A Green and Eco-Friendly Fort Collins High School Through Sustainability, More Than Just An Impact; Making a Change for Our Planet's Future

I contribute to our school's environmental club by co-leading as a changemaker and initiating sustainable projects to better our planet.

Photo of Olivia Moench
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Eligibility: Please confirm you meet all the following criteria

  • You are aged between 14 - 18 as of August 1, 2020
  • You live in the United States or its territories
  • You are not employed by, or directly related (grand parents, parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • You have been working on this project for at least three months
  • You consent to us possibly featuring your work on social media
  • You confirm you have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Eligibility: Date of Birth


What gender do you identify with?

  • Female

Help us stay in touch!

School Email: 50229@psdschools.org Personal: ocm2003@outlook.com Phone: (970) 231-3752 School Address: 3400 Lambkin Way, Colorado: Fort Collins (80525) My Address: 2851 Kansas Drive Unit D, Colorado: Fort Collins (80525)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Our Environmental Club's Instagram: @fchs.enviro.club

Date You Started Your Project Started

Est. 8/17/2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Our school holds many changemakers among 1,800+ students, struggling to contain the waste that is produced in a sustainable setup. Though we already have systems so the school community can separate their recycling and other waste, it’s not efficient to make our desired impact of having a sustainable school. With such a large amount of waste that is produced that harms our local ecosystem, it’s vital to manage it in an eco-friendly way.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Starting with our school’s environmental club, and collaborating with other STEM organizations, we aim to engineer a system that will efficiently separate recycling to be reused, trash, and compost the massive amounts of waste in a sustainable matter. We want to create physical models showing what goes into the trash, recycling, and as well as working with our schools gifted and talented (STEM orientated) program to create a composting system to comply with the massive amounts of food waste, and to work with local companies in our town. We have met with a representative from our town's waste company, Gallegos, on how to recycle at our school and hope to collaborate on this topic. As well as our talking with our school’s head janitor who shares the same eagerness to solve the waste dilemma, but knows of barriers that prevent our school from getting to a sustainable point. We aim to buy and place more identifiable recycling bins as well as showing students how to properly recycle at home, and to teach about the pollution that waste that isn't taken care of emits. After these goals, we aim to create more sustainable projects such as an environmental learning center for student use.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

STEM is the key to our planet’s future. Beginning with my generation, we will be the most responsible for solving the climate crisis, which won’t be possible without science, technology, engineering, math, or even more subjects. Though our club mostly focuses on science and environmental engineering through designing an efficient waste system, we cannot complete this project by working with other STEM organizations in our school. Math is needed to calculate the numbers for the amount of waste produced, and which solutions would be the best the contain these quantities. When we think of our school’s green future, we cannot get there without all of these components, especially technology which our project relies on. Our club has many visions for after the completion of phase one for our “Green FCHS” plan, to collaborate with STEM aspects in projects such as bike week, with our school’s bike club, or designing birdhouses for local species with the woodworking classes. One of our biggest ideas is to create an environmental learning area for ALL classes in the schools to use as a working space. We know that using STEM can make our school a better environment for this planet and beyond.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Our environmental club was started in 2016, and once our founders graduated, new club co-leaders including myself, Megan, and Maraya wanted to take the already brainstormed idea to better recycling at our school and bring it into play. We knew that there were many challenges affecting the environment from the population at our school, and wanted to start with a step we already had a layout for and work from there. We often found recycling contaminated or in the wrong container, and sadly, sometimes carelessness about what to put where. But after new ideas and meeting with those who could help make a difference, we took action. We began energy auditing, making posters and flyers for waste would go where, and looking at what our bins held and how to teach our peers how to properly recycle. With this small step, we can make a difference in the way our school impacts the environment.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

Thank you to General Motors and Ashoka for creating this amazing opportunity! I'm so grateful to spread the reach of my school's sustainability project, and even if we are not selected I am so excited to see what my peers in this will do with their awesome projects as well! Thankyou so much for taking the time to watch the video and read through our application, and for extending the editing deadline for AP exam consideration :)

