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Blog Action Day, Part 5

Baltimore Schweitzer Fellow Leila Ashkeboussi (University of Maryland School of Law) is currently working to implement a school-based Civic Justice and Environmental Leadership program heightening environmental awareness amongst at-risk youth in Baltimore. The program is aimed at demonstrating techniques to conserve energy in the home, and inspiring youth to become environmental advocates for their communities — and it is already delivering results.

“One of our projects this school term is a student design competition for a recycling program at each school,” says Ashkeboussi. “The schools have expressed interest in adopting the winning idea. Having a systematic recycling program in Baltimore City schools will allow and encourage each student to take his or her part in reducing waste and conserving resources.”

Ashkeboussi’s program (which she’s conducting along with Baltimore Fellow Kathleen O’Malley) will also involve distributing canvas shopping bags to students during a lesson on the wastefulness of paper and plastic shopping bags and a “greening” component aimed at improving ambient air quality in the city and teaching students how to grow their own produce.

“My project partner and I were motivated by the fact that no previous Schweitzer program in Baltimore City had attempted to address the important nexus between the environment and human health,” Ashkeboussi says. “This is a particularly salient issue for Baltimore City residents, where air quality is notably poor and asthma cases are high, lead paint poisoning is high, there is scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables in local markets, and little green space. These health and social issues highlight the importance of furnishing local youth with awareness of how to improve the quality of their local environment, and ultimately their personal health, and sense of accomplishment.”

In Ashkeboussi’s view, “nothing short of a paradigm shift in how we consume resources is necessary to achieve the desired result of curtailing the effects of global climate change.” But she also believes that “we can only ask people to do what is practical, reasonable, and acceptable.”

“Reducing energy use in the home by weather-proofing windows, using more efficient insulation, and making small modifications to household electric appliances ensures that everybody at least will consume less energy than they normally would, even if they are not operating at the highest level of energy efficiency,” she says.