When I first started Project Green Challenge (PGC) in October 2016, I had no idea how much my life was about to change.
Before the Challenge, I thought I was doing plenty to help the environment. I had cut meat out of my diet due to the pollution and environmental degradation that comes with factory farming, and I recycled whenever possible. I thought that was enough—I was eco-friendly, right?
But then, a few days before October 1, 2016, I came across a Facebook post about an online environmental challenge known as Project Green Challenge. According to this post, I could learn about a different environmental theme each day and win daily prize packages full of eco-products along the way. And at the end of the challenge, up to 16 participants would win a free trip to San Francisco for the chance to win the Grand Prize! That was enough for me to decide to take on the challenge, but I wasn’t expecting much change in my own life.
Just after the first couple of days, I was shocked by how much I didn’t know. On the third day, we were asked to write a blog post about living Zero Waste (the theme of Day Three), and I ended mine with, “I have already learned more than I ever expected and I look forward to new challenges every day.”
I was so excited to see what the next sustainability-related topic would be day after day, and I remember feeling a wide range of emotions as I learned about each one. I was appalled to learn about the harmful chemicals in body care products; saddened to realize the truth behind the fashion industry, and frustrated to know that hemp is still illegal in the U.S. despite its vast health and environmental benefits. Most importantly, however, I was filled with excitement to keep learning, growing, and making change.
PGC teaches you more in one month than school teaches you in a semester (or even two!). It covers topics that you might not hear about in school—carbon footprint, fair trade, GMOs, biodiversity, and more—but are so important in today’s world. Even though I was balancing an already busy college life, I found time for PGC because it was so special and important to me. I was discovering passions that I didn’t even know existed a month before. I was creating a new lifestyle every day, gradually changing from a conventional to conscious consumer and global citizen. The month of October was a whirlwind, but it flew by. After staying up way too late to perfect my final project, I remember thinking, “Now what?”
I couldn’t even believe it when I found out I was selected as a finalist. I told my roommates and parents, “I did it! I’m going to California!”
The PGC Finals were truly incredible. The people I met, the conversations we had, the ideas that were brainstormed, and the sense of community was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I got to connect with other like-minded students from across the globe and make friends with people I would have never met without PGC. Every person involved, from the students to the speakers, had a unique story, but we all shared the same passion. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. PGC became so much more than a 30-Day challenge, with a lifelong impact.
I have just two words for anyone even remotely interested in this program: do it! Challenge yourself to dive in, absorb as much as you can, and be a change maker. I promise it’s worth it.