way I look at Project Green Challenge and at sustainability in general. After truly resting, catching up on school work, and taking care of myself, I decided that I wanted to use the last week of the challenge to try to find balance. I did what I could, and I’m so glad I finished.

To say that I learned a lot this month is not even the tip of the iceberg. In some very important ways, I’ve transformed. I’ve started looking deliberately at my actions, and noting ways in which I can be the change, even if it will take time and sacrifices. I’ve cut most processed foods out of my diet, and have examined the practices of the companies I purchase from. I am living a “near Zero-Waste” lifestyle, attempting to eliminate my consumption to one mason jar of non-recyclable or compostable items each month. I’m treating myself in a more sustainable way too, not sacrificing sleep or healthy eating habits for anything else. I have been able to recognize some really important people in my life and how truly heroic they are to me, and to make priceless connections with other challengers as well as environmentalists in my area. I am reaching out more in general, encouraging others to trade conventional practices for conscious ones. I guess the best way to sum up the past month is that I’m learning to view sustainability in a more sustainable way. As a human being in an imperfect world, there will always be more to learn and do. The steps I can take to be more conscious don’t end after this month. Project Green Challenge was a definite step in the right direction, and now it is my responsibility as an environmentalist to keep moving myself and those around me toward a better world.


A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, FL

Team April 5

Marco and Isaac joined Project Green Challenge to change the conventional components of their routine to greener options. After Project Green, they have not only changed everything in their homes to organic and hope to change their future consumption to fair trade, but they have changed the people around them. As new converts to vegetarianism, they aspire to show the world the misconceptions about their diet. They are both natives to exotic South America and have lived in three countries. They now attend A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

We need transparency in labels.

What have you learned about yourself over the course of the challenge?

Before PGC we knew we were passionate about environmental change. We knew that we wanted to see the world as a better place, but we never knew that we were activists. Through this experience, we have learned not only the content and the environmental concerns of our world, but we have learned that we as individuals want to change the world for better. After tears and sleepless nights, it became clear that for us this is what inspires us as human beings. Staying up till 3 in the morning finishing assignments, running around every day to track down administrators might be difficult, but is initiating change. That is what makes us work as human beings: knowing that regardless of however short our time Is on earth, we can make positive changes to the foundations of the planet. Over the past 30 days, we found a passion we have always known was inside of us but never was as clear as it is now. Looking back on October, I can count the average time we have slept each night on one hand. But even after this month ends, we know that we still want to keep it like that. Five hours each night has become the norm because 5 hours each night means we are fighting, creating and making the change we want to see.


Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

Tracey Wingate

Hi! My name is Tracey and I am a sophomore at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. When I am not at school, I live with my mom, dad, brother and two dogs in Newfields, New Hampshire. Newfields is a tiny town of 1600 people in Southern New Hampshire, about 20 minutes from the beach and an hour north of Boston. I have not declared my major yet, but thanks to PGC and I think I am going to go with Environmental Studies! Ultimately I want to have a career in environmental justice so that I can help people while fighting environmental degradation. After high school, I took a gap year and traveled with a program called Thinking Beyond Borders. As a group of sixteen students and three leaders, we traveled to Ecuador, Peru, China, Cambodia, India and South Africa. We learned about environmentalism, sustainable agriculture, education systems and public health while completing service projects in each country. This experience was life changing for me because of the experiential learning that literally forced me out of the small isolated bubble I had inhabited for the entirety of my life. When I started at Skidmore last fall, I had a really difficult time transitioning back to sitting in a classroom. I trouble connecting what I was learning to the outside world in a way that would give it meaning. One of the reasons I have valued my PGC experience so much is because it has allowed me to bring experiential learning about a subject I love into my life, outside the classroom. I was inspired to do PGC by both Maddie Welsch and Danielle Schoen. I met Maddie my first week at Skidmore because she was one of my orientation leaders. When I told her I was interested in environmental studies she told me all about PGC! Danielle was one of my suitemates last year so I learned a lot about the PGC process from her. I also wanted to complete PGC because I thought it would be a great way to learn more about sustainability and meet others who are interested in the topic as well! The most inspiring part of PGC has been realizing that I can make changes to promote sustainability in my life and around my campus.

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience

Growth, perseverance, connections, happiness, sustainability

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

PGC actually made me learn something new each day this month, which really impressed me because I thought I was already an environmentally conscious individual. Thanks to PGC I have a better understanding of a variety of environmental issues than I got from my Environmental Studies class last semester! My professor covered the topics of water, waste and agriculture, but she did not connect them back to our every day lives as PGC has for me. My favorite aspect of PGC was that each challenge presents facts about an issue but then offered concrete actions I could take that day to start improving the issue!

