|Park School's "Save Earth" anti-catalog art from blogs.parkschoolcommunity.net|
Ted is concerned about the environment and committed to doing what he can to help. He wants to help teachers understand their role in shaping the next generation in a way that addresses these problems. In his words, “We need to redefine citizenship to include taking care of our community by protecting the natural world. This is a broader definition of citizenship than currently used in schools. We must find hands-on environmental projects for kids to take part in to help nature and to know they can make a difference.”
In November 2008, Ted and his students started the Catalogue Canceling Challenge—a nationally-embraced annual school competition where grades at each school compete to cancel some of the 19 billion catalogues mailed in the U.S. each year at the expense of 50 million trees annually. As of last month, 98 teams from 23 states have engaged in his Catalogue Challenge and 77,246 unwanted catalogs have been cancelled. 463,476 catalogs have been stopped, 9,298 kids have participated, 1,284 trees have been saved, 1,286,645 gallons of water have been saved, and 827,129 lbs. CO2 have been stopped. Ted’s program is growing and has been taken on by the “Kids Who Care” at Sun Valley School.
In 2011, Ted and his students started BagtheBook.org–a project aimed at getting classrooms to convince communities to cut down on the 540 million yellow phone books littering our doorsteps each year. The project addresses the environmental costs of such waste and serves as a service-learning project for classrooms that gets students engaged and educated about civics.
In 2013, Ted and his students launched a petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware to make fewer, greener, and smaller catalogs. With Restoration Hardware’s Fall 2012 release of a 992-page companion set of three catalogues weighing 5.5 lbs. during the same year as Universal Studio’s release of The Lorax, people in great numbers across the nation and abroad were outraged. This petition is already an impetus for a demand by citizens for greater accountability from corporations. As our environment degrades, corporations who profit at the expense of our environment are not going to be tolerated.
The projects led by Ted and his students—the Lorax Petition, the Catalog Canceling Challenge, the BagtheBook.org project, the petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware (please sign!) the school recycling, gardening, and composting programs, and the YouTube videos he makes with children to support green projects and education—are having a ripple effect across the U.S. and abroad. Ted is empowering a wave of children and grownups to be part of the answer more than any other grassroots school-based educator I know.
We need more leaders like Ted to get people engaged in safeguarding Earth. For the sake of the planet and ourselves, let’s spread the word about Ted and his work. Someone once said that real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. And Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” On behalf of children and grownups around the world, thank you, Ted Wells, for being our extraordinary hero.