ZooTeens win national polar bear contest

April 24, 2012 - 3:43pm

Zoo teams prevent the release of 3 million pounds of CO2

The Conservation Crew, a team of three Oregon Zoo ZooTeen volunteers and a staff adviser, are the grand-prize winners of this year’s Project Polar Bear contest, Polar Bears International announced Saturday.
“Two of our team members competed last year, and I was a little hesitant to do it again because I didn’t know if it would be as great,” Conservation Crew team member Lindsey Sadlou said. “But it worked out.”
The three-month-long contest challenged the team and young people across the nation to design and carry out projects that reduce the carbon dioxide load in their communities. For their project, the Beaverton-based Conservation Crew – which includes Arts and Communication Magnet Academy seniors Sadlou and Genevieve Warner and Westview High School freshman Jack O’Neil – gave energy-saving presentations to elementary school classes, encouraged local businesses to recycle and promoted Fork It Over, a Metro program that helps businesses with surplus food connect with local food-rescue agencies.
The team estimates their ongoing projects will save 115 tons of carbon and nearly 400,000 gallons of water per year.
The Conservation Crew’s grand prize includes a trip to the town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, nicknamed the “polar bear capital of the world,” to see polar bears in the wild during their fall migration.
ZooTeens, an Oregon Zoo high school volunteer program that focuses on conservation education, entered eight teams in this year’s competition. All together, ZooTeen projects will help save an estimated 3 million pounds of carbon this year.
“It was incredible to be involved with so many great teams,” Oregon Zoo youth volunteer coordinator and Project Polar Bear adviser Amanda Greenvoss said. “The goal is to engage teens and show how big an impact individuals can make in just a few months, and it’s been a resounding success. We’ve seen a lot of these young people change from animal lovers into animal lovers who are also passionate about protecting our environment.”
Nationally, teams who completed this year’s project achieved a total savings of more than 5 million pounds of CO2.
Learn more about the Project Polar Bear contest, including how to sign up for next year’s competition.
Support for this year’s contest came from Lowepro and SeaWorld San Diego.
Polar Bears International is dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its sea ice home through research, education and stewardship.

Summaries of the Oregon Zoo’s 2012 Project Polar Bear teams

Grand prize winner: Conservation Crew, Oregon

The following is just a sampling of the inspirational steps that contest winners the Conservation Crew took in order to begin making serious changes in their community. First, they decided to hold their weekly meetings over Skype in order to prevent carbon emissions. They coordinated a number of sustainability presentations for classes at Abernethy Elementary School, Rock Creek Elementary School and Meadow Park Middle School, where they distributed a worksheet they created so students can keep track of the changes they make at home to reduce CO2. They followed up with each class a week later to record the changes. The team also worked with local business R + L Carriers to try and bring recycling programs into offices where they didn’t already exist, and they introduced restaurants and other food service businesses to a free food-recycling program.

Aqua Stomata, Oregon

During ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo, Aqua Stomata taught visitors about water conservation, had them sign a pledge to conserve water and signed them up to receive a free Portland Water Bureau water saving kit. They received pledges from over 100 families. With the water saving gadgets in the kit, they calculated a typical family of four could save 3383 gallons a month and 800 lbs. of CO2 per person, per year.

Eco Girls, Oregon

The Eco Girls went to four classrooms, reaching nearly 100 students, and gave presentations on climate change and reforestation. They also planted 12 trees and encouraged energy power downs over schools breaks at three different schools. Unplugging computers and turning off lights saved 255,676 kWh of electricity. The trees they planted will absorb 576 pounds of CO2 per year.

Polar Bear Spirit, Oregon

This team started an environmental club at their school and at the local grade and middle schools. They partnered with the local grade and middle schools to hold weekly sustainability challenges, like asking students to eat a waste-free lunch or use a reuseable water bottle. They also hosted recycling events, like a book collection and a clothes swap. The book collection and clothes swap resulted in 1118 pounds of items donated and nearly half of the donations were immediately re-used. The remainder went to a church drive in Southeast Portland for people (mostly children) whose families had gotten into legal trouble or were on parole. Totally all their projects; 6,640 lbs. of CO2 was saved.

The club at the high school is currently working on a seafood project, to raise awareness about the low carbon impact of fish that are harvested close to Portland. The basketball team also agreed to use only reusable water bottles at practice and during school. The coaches are re-using old practice and game jerseys.

Friends of the Earth, Oregon

This team partnered with Energy Trust, a non-profit dedicated to lowering energy use in homes. Energy Trust made the team an informational packet, gave them an unlimited supply of fliers and lent them a lighting display that compares different compact fluorescent light bulbs. They also gave them a sample Energy Saver Kit, consisting of compact fluorescent light bulbs and an energy-saving showerhead and faucet aerator. The team promoted this information at ZooLights and talked to more than 900 people during five weeks, signing many up for their own free Energy Saver Kits. The team also developed a list of simple ways to save energy for people who didn't qualify for a kit.

As a result of partnering with Energy Trust of Oregon, they also learned about a fundraiser called Change a Light, Change the World, where students sell CFL bulbs and keep 50 percent of the proceeds. They introduced it to a local elementary school, where it was used to raise money for a school kitchen.

Thanks to their partnership, they gave away 325 Energy Saver Kits, which included 1,300 CFLs, 325 showerheads and 325 water faucet aerators. They also sold an additional 260 CFLs. Overall, they reduced carbon emissions by 538,877 pounds per year.

Know Your Number, Oregon

This team created a Facebook page (EcoHabitz), where they posted ideas and challenges to help people make environmentally sound decisions. Their other main project was a booth at ZooLights. There, they handed out stickers for families to put on appliances and other machines at home. Each sticker reminded the user to unplug, turn off or limit use of the appliance.

They also partnered with Zenger farms and arranged to use some of their materials to teach sustainable gardening and eating habits. Know Your Number handed out approximately 400 stickers with a total carbon emission reduction of 555,243 pounds.

Local to Global, Oregon

This team led presentations at five schools, arranged a school waste audit, started a Facebook campaign and an Art-tic art challenge, and participated in tree plantings and the “These are made from trees” campaign. They reached more than 1,050 students, 25 teachers, and three principals at the elementary level, 20 students and one teacher at the middle school level and 1,550 students and two schools at the high school level.

Coordinating with the Prairie High School Green Team (an environmental club), they contacted Waste Connections Inc. and arranged a waste audit to survey how well the school was composting and recycling. Along with the Green Team, they led three assemblies to educate the school on how to properly dispose of their waste. They also volunteered with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council to plant trees.

The Local to Global team created a Facebook page and posted a featured endangered animal and “Green Tip” weekly. They also received several hundred pledges from others to do a variety of sustainable behaviors.

For the Art-tic challenge, they started an art contest featuring polar bear-themed paintings, a sculpture and a collage made from recycled materials. The winners artwork was displayed at the Oregon zoo and they received a polar bear t-shirt.

The team also bought 100 “These Come From Trees” stickers and, with permission, put them up on paper towel dispensers in schools and local restaurants. Each of the stickers is proven to save a tree’s worth of paper every year, or roughly 100 pounds of paper. All told, the team prevented 459,877 pounds of carbon emissions.

Polar Rangers, Oregon

This team worked with Terracycle, a company that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. The Polar Rangers collected Ziploc bags, juice pouches, and candy, chip and cookie bags from their school cafeterias and sent them to Terracycle. Their efforts saved 115 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.