Assembly member David Hadley

Greener Pastures: How One Young Man's Call-to-Action Became a Data-Driven Reality

Bonnie Bee & Alison Waldman
December 21, 2016

Grades of Green is an environmental education nonprofit that works with more than 450 schools and 350,000 students to instill environmental values from a young age in El Segundo, California. Their goal is to change the course of the future by making environmental protection second-nature in young minds.

“It’s a lofty goal,” Emily Gee, Senior Program Manager, said with a laugh. But she feels that, through social media, digital platforms and new technologies, everyone can reach that goal.


The “No-Idle Zone” Resolution


Grades of Green YouthCorps student Antonio, is a great example of that environmental change-making: between 2013 and 2016, he and several of his middle school friends used social and digital media in partnership with on-the-ground work to get a “no-idle zone” resolution passed at state-level California.


The no-idle zone resolution for California (ACR 160) means parents and guardians must turn off their cars while waiting to pick up their kids after school.


Antonio and Grades of Green used social media to communicate to other students, educators and volunteers in California and across the U.S. who might want to start a no-idle zone in their schools and states. “The social media alerts...gave people a voice,” Gee said.


The resolution passed in Antonio’s school in Long Beach California, and soon city-wide. Antonio and Grades of Green worked with partners from the Coalition for Clean Air and former State Assemblyman David Hadley to bring the resolution all the way to the state level--and it passed statewide in August of 2016!


The Ripple Effect


“I believe our culture is a data-driven,” Gee said, “but supplementing that data with a call-to-action is what's great about advocacy." Their campaign was more than sending letters to officials on a bill, it was coming together as a community by implementing no-idle zones at other schools.

“I believe our culture is a data-driven, but supplementing that with a call to action is what's great about advocacy.”

“We had other schools like Robinson Elementary in Manhattan Beach following the story and starting a no-idle zone of their own,” Gee said, and mentioned the school succeeded before ACR 160 was passed at the city level.


Spreading the Seeds


Partnerships and being able to leverage one another by joining forces was, and continues to be, an important factor for Grades of Green: “I think everyone in the advocacy and nonprofit field is so willing to partner together on campaigns,” she said. “Joined forces shows [elected officials] that it matters to so many communities.”

From a communications perspective, Gee learned a lot along the way in the passing of ACR 160. She learned where her audiences are, what content to push out, and where. Teachers are on Twitter and Pinterest, and they want the education-based messages. Volunteers and parents reside on Facebook, where they will join calls to action.

Making sure every conversation also has a call-to-action is key, Gee believes. Writing officials, attending events and town hall meetings - inspire your advocates to do something. They hold the keys to taking action, getting things done, including young people like Antonio.


"One student created this change," Gee explained, "and there are 350,000 Grades of Green students out there who can do the same thing."


To check out what Grades of Green is doing now, visit their website.