Before completing PGC, I was feeling discouraged about the general sense of apathy towards the environment that most people seem to have. Everyday I see people throwing away plastic, buying things in disposable containers, wasting water, buying unnecessary stuff and littering (I could probably use all 500 words just continuing this list). I kept asking myself why people didn’t care about the effects of their actions on the environment. I have always tried my hardest not to go around spouting facts about global warming or lecturing people about why they should recycle because usually people just turn away in annoyance. I didn’t know what else I could do though to get others to care about the environment like I do. My experience with PGC has helped me start to realize that the obstacle of ambivalence can be overcome. The other PGC participants have shown me that there are people working for environmental change all over the world. To my surprise, I have even met people on my own campus who are working on sustainable initiatives that I was not aware of. PGC has helped me realize that simple actions like hanging up signs, asking people to sign a petition or sharing information on social media sites actually do add up and make a difference. One of the major focuses of the gap year program I did was learning about the world to become an agent of change. While I definitely learned a lot and had many experiences I wouldn’t have had without the program, I was still left wondering how to an agent of change in my every day life. Thanks to PGC, two years after my gap year, I have finally found an answer!

In addition to finding ways to influence others, PGC has also taught me about my own lifestyle. Before PGC, I didn’t think there was anything else I could do to make my lifestyle more environmentally friendly. Boy was I wrong! I now know that I can save the environment by choosing specific cleaning products, cosmetics, foods, clothing, furniture, etcetera. As I have completed the PGC challenges and started doing things differently in more sustainable ways, people have also started to notice and ask questions. I now have the knowledge and confidence I need to answer these questions and further promote positive lifestyle changes! Although PGC has been hard to fit into my already busy schedule, I can only imagine how different I would be without having done it. I am going forward with the knowledge that as an individual, I have the power to cause change and even though I doubted it before, Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” is true! I have discovered my not so small group with the other PGC participants, and together, we will change the status quo.


Jericho High School, Jericho, NY

Kendra Zhang

Kendra is a sophomore at Jericho High School in Jericho, New York. She has a passion for being active in her community by spreading the word about today’s issues. Kendra’s always wanted to make the environment a better place, but didn’t know how to (where does a 15 year old get funds to remove all the waste from the sea?) until PGC! Her science research teacher, Dr. McCalla, inspired her to sign up for this year’s PGC. Kendra’s favorite part of PGC was discovering ways every day to be active on an individual and community level. She now sticks to a vegan diet every day – and LOVES it! PGC has inspired Kendra to go out and make positive changes for herself and the people around her – because that’s what changes the world!

What FIVE words would best describe your PGC 2015 experience?

inspiring, empowering, learning, teaching, aware

Summarize your experience as a PGC participant.

This past month as a PGC participant has been eye-opening and inspirational beyond words. Ever since I was 8, I’ve wanted to change the world. That seems like a such a lofty goal for such a small girl, and it does for anyone, no matter how young or old you are. So… how DO I change my world? PGC has helped me realize that changing my own world from conventional to conscious, and inspiring others to do the same, will change the world. PGC has taught me how my life, in every aspect possible, can be turned around and made sustainable. I was given the opportunity every day for 30 days to wake up and change my life: learn about an issue, get up and become active, inspire someone to do the same. Wow… that is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many chances do you get in life to evaluate everything and change your habits from conventional to conscious? Simple changes made to my lifestyle is enough for me to be a sustainable, conscious member of my community. I can advocate for fair wages just by purchasing Fair Trade chocolate or buying local groceries; I can fight against pollution and greenhouse gases by reusing and recycling my plastics. Such easy things to do really and truly makes a difference and contributes to solving big issues. PGC helped me realize that if I wanted to be active in saving the world and being a leader, I can do it! If I can inspire the people around me to live sustainably like me, we play big roles in changing our world. I’d like to be the change I want to see in my world!

PGC has touched my life in every aspect possible. My decision making is so much more conscious now – every time I head to the local market to purchase groceries, I look for organic, non-GMO, and local food (which can’t always be found, I live in chilly New York, so wintertime local foods are unrealistic!). When I buy body products, I look for organic and fair trade. Not only am I responsible for being good to my own body, I have to contribute to the right economy (small farmers and not giant corps). My school’s food system isn’t transparent, so until I know exactly where my food is coming from, I’m responsible for packing my own organic and vegan lunch, bringing my reusable silverware utensils, and reusing cloth lunch bags and napkins. My peers, seeing me make changes in my own lifestyle, want to join me in being sustainable. We care about preserving the earth (unlike societal stereotypes saying we’re self-absorbed social-media obsessed brats)! I also have to be good to myself, too, and keep my life balanced. If I make so many external changes to my life, I should be equally as healthy internally! PGC has taught me to not overlook relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and talking to my friends and family. Also, an hour of exercise every day is important to keep my daily life in check.

PGC helped and inspired me find a way to live a sustainable, balanced, healthy lifestyle. I learned how to be conscious of the way I impact my environment, community, and self.