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There are certain traditions that characterize summer. Fourth of July barbecues, relaxing days at the beach, and the ability to spend those lazy summer days with friends and family are famously attributed to this sunny time of year. Amid this time of fun and freedom, there is so much potential to accomplish a variety of tasks. Productivity does not have to end when the final bell of the school year rings. When school is out, there is ample time to give back to the community. Although school begins in a few weeks for many, there is still time to seize the moment. This is your chance. Starting this month, you can turn this vacation into a true summer of community service.

This may seem to be a daunting possibility. There are numerous issues that could be addressed. So many good causes could benefit from having your contribution. Your introduction into the wonderful world of youth service should may seem overwhelming. To make your experience easy and approachable, Greening Forward’s Youth Council has assembled some tips and guidance so that you can shape your ideal summer of philanthropy.

Like any other venture, community service must begin with an idea. As mentioned earlier, there is a universe of opportunities for young people. So take time to reflect upon your interests and values. Does the thought of under-fed members of your community going hungry ignite your inner social activist? If the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’, then you should consider Katie’s Krops. You’ll be able to combine a passion for sustainability and food security.

Food security and gardening may not align with your interests. That’s entirely okay. Within the field of environmentalism alone, there are a range of issues that could be alleviated with some help from proactive young people. Climate change, water conservation, air pollution, energy resources, biological diversity protection, and other pressing problems are all important to consider. When you discover that cause motivates you more than others, you should pursue it. Design a plan. If you need financial support to set your dream into motion, then you should take a look at groups such as Youth Service America, Volunteennation, and, of course, Greening Forward.

If you are passionate about bringing the importance of environmentalism to others, then you could take the initiative to establish an Earth Savers Club in your community. Although the school year may not be in session, you can review the multiple how-to guides on Greening Forward’s website. It’s never too early to prepare for activism. There are additional methods that will come in handy when you introduce environmentalism to your school.

Those treasured barbecues, beachy afternoons, and burden-free weekdays can remain in your plans for the summer. With the free time that you have, there is the incredible potential to initiate fantastic change for the better. Share your summer service adventures with us via Twitter and Facebook!

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A few weeks ago, I became a Youth Council member after being inspired to make a difference in my community at the International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit.

At the conference in March, I learned about the many youth-driven organizations that came to the conference, for example, OMG: One More Generation. I thought their presentation about waste and consumption was impressive because it was very informative about different types of plastic and showed which plastics could be recycled.

After watching Plastic Paradise and talking to Angela Sun the night before, I thought OMG’s presentation gave more solutions to solving plastic pollution from a consumer point-of-view: for example, they recommended not buying a product that is made from plastic #3, 6 or 7. 

I also recall learning of other environmental organizations, like Truly Living Well. These organizations had tables, full of information, spreading awareness about their organization and ways to volunteer with them after the conference was over.

One of my favorite parts of IYEYS was learning about these other organizations that empowered others to help the planet, and I recently had the same opportunity to spread awareness about Greening Forward.


On June 3rd, I volunteered at the Jack Johnson concert at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia. Jack Johnson is an impressive artist with many famous songs, for example, “Banana Pancakes.” Not only is Johnson a talented singer, Jack Johnson also gives back to the community, by supporting multiple nonprofits, including Greening Forward, Wholesome Wave, and One More Generation.

I worked with another Greening Forward staff member, Gina, and together, we spread awareness about Greening Forward to the community. I loved working at the concert; I had never worked at a tabling event before and it was an exciting way to encourage others to participate in the green movement.

At the event, I saw a variety of entertaining activities that were occurring. For example, at “Capture Your Commitment,” people took pictures, pledging to do different actions, such as promising to plant a school, community or home garden, to help the environment and these pictures would be displayed on a screen during the concert.

In addition, Jack Johnson offered an incentive: if one completed 3 things on a list, for example, he or she carpooled to the concert, he or she had the opportunity to stand on the stage during the concert!


After the event ended, I thought many people in the community learned about the multiple non-profits Jack Johnson supported and the event was a success! Volunteering at the Jack Johnson concert was one of my first experiences working for Greening Forward, and I can’t wait for other great experiences!

