This post is a guest blog by Selene Ashewood, who has been volunteering with DEP since 2015.
“How can I make a difference? What SSL events are approved by my school?” If you’ve ever asked yourself either of these questions, the answer is clear: you should volunteer with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP provides great opportunities for teens to help their community, while earning SSL hours at the same time. You’ll get to be outdoors, do something important, and make new friends. Some activities sponsored by DEP include environmental cleanups, the annual Montgomery County GreenFest, and Energy Exploration events.
When trees are first planted, they are staked so they grow straight. But if the wire stays on too long, it can damage the trunk and kill the tree. We worked in teams to free the trees by cutting and removing the wire from around the trunks.
This was my second year volunteering at the information tent. It offers a way to connect with county residents and tell them about the many options for “greening” their homes and communities. Teen volunteers get free admission to the fair, run the prize wheel, give out tote bags, and talk to kids about picking up pet waste, recycling, and using reusable materials instead of disposables. Parents learn ways to save money and improve the environment by recycling yard trimmings, planting native flowers and trees, installing permeable pavers, and composting.
For this 2017 County Fair, DEP won the 1st place ribbon for educational exhibitor, and approximately 8,400 visitors came to the booth! Volunteers can sign up for several 3-hour shifts because the Fair lasts for a week. Teens also earn SSL hours by attending an orientation session.
To kick off the annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, DEP ran a contest to decide which local artist would design storm drain art at several sites. The artistic designs painted just above the storm drains remind residents not to throw trash or car oil down the drain. Otherwise, it ends up in rivers and streams. Our assignment as volunteers was to paint the mural that was drawn by the artist. The base was white, and we painted the design in colorful blues, yellows, reds, and oranges!
In my own home, I am proud that we’ve installed solar panels on our roof. We save $100 per month and reduce greenhouse gases. We also replaced all incandescent bulbs with LEDs and recycle as much as possible. I want our next project to be installing rain barrels.
Teens: get involved today! Remember that environmental change starts with you.
Selene Ashewood is an 8th grader at Rosa Parks Middle School. She is a first-degree black belt in karate, writer, pet parent to her dog Finn, and music lover.
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For future volunteering opportunities, stay tuned and check the DEP website regularly. You can also read about volunteering opportunities and sign up for updates on this page.