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

What we have done to carry our project to life is: Campus cleanups to remove waste from our school grounds, making recycling posters, energy auditing, and working with our district's sustainability team. Our janitor put out more recycling bins after meeting with us. In April, we had our virtual Earth Week dedicated to environmental awareness and motivating students to take care of their environment. Previously, club members presented to our school's freshmen class on how to recycle at FCHS.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Though waste management is a problem that needs to be solved globally, we believe that the strong STEM structured community that our school has can create a sustainable system that will stand above others efficiently. We are taking current solutions to adapt them to fit our school's infrastructure, and want our recycling to be efficient in a way that all people can learn how to properly clean and dispose of objects so that we can ensure they get reused by using designs like drying racks so there is no contamination. We have a connection with Gallegos, a local waste management company to do so.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

Even though we are in the early stage of our project, the impact has already been immense. We have engaged our club of 10+ people, to campus cleanups with our school's football team. We’ve committed to ideas that will involve everyone in our school to make the largest possible impact. One of our largest goals in our phase of plans is to create an Environmental Learning Center to preserve land on campus and create a sanctuary for wildlife and students for the future. Aiming to educate on sustainability and environmental preservation. In 2017, we won a competition for conserving the most energy across high schools in our district, winning us $10,000 which we used to buy a solar panel table for students to study at. This challenge showed the impact our school can make on energy usage and the environment. We will continue to make amazing impacts to help our school, planet, and it’s future.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

After we finish the phase of creating an efficient recycling/compost system at our school, we will work with our district to have “Meatless Mondays”, and a bike week with our school’s club. We want to make a sustainable change in our school by installing energy-efficient bulbs, replacing plumbing with objects that use less water, or buying solar panels for the school that classes can study the data from. Our main project will be to create an Environmental Learning Center at our school for student and class education, allowing students to immerse themselves in the outdoors. Additionally, we will partner with local nurseries to plant trees on campus. Beyond these impacts, we want to help other schools do the same, and to shape a green future.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

We have influenced youth to get involved by inspiring them to go out and care for their planet as an environmental group, other than being leaders and change-makers in the school, we raise awareness for sustainability. By starting projects at our school that are connected to STEM, we can engage students to do more and to be changemakers themselves. Daily, the climate crisis grows nearer, and by increasing recycling, creating outdoor workspaces, and using clean energy, we can change the future.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We are called changemakers because when people unify, they create a community that will lead the world. Looking at other entries shows that as empowered youth we can all inspire and impact those in our community to do the same, and when we enlighten everyone to care about sustainability, it will make our planet a cleaner and better place. Leaders take the initiative to make a change, leave a legacy. They impact others to step out of their comfort zone and spark passion in other youth’s minds.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

We will engage others in our project by showing them that this investment will change our school, creating passionate and inspired youth to impact their communities. We want to make more than a change by starting a project like waste management, to creating a learning center for those in STEM and beyond, changing the world, and our future. If we can show the world that one high school can go completely green, then the entire world can too, and save this gorgeous planet that we call home.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $100-$1k


1) Kristina Runde - Environmental Club Sponsor Email: krunde@psdschools.org School Phone: (970) 488-8133 - 2) Jessica Gillman - Student Council Advisor Email: jgillman@psdschools.org Phone: (970) 412-7071 - 3) Randy Moench - Parent Email: rmoench@live.com Phone: (970) 203-5599 - Able to provide additional references if wanted.

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Low-income community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)
  • Other

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?

I was referred to by our high school's previous student body president, Christian Dykson, who forwarded the opportunity to our environmental clubs sponsor and her to us.

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Attachments (2)

FCHS Recycling Presentation.pptx

This is the presentation that we showed to our Lambkin Way (Freshmen) classes on how to recycle and care for our school!

FCHS Recycling Poster.pdf

Here is a flyer that I created to post around the school on how to properly recycle!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sophia Pryor

This environmental club seems full of great ideas. I think implementing composting at your high school is a challenging and important project to take on. Are you planning on running the compost system yourselves or relying on community waste initiatives or another club to manage it? Researching different composting methods and determining which one makes the most sense for your school is a great next step. Once you guys are able to implement this change, you can take your impact to the next level my sharing the work you've done with other local high schools and encouraging them to follow your model. I can't wait to see how you guys solve your schools waste management problems and contribute to a more sustainable planet.

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