Arlington mayor's Green Youth Awards will highlight environmental projects

ARLINGTON -- It's never too early to encourage a child to be green. At least that's what Brigette Gibson thinks.

As program director for Arlington's Environmental Services Division, Gibson is thrilled that the city is launching an initiative to promote and recognize natural-resource awareness and environmental projects by the city's younger residents.

"A lot of youth are latching onto this idea, and we want to recognize that," Gibson said. "We're rolling it out this year, and we hope it catches on."

Through the Mayor's Green Youth Awards, the city will recognize projects that youths have been involved with since January 2008.

There are five categories:

Prevention/reduction of pollution in the air and water.

Waste reduction, such as recycling and composting.

Water restoration or conservation.

Energy efficiency.

Preservation or enhancement of natural areas.

The deadline for submitting a nomination is March 15. The winners will be recognized at an Arlington City Council meeting April 20, two days before Earth Day, which will celebrate its 40th birthday this year.

Youth commitment

The city shouldn't have any problem finding Arlington youths involved in stewardship of the environment, said Donna Marshall-Knowles, who teaches environmental science at Seguin High School and sponsors the campus's Environmental Club. The club has about 80 members.

They started recycling programs for Seguin's paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles. And each year they donate and care for plants at the school. They also participate in community cleanups.

"I could talk all day long and still miss half of what these kids do," she said. "They are very interested in making a difference, whether it be at their own homes or at school. It makes them feel empowered that they can actually do something and make a tangible difference."

Knowles said that Arlington leaders have shown a commitment to being progressive on environmental issues and that the awards are another step in that direction.

Awards and books

Gibson said two awards will be given in each of the three age groups: kindergarten to fifth grade, sixth to eighth grade and ninth to 12th grade. The program is open to any youth who lives in the city limits.

Winners will get an environmentally friendly plaque -- made from recycled glass products -- and an environmental reference book will be donated to their school library.

"We're doing this from elementary to high school. We don't expect a kindergartner to put on an extensive tree-planting effort, but kids as young as preschool know Mommy should take a reusable shopping bag into the grocery store," she said.

The city has worked closely with educators to get the word out about the program. Letters were sent to principals and science coordinators at public schools and charter and Christian schools. Home-schooled students are also being asked to participate.

"This awards program is another way to acknowledge the passion that our youth have for their environment," Gibson said.

MAX B. BAKER, 817-390-7714