THE GREEN AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
Since 2010, the City of Richmond and the Richmond School District partnered together to develop and implement a youth volunteer program named the Richmond Green Ambassadors. This program works to deliver environmentally focused initiatives across the City. These initiatives have included the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit (REaDY Summit), waste diversion at City facilitated events, and promotion of fish habitat health through storm drain marking and shoreline clean-up events.
The program is administered by the City Green Ambassador Program Coordinator from the Environmental Programs Department at the City, who collaborates with the Richmond School District, to administer volunteer opportunities and coordinates volunteer activities. City staff also coordinate internally to identify City events, environmental training and information sessions, as well as, other opportunities for involvement from Green Ambassadors. The GreenAmbassadors, with the support and mentorship of City and School District Staff, develop and initiate environmental stewardship projects in their schools and the community and participate in a variety of community activities throughout the year, namely promoting waste diversion during events.
By working with youth through the Green Ambassadors, Richmond creates a learning environment where students gain a better understanding about recycling and sustainable waste management and then apply their skills as volunteers and through school activities. The Green Ambassador team is responsible for the development of green leadership and being change agents through demonstration of environmental leadership and stewardship towards the natural environment. The team demonstrates this level of leadership through a number of activities and events.
RICHMOND EARTH DAY (READY) SUMMIT
The Richmond Earth Day Youth (REaDY) Summit is a youth-led conference initiative where Green Ambassadors are responsible for planning and organizing the event. They participate in every aspect of the Summit from the inception of the purpose to the selection of presenters and fulfilling roles during the event such as co-chairs, masters of ceremonies, workshop facilitators and greeters. The Summit is successful in increasing awareness of environmental sustainability, fostering continual interest in recycling and reducing waste, and raising awareness on sustainability issues identified by local youth.
In 2014, the 88 Green Ambassadors who worked on this event dedicated 1,850 hours of volunteer time throughout the school year to organize the event and over 600 delegates attended the events.
EVENT RECYCLING AND SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT
Recycling stations are required for all special event bookings taking place in Richmond. For some events, the City hosts recycling stations with assistance from the Green Ambassadors who advise people on how to recycle. In 2014 the Green Ambassadors hosted recycling stations at 8 different events and achieved high diversion rates. Some examples include:
a. Ships to Shore – 92.18% diversion rate
b. Salmon Festival – 88.28% diversion rate
c. Maritime Festival – 85.06% diversion rate
d. REaDY Summit – 97.5% diversion rate
Many of the Green Ambassadors have been a part of the program for several years and are interested in continuing their involvement after graduating high school. There could be opportunity to expand the program by retaining students past high school.
While much of the Green Ambassador’s responsibilities are to manage waste at events there is opportunity to expose them to more training and skills development in different aspects of sustainability to develop real life knowledge and experience. It may be beneficial to provide Green Ambassadors with information about the various events where they volunteer, including all sustainable initiatives, so they could gain and share valuable knowledge to event patrons.
The Green Ambassadors have expressed interest in increasing the number and types of green initiatives and events that they participate in allowing opportunity to expand the program to other sustainable initiatives. These initiatives could include promotion and education of the City of Richmond’s Sustainable Event Toolkit. In order to support the expansion of responsibilities and events more student involvement is necessary, which will require recruitment of dedicated students and graduates.
Green Ambassadors play in integral role in educating the public on sustainable waste management and help ease stress of doing the right thing for event patrons. Their knowledge and dedication to waste management has allowed the City of Richmond to attain very high rates of waste diversion at large scale events making the City a leader in event waste management.
There are passionate students involved in the Green Ambassador program who are developing into leaders for their school and their communities. Opportunity exists to help these individuals further develop their knowledge and skills in support of the City’s sustainable initiatives and to promote all aspects of sustainability at events.