Together Greener

Guest Post by Donny Roush, Director, Center for Uncommon Collaboratives at Earth Force

I’ve just ended my year as a Toyota TogetherGreen fellow. This conservation leadership program, administered by National Audubon Society, “supports innovative, grassroots work on environmental issues in communities traditionally underrepresented in the conservation movement. “If the memberships of the Big Green nonprofits are predominately older, whiter and wealthier than the nation as a whole, Toyota TogetherGreen helps make the movement more colorful, more inclusive, and, because collective impact really works, more impactful.

My class of 39 colleagues are brown, black, yellow, red and white; Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers; from inner cities, suburbs, working-class towns, and ultra-rural places in the mountains and deep woods. We hail from Maine to Hawaii.

For the energizing camaraderie alone, my time with this group was a highlight of my career. Though I already had a strong environmental education professional network, my contacts in the grassroots conservation movement weren’t as strong. Through Toyota TogetherGreen, I got plugged in to a not-so-secret society of almost 500 conservation professionals. Being a fellow gives me an instant “in” with everyone of them.

Because of Toyota TogetherGreen, Earth Force expanded it’s Keep It Clean – Neighborhood Environmental Trios stormwater program, as my project involved taking KIC-NET on the road. My fellowship funded trips to Wilmington, DE; Springfield, MO; Kansas City, KS; and Albuquerque, NM, during which I presented KIC-NET six times to potential partners. In New Mexico, that potential turned reality through a new KIC-NET project: Students from five Albuquerque Public Schools are investigating issues of the Middle Rio Grande using the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge as their outdoor laboratory.

At our year-end retreat, my class closed with a presentation to executives from Toyota (including Kevin Butt, chief environmental officer for Toyota North America) and Audubon (including David Yarnold, president/CEO of National Audubon Society). We summed our collective experience with this:

Celebrating 25 Years of Watershed Education Through GM GREEN

Partners, educators, Earth Force staff, and General Motors employees from around the U.S. and Canada came together this week to celebrate 25 years of GM GREEN! Key shepherds from throughout the program’s history, including GM GREEN Director Jan Sneddon; Associate Director, Foundation Relations for the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, Allison McElroy; the Director of Environment and Sustainability at General Motors, Lee Hachigian; and President and CEO of Earth Force, Lisa Bardwell, spoke about the history and support of this program over 25 years.

Inclusion Press

Jack, from Inclusion Press, recorded the energy and conversation from the day.

Kurt Moser, from Earth Force, and Jason Frenzel, from Huron River Watershed Council, talked through indicators of water quality and engaged attendees in testing water samples. Later in the day, they discussed analyzing that data and using the findings as a jumping off point for developing sustainable solutions to pressing water issues.

A Youth Engagement Partnership session explored how to engage youth as engineers in solving environmental problems and improving their communities. Michele Arquette Palermo from the Clinton River Watershed Council said, “Find a young person in your life and share your passion for environmental protection.”


Genora, from Earth Force, led a session on engaging whole communities around watershed education.

Dr. Julie Smith led two focus groups exploring the development of an e-Learning platform, discussing the pros and cons of creating online tools to support and enhance the GM GREEN program.

In the evening, 60 GM GREEN supporters gathered for a Networking Reception and Celebration, reflecting on the 150,000 youth, hundreds of partners, and countless communities that have been affected by the program. Gloria Stapp, wife of the founder of GREEN Dr. Bill Stapp, received the GM GREEN Legacy Award in honor of the enduring GREEN vision. The Flint River Watershed Coalition and GM Flint Assembly Environmental Engineer John Masimchuk III accepted the GM GREEN Mentor Award for Outstanding Leadership, awarded posthumously to John Moldovan, a longtime GM GREEN mentor who contributed countless hours to Flint River GREEN.

Gloria Stapp

Gloria Stapp, wife of the founder of GREEN Dr. Bill Stapp, received the GM GREEN Legacy Award.

“GM GREEN is a model for how students, teachers, community partners and business can come together and positively impact our environment and communities,” said Mary Alice Kurtz, GM’s Program Lead for Environmental Community Outreach. “This event was a great opportunity to gather the various GM GREEN stakeholders to share best practices from the past 25 years and discuss how to further grow the network in years to come.”

This past weekend, Earth Force was awarded the Outstanding Service to Environmental Education by an Organization at the Global Level from the North American Association of Environmental Education as a result of this outstanding partnership. GM GREEN was given this award for its:

  • Visible contributions in Environmental Education (EE), specifically around evaluation and curriculum
  • Dedicated service in the field of EE
  • Outstanding environmental action, contribution, or stance by a person whose primary function is not environmental
  • Excellence in reporting environmental issues for the purpose of educating the public, in print or electronic media

The GM GREEN 25th Anniversary Experience was a powerful gathering that harnessed history and vision to help create goals for another 25 years of GM GREEN!

Celebration attendees

GM GREEN 25th Anniversary Celebration attendees.

Two Years Later: Playing Together in the Sandbox

Original Guest Blog Post by Lisa Bardwell, President and CEO of Earth Force

Four years ago, Earth Force was one of the six founding members of the National Action Civics Collaborative (NACC). NACC includes community, school, and university-based organizations concerned about how low-income youth are acquiring the motivation, skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary for constructive civic and political participation.

This group is deeply committed to engaging young people in the civic life of their communities. Some of us train and/or support classroom educators in teaching strategies that result in young people implementing projects to address community issues; some of us work with organizations to incorporate meaningful youth voice into their governance; and some of us work directly with young people to ensure they are supported as change agents in their communities.

Over the past four years, NCCC has worked to share the impact of action civics at multiple levels. The NCCC website shares stories from students and communities perspectives around the power of action civics. Check out all of the stories, including one from our very own Asia Dorsey, former Earth Force youth and board member, and current Earth Force staff!