WEST BRANCH — Can you change your life in a month?
Sophia Walling-Bell did.
The junior at Scattergood Friends School participated in Teens Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge, joining thousands of students from more than 500 campuses in a 30-day eco-conscious campaign.
Throughout October, Walling-Bell completed numerous prescribed activities, challenging the way she eats, shops and even dresses.
“It was advertised as a 30-day challenge, with a new challenge every day, but there was no clue as to the depth of the challenges,” she says.
She figured some would be the usual “Turn off the lights in empty classrooms” reminders. She was wrong.
Each day had a theme, such as food, paper or water waste. Within that day’s theme were four challenges: green, greener, greenest and extra credit. Completing the challenges resulted in points for participants — the harder the challenge, the more points — which could result in prizes. However, you had to work in order, from green up to extra credit.
And the activities weren’t easy.
“One day the theme was food and, for the green challenge, I had to look up the ingredients of my favorite snack,” Walling-Bell says.
She plugged the ingredients into a website that identified those that are the worst for a person’s health. Walling-Bell wrote a response to that activity, submitted it, and received the greener challenge: visit YouTube to watch videos on how the identified ingredients affect the human body.
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The greenest challenge was the find a healthier snack. For extra credit, Walling-Bell repeated the challenge with five other favorite snack foods.
Initially, about 30 of Scattergood’s 52 students registered for the challenge. Walling-Bell was the only student to complete it. She estimates the challenges added three hours of work to her day, but she never considered quitting.
“It was fascinating, for so many reasons,” she says. “It was really motivational, education and informative. It was inspirational.”
So much, in fact, that Walling-Bell is now considering a career in nutrition. “I can see myself in something to do with science or language, but since Project Green Challenge, I’ve been focusing more on food,” she says.
That interest intensified after Walling-Bell was selected as one of 12 finalists in the Project Green Challenge. As such, she flew to San Francisco in December with the other finalists. The group participated in an eco-friendly photo shoot, met with representatives of green-centric companies and brainstormed idea for Teens Turning Green’s 2012 initiatives.
Walling-Bell is one of two Green University participants chosen to return to California in March to attend the Natural Products Expo West.
“There are so many alternatives to the lifestyle people live now,” Walling-Bell says. “My eating habit have changed a lot. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, and I read labels. I buy all my clothing from consignment shops and I really watch my water usage.”
Originally from Fairbanks, Ala., Walling-Bell will return to her hometown for her senior year of high school. There, she plans to continue living a greener life and possibly bring the 30-day challenge to her high school.
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“There were a lot of times when I was doing the challenges that I thought ‘If I weren’t at Scattergood, I don’t know if I’d be able to do this,’” she says.
A larger school equals a greater challenge. Walling-Bell has some time to consider it. She hopes other consider how they can be more green, too.
“I think a lot of people, when they think about being green, they think of it as a totally different lifestyle,” she says. “It’s not always going to be easy, but you can do it in a way that doesn’t completely change who you are if you don’t want it to.”