The Energy Angels, a team of 14-year-old students from South Allegheny High School in Southwestern Pennsylvania, have won the Grand Prize in Project Polar Bear, a contest held each year by Polar Bears International that challenges teens to create and carry out projects that reduce carbon emissions in their communities.
As Grand Prize winners, the three teens—Stephanie Mandella, Jennifer Urban, and Alexandra Ruhl—and their adult advisor, Jenna Whitney, will travel to Churchill, Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world, in October, to see polar bears in the wild.
During the three-month-long contest, the team educated their community about the benefits of switching to CFL bulbs. They also held fundraisers and partnered with local companies to buy the energy-efficient bulbs to give away at community events. In addition, they held a Power Down challenge in their school district in which teachers and parents competed to reduce their electricity bills.
PBI announced the Grand Prize winners today at an Award Ceremony held at SeaWorld San Diego for the four finalist teams. Between them, competing teams reduced CO2 by more than 30 million pounds.
“It was a close contest,” said PBI Executive Vice President and COO Krista Wright, “but the Energy Angels’ tireless and passionate outreach, upbeat blog entries, and success with community involvement especially impressed the judges.”
Second Place went to the AHS Zoo School team from Asheboro, North Carolina. Those teens conducted energy audits to help individuals and businesses cut back on power usage, rewarding participants with donated packs of CFL bulbs. Their prize was a Beluga Encounter at SeaWorld San Diego.
Other finalist teams included the Care Bears of Cincinnati, Ohio, who created a website that promotes and collects pledges for simple CO2-reducing actions, and the Earth Club of Sparta, Wisconsin, who focused on recycling and planting trees, energizing their town in the process.
“The passionate and tireless efforts of all these teens are an inspiration to us all,” said Robert Buchanan, president and CEO of PBI. “Even though the contest has ended, they continue to be active in their outreach, demonstrating that individual actions can add up to have an impact—and that makes all of them winners, not only for the polar bears, but for all wildlife on the planet.”
In recognition of their accomplishments, the four finalist teams and their adult advisors won a trip to San Diego for the Awards Ceremony. All finalists also received free admission and a VIP Tour at SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo.
The contest was hosted by PBI, sponsored by Lowepro, and supported by regional zoos and aquariums including the North Carolina Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. These zoos are part of PBI’s network of Arctic Ambassador Center zoos, centers that focus on animal well-being and enrichment, take a leadership role in stewardship and carbon-reduction efforts in their communities, and participate in PBI polar bear research efforts.
PBI received dozens of contest entries from across the U.S. and Canada. Registration for the 2012 contest is October 1-31, 2011. To learn more about the contest and to read the blogs of competing teams, visit Project Polar Bear.