The Green Musketeers from Jericho High School in Jericho, N.Y., were grand prize

Lexus rewards teens' environmental innovation with $500,000 in grants, scholarships

Lexus announced the winners in the Lexus Eco Challenge today, disbursing $500,000 in grants and scholarships to middle and high school environmentalists whose innovative projects demonstrated the drive and passion to make the world a better place.

The two grand-prize winners, each receiving a $30,000 grant to further their educations, were the Green Musketeers from New York state’s Jericho High School and the One-Towel Wonders from SCAPA in Lexington, KY.

Each group will get the $30,000 from Lexus with $7,000 to the school, $3,000 to the teacher advisor and $20,000 in scholarships split among the participating students.

The Green Musketeers developed their own proprietary water filtration system, which they hope to patent and market, investing any profits in promoting clean water in the Third World.

The One-Towel Wonders see great things happening if we all just limit ourselves to a single bath towel per week. Their efforts revealed what a huge impact such a simple idea could have on the environment if widely adopted.

This is actually a powerful concept. If you stop and think about the little things we do – for example, getting a quick fast food lunch now and then. It is a natural need there is no denying, the burger joint is filling and fast. Why think anything about it?

Multiply that simple act by one billion and it results in the deforestation of the rain forest to create more grazing land. One simple natural act, amplified to great impact.

“For anyone who wonders if teens today care about the world, the Lexus Eco Challenge is proof that they do,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “Through this program, more than 25,000 participants have demonstrated that they want to make the world a better place. By coming up with real-world solutions to environmental challenges, students are learning how they can make a difference in the world around them.”

Eight more school groups were awarded first place grants of $15,000 with $3,000 going to the school, $2,000 to the advisor and $10,000 in scholarships to be shared among the students. The other winning teams included:

California’s Team Aqua from Arboga Elementary who raised funds and awareness of water conservation programs all over the world.

California’s Carbonators of Clark Magnet High School that used ArcGIS to study smog levels around the world and the effect on health of breathing polluted air.

Florida’s The Trophic, students from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, looked into reducing carbon dioxide emissions through programs to clean the land, air and water in their community.

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In Hawaii, the WEACT group from Leilehua High School instituted a community-wide environmental awareness program culminating in the implementation of an environmental mural.

Lexington Kentucky’s Purpledinowolficorns of Tates Creek Middle School took on City Hall, submitting a proposal to the mayor to involve the community in the city’s improvement. (The also get TorqueNews' vote for the coolest moniker!)

Michigan’s WMS Carbon Busters from Whitehall Middle School enjoined their school, community and state to forego bottled water using tap water instead.

In Ohio, Chesterland’s Environmental Discovery Project at West Geauga High School set about contacted international communities to see the advantages of composting to the environment.

South Carolina’s HMS Hawks from Hanahan Middle School promoted the benefits of eating locally grown produce, an idea currently growing to widespread popularity.

“The Lexus Eco Challenge is an integral part of the environmental studies curriculum at SCAPA,” said Ashlie Beals, teacher advisor for the One-Towel Wonders. “For the past five years all of my 8th grade students have worked in teams to create and implement innovative campaigns to encourage others to make one small change that can have a large positive impact on our environment. During the challenge students sharpen their oral and written communication skills, utilize many forms of technology and work together actively and enthusiastically to solve real-life problems. My younger students eagerly look forward to their chance to participate in the challenge when they are in 8th grade. I can’t thank Lexus and Scholastic enough for offering this tremendous opportunity to my students.”

So far Lexus has distributed $4 million in grants and scholarships over the five years since the program’s implementation. The winners above represent only the tip of the pyrimid of the over 400 registered teams competing in the challenge. The Lexus Eco Challenge just this year engaged nearly 3,000 middle and high school students nationwide to address the challenging issues involved in sustaining the viability of our land, water, air and climate to benefit coming generations. These kids were inspired to make a difference in the environment of their local communities, as well. In the Final Challenge, Lexus asked teams to stretch beyond community to spark environmental action the world over.

The Lexus Eco Challenge also provided educational materials from Scholastic to help teachers integrate creative lesson plans to teach students about the environment. For each challenge, the website suggests lesson plans and supplies teacher instruction, including questions to guide discussions of the current challenge, relevant facts and guidelines for specific classroom projects.

The Lexus Eco Challenge will enter its sixth year this fall and teachers and students alike are invited to visit the website to view all the winning entries and participate in the next challenge.

Lexus is to be commended for their leadership role in this area.