Lauren Gibson

For over seven years, Lauren has dedicated herself to environmental education through youth-focused environmental activism and mentorship. In 2009, she founded and began leading the Carmel Green Teen Micro-Grant Program (carmelgreenteen.org), a small nonprofit organization based her my hometown of Carmel, Indiana. Led by a board consisting of mostly young people, this program provides mentorship and funding for youths seeking to plan and carry out their own environmental projects. The program model—mobilizing young people on the program board to empower fellow young people to take concrete, well-planned, well-evaluated environmental actions—aims to expand youth environmental activism beyond its typical confines in order to create more educated, emboldened young people and more sustainable communities for the present and future.

The program has been more impactful than she could have ever dreamed, creating incredible environmental and social impacts in her community and drawing attention on an international scale. In the seven years it has existed, the micro-grant program has funded over 50 projects, involved over 800 young people in the community, created $120,000 in annual savings for Carmel residents, reduced carbon emissions by more than 500 tons a year, benefitted over 80,000 individuals, garnered national and international accolades, and impacted the young people involved in ways that cannot be numerically expressed. Motivated by the positive impact that the micro-grant program was the community, Lauren created a free, open-source grant program “package” that contained all of the main materials and instructions needed to create a grant program similar to the one she founded in Carmel. She hopes to more actively pursue expansion of the Green Teen program upon graduation from college, creating opportunities for youth empowerment through environmental action for young people in new communities across the country.

Aside from her work with the micro-grant program, she is working to learn how to engage the public in environmental issues more effectively by studying conservation biology, environmental communication, and environmental education at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Stanford University. Her undergraduate thesis research revolves around conservation of the endangered Hispaniolan solenodon, a fascinating venomous mammal that has been living in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for over 60 million years. She is excited to graduate at the end of 2017 and continue her work as an environmental scientist, communicator, educator, and advocate for youth environmental empowerment.