Some of the winners of the School District 72 Going for Green contest were excited about their award presentation.

Kids get a perspective on the planet

Matt Hill and Stephanie Tait shared their story of running around North America in one year with Campbell Riverites during an Earth Week celebration April 20.

Matt Hill and Stephanie Tait shared their story of running around North America in one year with Campbell Riverites during an Earth Week celebration April 20.

Hill and Tait, both from Vancouver, took on an excursion that spanned 10 provinces, 25 states and 17,703 kilometres, to inspire people to make changes in their everyday life to help save the planet.

Their “Run for One Planet” initiative, which began May 4, 2008 in Vancouver and ended May 8, 2009 in the same city, took the pair east across Canada, and around the perimeter of the United States, down through New York to the Florida coast, across the southern states and back up along the west coast to Victoria. Along the way, they spoke at different schools to spread their message and at any other events where people were willing to listen.

“It’s an uphill battle but I really believe we can find a solution if everybody looks inside themselves to find what fuels their fire to make a difference,” Hill told a half-full Tidemark Theatre.

The evening featured Hill and Tait’s presentation but also included a video presentation of the winning entries in school district 72’s Going for Green contest, which asked students to come up with ways to help the environment, or to showcase what they are already doing in an effort to “go green.”

Drew Williams, the school district’s teacher Pro-D co-ordinator, said the district received more than 100 entries and several winners were selected from the elementary, middle and high school categories.

Most videos focused on their school’s recycling and composting programs but some had the audience chuckling.

In one entry, the Federal Energy Investigators, two girls were arrested at school for not turning off the lights when they left the classroom and for having the heat turned up too high. Another, the Recycling Rap, featured all the items at Southgate that can be recycled instead of thrown away.

Penfield Elementary’s video was done in a question and answer format, with the students speaking out on all the things they have done to fix up the Penfield Trail, including clearing branches and removing invasive plants like Scottish broom.

The videos all mirrored Hill and Tait’s message that the way to reducing our ecological footprint and saving the planet from pollution is through kids.

“We want to change people’s minds on throwing certain things out, like plastic bottles,” says Hill. “We learned that the way to go is through kids and schools, schools, schools.”

Hill and Tait, who each ran the equivalent of one marathon every day of their run (42 km), say they reached 35,000 kids on their tour. Tait says halfway across Canada, in Winnipeg, it became obvious why they were doing the run.

“We were out there to inspire simple steps like choosing to say no to plastic bags at the grocery store and instead using paper bags, to start a compost unit, to bring your own mug when you go out for coffee or tea,” says Tait. “And we found that message was really resonating with the kids.”

Despite the challenges the pair faced, such as having to run extra kilometres to make up for scheduling mishaps – twice, minor injuries and ripped up feet, and narrowly missing an oncoming tornado near Beaufort County, South Carolina, the couple say it was worth it.

“We faced challenges everyday,” says Hill. “We ran into two landslides in the Rockies and our RV would sometimes decide to run, sometimes not and she broke down a couple of times on us. It tested our resolve but it brought us back to the core of why we’re doing this, to make a difference and inspire the people we talked to that they can make a difference.”