What are some volunteering experiences that you’ve enjoyed?

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This article was originally published in the Cool Green School Blog by Shan Gordon after Shan listened to Charles’s speech “Power of Youth” at the USGBC Green School Summit.

Charles Orgbon III, CEO of Greening Forward, is 20 seconds into his speech to an auditorium filled with architects, engineers, teachers and builders and it is clear that he is the brightest person in the room. And the youngest—Charles Orgbon III is in high school.

So what do you do when the youngest person in the room is taking his elders to task for not giving real voice or decisions to children?


“I hear well-meaning and well intentioned adults say youth are the future, but the reality is youth are today. Youth are the leaders of today and youth can drive transformational, substantive change– if given the chance.”

Pacing the stage with a bright, wide smile, Orgbon is friendly, but insistent.

“I challenge adults to soften your hearts and let young people share decision making responsibility with you as an adult… So… how many of you have youth on your board of directors or as a part of your leadership team?…”
He smiles and waits in the silence.

“It’s obvious. Young people are uniquely qualified to say what works for young people, so if your program is serving young people, where are they?

Why aren’t they part of your evaluation committee?
Why aren’t they designing the schools that we get to go to school in?
Why aren’t we designing the curriculum that is taught to us?
The school boards that are led by grey haired adults–where are the students in that process that they are making decisions that affect our lives?”

Orgbon smiles to the crowd and continues.

“I believe that as adults we all have a powerful role in challenging young people to take that leadership role. Use your power to help a young person find his. Because when youth are challenged to create change in their communities we will rise to that challenge.”

“It’s a diversity issue; it’s a democracy issue..” Orgbon points out, looking into the crowd of mostly white adults at the USGBC Green School Summit in Washington DC.

They are listening intently and applaud his speech, enthusiastically.

Diversity, democracy and inclusion are themes that have echoed through every civil rights movement. But will the generations that recognized the rights of women and people of color now recognize the rights of youth to protect their future?

Climate change means that decisions on energy use will affect the world of our future–our youth–far more than the grey haired people who are making these decisions. Our youth will bear the brunt or fruits of these decisions, but have no voice or vote in making them. This is unjust. It is also poor planning. You don’t leave the safety decisions to the people that get off at the next stop or long term financial decisions to the people who are cashing out.

Orgbon is asking youth to rise up to claim their stake in their world and the adults to reach out to meet them. This can be a vibrant, peaceful revolution that empowers us and protects our world for our youth—for many generations to come. It doesn’t take a war, just an open door and outreached hand.

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This article was originally published on the Green Schools National Network by Charles Orgbon III to give Green Schools National Conference attendees a sneak peek to his keynote message in Sacramento, California. 

At this moment, there are more young people in the world than ever before – and they are all seemingly ready to make a difference; to change the world.

That – to me – screams world-changing potential, yet the environmental movement is massively squandering the talent of today’s young people.

Why aren’t young people on your board of directions? Why aren’t they in your focus groups, advisory panels, and media publications? Frankly, adults have not quite explored what does meaningful youth engagement look like. If we hope to ever solve complex issues like creating greener schools, climate change, and mass extinction we must make room for all stakeholders at the decision-making table, especially young people.

Luckily, in the 2010 Teen Voice study sponsored by the Search Institute, Best Buy, and Weber Shandwick, we find the answer to the age old question, “How do adults foster and encourage newer  generations to make a difference in the world?” Results from the report indicated there are three distinct characteristics in young people who have what it takes to effectively bring about change in their communities: passion, access to meaningful relationships, and voice. Adults play a critical role in each of these characteristics.


Everyone has a spark, represented by what we truly enjoy in life – whether it’s athletic, academic or social. When we look at young people who are focused on their life’s passion, we see that overall they are more prepared to become a leader in their community. The late Judy Bonds, a grassroots anti-coal mountaintop removal activist, reminded youth that, “The world is waiting on you to change it.” Adults can play a meaningful role in helping young people unlock their passion by introducing them to unique challenges and experiences.

