Going Green in the U.S.? Yes!

By Martina Kohl and Joannis Kaliampos

Gen­er­al per­cep­tion has it that Amer­i­cans do not care about the envi­ron­ment. But did you know that accord­ing to the Gallup Poll in March 2014, 80% of Amer­i­cans between the ages of 18 to 34 favor alter­na­tive ener­gy pro­duc­tion over fos­sil fuels? And it might sur­prise you even more to find out that accord­ing to the same poll, over 60% of Amer­i­cans pre­fer pro­pos­als that would reg­u­late or lim­it fos­sil fuel emis­sions, includ­ing those set­ting high­er pol­lu­tion stan­dards for busi­ness and industry.

Between Sep­tem­ber and Decem­ber 2014, about 1,000 stu­dents and teach­ers from all over Ger­many took part in the Going Green Project, a blend­ed-learn­ing project for high school stu­dents. They explored green activ­i­ties in the USA, main­ly on the state lev­el, and were sur­prised to find out how much Amer­i­cans care about the environment.

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The stu­dents in the Going Green project used tai­lor-made class­room mate­ri­als on an e‑learning plat­form estab­lished by the Going Green team at the U.S. Embassy Berlin, LIFE e.V./eXplorarium Berlin and Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg. Part of the project cur­ricu­lum was not only to learn about green grass­roots ini­tia­tives in the U.S., but also to take a step back and ana­lyze per­son­al stereo­types regard­ing envi­ron­men­tal­ism in Ger­many and the U.S.

One course cre­at­ed a project web­site and not­ed: “We learned that it is not enough to rely on glob­al ini­tia­tives to make the world ‘go green.’ Anoth­er inter­est­ing fact we learned dur­ing the project is that in the USA, envi­ron­men­tal issues are often dealt with at the grass­roots lev­el. Learn­ing this moti­vat­ed us to devel­op our own action plans in order to ‘think glob­al­ly and to act locally.’ ”

Anoth­er course con­clud­ed that the plas­tic bag issue is not exclu­sive­ly an Amer­i­can issue, but should con­cern Ger­mans just as well. These stu­dents launched their own cloth bag line called “Bag to the Roots” and adver­tised it through their own social media cam­paign on Face­book and YouTube.

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Bian­ca, Sophia, Kat­ja, and Nathalie of the Schul­dorf Bergstraße in See­heim-Jugen­heim present their board game “Super­stain­able — The Board Game to Go Green” dur­ing the awards cer­e­mo­ny at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Berlin — pho­to cred­it: US Embassy Berlin

The year-long “Going Green – Edu­ca­tion for Sus­tain­abil­i­ty” blend­ed-learn­ing project also includ­ed teacher train­ing sem­i­nars that reached about 400 teach­ers in 14 Ger­man states. Some teach­ers part­nered with U.S. schools and col­lab­o­rat­ed with them via email, Skype, chat rooms, and Inter­net plat­forms. The entire project was con­duct­ed in Eng­lish. One teacher noted,

“My stu­dents (and me) have been learn­ing so much, not ‘just’ about those numer­ous aspects of sus­tain­abil­i­ty, but also about meth­ods of project work, eLearn­ing, research­ing and team work. … My stu­dents are going through all the phas­es of a chal­leng­ing project: Enthu­si­asm, hard work, frus­tra­tion, team build­ing, get­ting dis­ori­ent­ed, prob­lem-solv­ing, prob­lem-cre­at­ing, anx­i­ety, achieve­ment and pride (not nec­es­sar­i­ly in that order), and I feel priv­i­leged to be part of that group. … All in all, per­son­al­ly, I am not ready to get back to ‘nor­mal’ teach­ing, so I am glad that this project will last for a bit longer and stay online for new groups to explore.”

The Going Green 2014 com­pe­ti­tion end­ed on Decem­ber 5, when John B. Emer­son, U.S. Ambas­sador to the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many, pre­sent­ed awards to more than 200 Ger­man high school stu­dents for their sus­tain­abil­i­ty action plans at the Friedrich-Ebert-Foun­da­tion in Berlin. Con­grat­u­la­tions to all win­ners and all participants!

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The Going Green team (Kat­ja Krüger, Joan­nis Kaliampos, Tor­ben Schmidt, U.S. Ambas­sador to Ger­many John B. Emer­son, Mar­ti­na Kohl, not pic­tured: Karin Ernst and Janike Jonas) — pho­to cred­it: US Embassy Berlin

Check out the win­ning sub­mis­sions and the Going Green project on this web­site or Face­book page. And stay tuned because after such a suc­cess­ful pilot project, the Going Green team is plan­ning to con­tin­ue “going green.”

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Dr. Mar­ti­na Kohl, Cul­tur­al Affairs Spe­cial­ist at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, serves as pro­gram man­ag­er for the Going Green project and oth­er edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al pro­grams. She is co-edi­tor of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Journal.

Joan­nis Kaliampos is a research assis­tant and PhD can­di­date in TEFL at Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneb­urg. His fields of research include task-based lan­guage learn­ing, lan­guage learn­ing with dig­i­tal media, and Amer­i­can stud­ies in the EFL class­room. He coor­di­nat­ed the devel­op­ment of e‑learning mate­ri­als in the Going Green program.