This is a guest blog post written by Maddie Conway, ACE New England's fantastic summer intern. It is part 1 of a multi-part blog series about her experience with ACE.
Growing up with a father obsessed with energy efficiency and a brother whose adoration for electric cars could recharge any battery pack, how could I escape the climate movement? When I was little, I didn’t fully understand all of the technicalities of green power or climate change. Nevertheless, I gladly tagged along to drink smoothies blended with solar power at Solarfest in Vermont or to sit beside my brother in his rehabbed 1980 electric Comuta Car every day on the way to school or even in the fourth of July parade blasting “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” I was simply part of the movement, but I didn’t realize it was a big deal because to me it was the norm. However, as with anything, I gained wisdom with my years. I soon realized that not everyone recycled nor did they think really care about being “green”. My fall from innocence ended up driving me to speak up. I helped with a recycling program at my school, pushed my friends to carpool, and even decided to ride my bike to school sometimes. I wasn’t sure what else I could do.
When I landed in Germany to begin my year as an exchange student, I collapsed upon seeing the extent to which the Europeans were ahead of the Americans. As I titled one of my blog posts while there: Bikes, Cows, Windmills Oh My! Almost every student at my school road his or her bike to school, trains were heavily used for longer distances, and windmills lined skylines.
Recycling was not given a second thought, reusing bags was the only way to get groceries, and long showers were unheard of. I told my host sister repeatedly all I wanted for Christmas was a cow and a wind turbine. But she didn’t think they were anything special due to the oodles of them we saw every day. I was so frustrated at the fact that all the infrastructure and technology that Europe possessed somehow got lost in translation when attempting to cross the big blue Atlantic. My suitcase could only be 50 pounds on the flight back, but I was determined to pack as much info about being environmentally savvy into my brain to bring back with me.
When I got back, I was ready to take my place in the climate movement. At my new school, I got involved in Emma Green, an environmental club, and ended up attending the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in the fall of 2012. Surrounded by young climate enthusiasts and adults who wanted to encourage our aspirations, I felt empowered. At this very conference, I met ACE for the first time! After seeing the original presentation and then attending a very condensed leadership training, I mustered up the guts to ask Brian if ACE had summer positions for high school students. I was so impressed that such a young organization could already have done and be doing so much, and I knew I had to be a part of it! Over the next couple months, I kept being involved in my school’s club and wrote a couple blog posts for ACE. When June rolled around, I was all charged up to get my hands into ACE and now I see how much effort each and every member of this national organization puts in to keep it running and inspire youth just like me. The movement made me who I am today and now I am going to help make the movement what it will be tomorrow.