Meaningful Relationships

Having a passion is a start. But, if one’s mission is to really stand out and be a “purple cow” (as Seth Godin might call it), building meaningful relationships is essential. We all need role models who help us nourish our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. Youth most often look up to the people who listen to, are interested in, challenge – and laugh and learn with them.


Emerging leaders with a strong passion and support are ready to influence what matters to them, but if adults do not provide these young people with substantive leadership opportunities to share their voice, then their voice simply remains silenced. The first two themes of passion and meaningful relationships are prerequisites; it is then also up to adults to provide young people with opportunities and tools that allow them to drive the change they desire to see in the world.

For years, youth service-learning organizations have used results from the Teen Voice studies to consider how they might need to improve the focus of their organization.

Even more interesting is that these rules to engaging youth are applicable to many elements of our life.

When we as a global community begin to foster this plan to give our youth opportunities to take on leadership roles in communities, assist in developing our youth’s strengths through meaningful relationships, and build the foundation to allow youth to express themselves, the benefits to societies are limitless.

Resolving our world’s issues should not be left up only to the so-called “experts.” The youth of today are motivated – right now – to become catalysts for change and they have value you to add to community changemaking.

And to do that, they will not only need passion, access to mentor relationships, and voice. They’ll need  the support the support of the generations that precede them.

Charles invites readers to engage with him on Twitter @corgbon. 

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This article was originally published on Earth Day, April 21, 2014, in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle by Steve Orr.

For most school kids, the word “assembly” has a well-worn synonym: “Boredom.”

But when students at Rochester’s School Without Walls file into their school’s community room Wednesday morning for an assembly, things likely will be different.

For the speaker there and at four other local schools over the next three days will be a fellow teenager — a peer who is an environmental activist and the founder of a grant-making green nonprofit organization who has won national awards for his growing list of accomplishments.

Charles Orgbon III of Dacula, Ga., who is 18 years old, travels frequently to urge and inspire other young people to begin marking off accomplishments of their own.

“I usually talk about a range of topics such as what does it mean to be an environmentalist or what does it mean to be a community leader?” Orgbon said recently. “I think one single talk can get young people thinking about their role in the world.”

His visit here is sponsored Sierra Club’s Rochester Regional Group as part of its recognition of Earth Day Week. Earth Day itself is Tuesday.

Orgbon, a senior at Mill Creek High School about 30 miles from downtown Atlanta, began organizing litter pickups at his elementary school six years ago. That has grown into stewardship of an environmental advocacy and service group now known as Greening Forward.

The group helps young people in other communities start their own “Earth Savers Clubs,” raises money and makes cash grants to the clubs to support projects, provides young people for community service activities and educates on a slew of environmental problems.

To solve those problems, Orgbon advocates that young people seize the reins. “We empower young people to take action on the environmental issues they care about,” he said.

Orgbon, who is African-American, also speaks often of the need for more diversity in the environmental movement, and likely will do so in Rochester.

“Having more models of color does help. If communities of color only see white environmentalists, they are going to be frustrated and wonder where they fit in,” he said.

All five schools Orgbon will visit here — School Without Walls, World of Inquiry, East High and School 33 in Rochester and Hope Hall in Gates — have racially and ethnically diverse student bodies.

“If the environmental movement hopes to make a meaningful difference in the world, we are going to have to find every reason to be more inclusive. That means recognizing that there are different interests and different needs for the communities we hope to serve,” he said. “For example, we can’t go into communities talking about saving polar bears if we are not ready to talk about what does it mean to reduce crime or to talk about food deserts as well.”

Local Sierra Club official Margie Campaigne, who is helping chaperone Orgbon while he’s here, first encountered him on the Internet a while back and helped edit a document he’d written.

“As the years went by, I was more and more impressed with his accomplishments,” she said. “At an executive committee meeting a few months ago when we were putting suggestions on the table for our annual forum, I mentioned Charles.

“One of our board members did a search on his name from her phone, and announced all the impressive links that came up. We ultimately decided that we’d … have him visit to inspire students specifically right in their schools,” she said. “We are definitely trying to engage younger people in Sierra.”

