During the school week, Sam Allen will sometimes skip his classes at Connecticut's Weston High School and walk to the elementary or middle school down the street. One morning in February, he made his way into Weston Elementary School struggling with a green bag and six poster boards all while listening to music on his iPhone and answering calls. When he reached the second floor, he introduced himself to a class of fourth-graders and proceeded to tell them how they can help to save the planet.
"You can take a juice bottle and cut off the top and then use it as a container to hold pencils instead of going out to buy a new one and hurting the environment," Sam said, pointing to a diagram on one of the poster boards. The presentation lasted for 30 minutes.
"I didn't expect somebody [his age] to be doing so much already. And to be using his talents for fashion and designing is wonderful," said 14-year teacher Mark Tangarone, who invited Sam to speak. "I think it's fabulous."
Sam, 15, and his sister Phoebe, 13, are the founders of ZeroOout, a group of teens based in Weston, Connecticut who are dedicated to educating their peers about global warming. They distribute pamphlets with recycling tips, give presentations to classes and organizations, and sell T-shirts with slogans like "Warm is not Cool" on their website, ZeroOout.com.
"I wanted a catchy item that would draw attention, kind of like a billboard," said Sam, as he walked from the elementary school to meet his sister and his dad, who were giving him a ride to meet a friend. "I chose T-shirts because I believe that's where people's eyes go first."
The T-shirts are printed by American Apparel and are sold through their website and in the WishList and Knoyzz stores in Connecticut. Sam and Phoebe hope to expand to other states soon. The teens also direct $1 from each shirt sold toward a scholarship fund.
Sam first thought of the "Warm is not Cool" slogan after he saw Al Gore's seminal eco-doc, An Inconvenient Truth. Although he knew about global warming through news reports, it wasn't until after he saw the movie that he realized his town was doing very little to help the environment. "We didn't even have any recycling bins at school," he said. "I was getting frustrated."
His peers were receptive to his ideas and more than willing to help. Sam began recruiting friends and family to help him lobby school officials for recycling bins and energy efficient light bulbs...