Reprinted with permission from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
(Denver, Colo. – May 13, 2009) In a ceremony today at EPA Headquarters, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson presented the OUTRAGE Anti-Tobacco Youth Group from Provo, Utah with the President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). OUTRAGE is an anti-tobacco youth group made up of middle school and high school students who joined together to pass regulation to ban smoking in city parks and outdoor recreational areas throughout Utah County.
"These young environmental leaders have made the air better to breathe for children and adults alike who enjoy Utah parks," said EPA's environmental education coordinator, Wendy Dew. "These students were frustrated with exposure to second-hand smoke in public parks where they play and decided to take action. The result will have great impact for the citizens in their community, and OUTRAGE is to be commended for creating such lasting change."
OUTRAGE members recognized that many young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks where hundreds of families gather to play team sports, use playground equipment, or just enjoy the outdoors. Before OUTRAGE began their project, none of the 219 parks in Utah County were smoke-free. The group decided to take action and teach others in the community about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
Working closely with their youth advisor from the Utah County Health Department, OUTRAGE got involved in many community activities to educate residents about second-hand smoke. Members collected cigarette butts from playgrounds and found that the majority of cigarette butts were deposited near the playground equipment. OUTRAGE also surveyed Utah County residents at various community events to understand their feelings on exposure to second-hand smoke in parks. These surveys revealed that Utah County residents favored mitigating tobacco smoke in parks. In response, OUTRAGE started a grassroots effort to make all parks and outdoor recreational areas in Utah County smoke-free to protect children from second-hand smoke and to help reduce litter from cigarettes.
As part of their outreach efforts, OUTRAGE held more than 40 planning and training meetings, where the group planned events and trained other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco. From 2007 to 2008, OUTRAGE planned and implemented 21 major events, with some taking place over multiple days. In total, 33 days of volunteer service were spent within the community to better understand the opinions of Utah County residents. Examples included multiple health fairs, concerts, a Relay for Life, the Utah County Fair, and multiple rodeos. At each event, OUTRAGE members spoke with members of the community and educated them on smoke-free parks and the effects of second-hand smoke. After all of their hard work, OUTRAGE gathered 5,112 opinion surveys on smoking in parks and 13,474 signature cards in support of smoke-free parks.
OUTRAGE then presented their work to elected officials at two city council meetings; one meeting with all the mayors in the county, and five meetings with the Board of Health over the course of several months. In response to OUTRAGE’s actions, Utah County cities joined together in passing a regulation that banned smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County. The group is currently planning a campaign to educate Utah County about the new regulation and to spread the message about second-hand smoke and tobacco.
Winners were selected from among applicants to EPA’s 10 regional offices. Regional EPA panels judged the projects on environmental need, accomplishments of goals, long-term environmental benefits and positive impact on local communities. The panels also consider project design, coordination, implementation, innovation and soundness of approach. PEYA has been presented annually since 1971 to honor students in kindergarten through 12th grade who design and implement innovative environmental projects. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of subject areas including recycling programs in schools and communities; construction of nature preserves; major tree planting programs; videos, skits, and newsletters that focused on environmental issues; and environmental science projects.
For more information on award winners and project descriptions: http://www.epa.gov/peya/
Reposted with permission. To see original release, go to http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/2dd5273dae1a89dd852575b50064c4e9?OpenDocument.