Orgbon’s visit to the Rochester area, which will include a sightseeing trip to Niagara Falls, marks the first time he’s traveled beyond the southeastern United States to spread his message.

When he first organized fellow students in his own community, they began recycling, built a rain garden and got the school to include an environmental education segment.

Then the all-volunteer organization, of which Orgbon is chief executive, broadened its mission to encourage other young people to do the same. Today, it supports 2,000 young people in 15 different Earth Savers clubs, said Orgbon, who answered questions via email.

The group has given $53,000 in grants to help with projects such as tree-planting, rain barrel installation and recycling.

Greening Forward is in turn supported by sponsors such as Lush Cosmetics and Wells Fargo, Orgbon said. A green-minded California company, PACT, currently is offering organic clothing for sale on the group’s website, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit.

The website contains lengthy educational discussions of topics such as climate change, habitat conservation and waste reduction.

“We’ve become addicted to single-use plastics. We use things like bags and bottles that stay on our planet forever,” Orgbon said. “Everyone can bring their own reusable bags, refuse plastic straw and lids, buy in bulk and have their own reusable bottles. When others ask ‘Why aren’t you using a straw?’ be sure to inform them why you are making that decision.”

Judging by numerous videos available online, Orgbon is a smooth and accomplished public speaker. And he also has been honored numerous times; Among other honors, he was named a Jefferson Awards Globechanger in 2012 and given a 365Black Award by McDonald’s Corp. in 2013.

Orgbon plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall to study environmental economics and management. Asked if he expected to be involved in environmentalism in 10 years, he politely declined to answer.

It may be that he prefers to focus on the here and now.

“Modern-day heroes are people who do what they can with what they have,” Orgbon said in a TEDx talk last year that can be viewed on YouTube. “If we really want to solve these global complex issues and have anything to believe in, we cannot wait to empower young people to become modern-day heroes.”

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Dear young changemaker,

Tree-hugger. Eco-freak. Obsessed with nature. At some point in time, chances are that as a young environmentalist you were called one of these names. There are times when classmates, friends, and family members simply do not understand why environmental stewardship is such a priority for some people. Young people who make the extra effort to recycle, conserve energy, reduce pollution, compost, diminish waste, and raise environmental literacy overall should not be ostracized for their dedication to the planet. However, it is a reality that some may face. Despite any potential difficulties or misunderstandings from members of their community, young people like you should be proud of their lifestyle for many reasons:

1. At the risk of sounding cliché, young people are the future, and those who work to protect the planet are ensuring a brighter future for everyone. The EPA found that Americans produce over 250 million pounds of garbage in a year alone. Nearly 55% of all waste ends up in landfills. 40% of the nation’s rivers are too polluted for fishing. If this is the reality of one nation, imagine the state of the world in its entirety. While some people may passively accept these facts, those who are enthusiastic about the environment are able to reverse this unfortunate momentum. These visionaries will be the ones to make the earth healthier, and make the world better for others.

2. People who volunteer their time for environmental efforts should take pride in their selflessness. There are times when it would be easy to just throw away that water bottle or blast the heat during these cold winter nights. But you rise above these desires. The world’s vitality is yours to diminish or improve, and your contributions help the second option.

3. Despite its immense environmental problems, the world seems to be more welcoming to environmental improvements. Congratulations, you’re ahead of the trend. When people (hopefully!) come around to realizing the significance of being eco-friendly, you will be a great resource. With your experience, you will be a phenomenal mentor and educator.

4. And last, and possibly least, you share a passion with many prominent figures. Everyone from President Theodore Roosevelt to Ian Somerhalder has expressed their love for all things green.You are in good company.

In closing, I want to tell you all to keep up the great work! Get involved in your community and make a difference. And the next time that someone asks, “Wait are you one of those eco-freaks?”, you can smile as you confirm, “Yes. Yes I am.”

Samantha + The Greening Forward Team

P.S. When you do complete those awesome projects, be sure to share them with us via twitter (@Greeningforward) or on Facebook.