Travelling around the World - but in a sustainable way?

by Sarah Rauf -

Due to the pandemic, tourism completely stopped in 2020 and travel restrictions was the result. Where popular cities were once filled with crowds of visitors, where tourists lined up for selfies at beautiful viewpoints, and where sunbathers crowded the beaches, there was suddenly a yawning emptiness. It was a forced pause that was especially challenging for those who relied on tourism for their living. However, did the standstill in the tourism industry also bring advantages? Even before the pandemic, it was clear that fast mass tourism caused significant problems: air pollution, waste, price increases, and the loss of local culture. 

Traveling should be enjoyable, broaden our horizons, ideally support the local population, and above all, do no harm. We want to get ourselves in foreign cultures and experience nature in its most beautiful form. The pandemic is forcing us to reconsider: Do we want to continue accepting the harmful aspects of travel personally and as a society? Or do we want to promote a gentler, more sustainable form of tourism?

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, the German travel portal "Urlaubspiraten" conducted a survey on sustainable travel within its community. Approximately 2,000 participants took part in the survey, with 56 percent of them being between 18 and 34 years old. When asked whether they make an effort to be environmentally conscious while traveling (such as consuming local products, avoiding water wastage, recycling waste, etc.), 33 percent answered, "Yes, it is very important to me," 58 percent responded with, "I try, but it doesn't always work out," and only 9 percent said, "No, I do not prioritize it while traveling." Furthermore, 87 percent of the respondents stated a preference for engaging in activities or purchasing products that support local providers while traveling, and 68 percent expressed their intention to consider ecological aspects in their future vacation planning.

As travel recovers from pandemic lows, travelers are once again experiencing the consequences of overtourism. However, experts are saying they believe that the pandemic presents a real opportunity for sustainable travel. It is noticed that people now appreciate traveling more. Due to the COVID, everyone had to take responsibility, and it is hoped for that travelers will continue to be more considerate, conscious, and responsible even after the pandemic. Additionally, destinations within Europe that can be reached by train without air travel are becoming more popular.

Not only should travel companies be aware of their responsibility towards the environment, but each and every one of us can and must take responsibility in this regard. By making conscious choices and adopting sustainable practices, travelers can contribute to reducing the impact of tourism on the environment. Simple actions like using reusable water bottles, supporting local businesses, and opting for eco-friendly transportation can make a significant difference. Additionally, staying informed about the environmental policies and practices of travel companies and destinations can help us make more environmentally conscious decisions when planning our trips. By working together, both the travel industry and individual travelers can play a crucial role in promoting responsible and sustainable travel for a more environmentally friendly future.

On social media, there is now a greater focus on highlighting the issues and opportunities for improvement, as seen in the following YouTube video. These steps can help us become more conscious of our impact on the environment. By sharing valuable information and supporting initiatives aimed at protecting our planet, we can collectively make a significant difference in creating a more sustainable future for travel and the environment.

Sources: [19.07.2023] [19.07.2023] [19.07.2023]

Celebrating Excellence! Announcing Going Green Winners of the School Competition 2022/23

by Taieb Oussaifi -

We are thrilled to commemorate the outstanding achievements and extraordinary talent showcased throughout the school year 2022/2023. It is with immense pleasure, pride and excitement that we announce the winners of the highly anticipated Going Green School Competition!

The Going Green School Competition has always been an eagerly awaited event, where students from various grades and disciplines come together to exhibit their skills, creativity and relentless determination. Over the course of the year, participants have embraced challenges and growth, surpassing expectations in their pursuit of excellence.

The competition spanned across a wide range of categories, encompassing academic process, artistic expression, community engagement and much more. Our selection panel faced difficulty in selecting the winners. We were captivated by the exceptional projects, performances and contributions put forth by our talented students, each reflecting their passions and dedication. The level of talent and the caliber of submissions were truly awe-inspiring, making our decision all the more difficult.

But after careful consideration and rigorous evaluation, we are elated to present the deserving winners who not only demonstrated exceptional skill, but also integrity, resilience and a commitment to making a positive impact.

The winning projects:

The Going Green Sustainability Projects Award goes to Class 8a at GSG Unna goes green! 

By the Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium / English and Biology, grade 8 / Unna

The class 8a comprises students aged 14-15 who worked in groups and brainstormed action plans aimed at fostering a greener environment within their families and neighborhood. Subsequently, they harnessed their creativity to develop a variety of projects and innovative ideas. Their efforts can be witnessed through a captivating padlet, showcasing the comprehensive collection of their inspiring ideas.

Screenshot of the "Clothes' Swap Party School Initiative!" (Action Plan Group 7: Category "Fahion/Toxic")

The Going Green Sustainability Campaign Award goes to Fast Fashion Awareness

By the Trave-Gymnasium / Grade 9 / Lübeck

This awe-inspiring exhibit serves as a powerful visual representation of the contrast between fast fashion and sustainable clothing practices. With meticulous attention to detail, the students have thoughtfully curated the display, ensuring it not only educates but also engages passersby, sparking meaningful conversations about the environmental and socio-economic impact of our clothing choices. But it doesn't stop there!! In their relentless pursuit of promoting sustainability, students have gone the extra mile. They have compiled a list of local thrift shops, second hand clothing stores and even upcoming fleamarkets, inviting the school community to embrace the delights of "pre-loved fashion" and fostering both personal style and waste reduction in harmony.

Thumbnail of the "Fast Fashion Awareness" movie.

Honorable Mention:

The Going Green Best Graphic Design Appreciation Certificate goes to Food waste? Think twice.

By the Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium / 10F, Seba Harb, Emily Pautz / Neubrandenburg 

An enthusiastic group of students embarked on a mission to tackle the pressing issue of food waste, uncovering the alarming statistic that one-third of all produced food goes to waste annually. Their research shed light on Germany's own challenges, with staggering 75 kiols per capita wasted each year. Recognizing the role of eating and shopping habits in exacerbating this problem, students took action by delivering a compelling presentation in their English class. They shared valuable insights, including proper food storage techniques, meal planning strategies, and the importance of checking one's fridge before purchasing additional groceries. Emphasizing that this issue affects everyone, regardless of their age or location, they inspired their peers to enact change. To raise awareness within their school, the students designed stickers featuring symbolic image of a hand holding an edible banana above a garbage can, accompanied by the powerful message "Think twice before wasting food!" Their plan involves printing and affixing these stickers to every garbage can in their school, aiming to prompt critical thinking and encourage their fellow students to reconsider discarding food unnecessarily.

Sticker "Think Twice before wasting food!"

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the winners, as well as our sincere appreciation to everyone who participated, supported and contributed to the success of the Going Green School Competition 2022/23. Your unwavering commitment to excellence continues to inspire us all. 

Stay tuned as we reveal the extraordinary talents and celebrate the triumphs of our students who have left an inedible mark on this school year. Through these initiatives, students aspire to make a tangible impact in their communities. These projects and contributions exemplify the profound importance of fostering citizenship, participation and active engagement in society. By addressing pressing issues life food waste and fast fashion, students demostrate their commitment to being responsible, aware and informed members in their communities. Through their initiatives, they not only raise awareness but also inspire meaningful change, encouraging others to take action and make a positive impact. These projects empower students to develop a sense of ownership and agency, recognizing their ability to contribute to a better - and more sustainable- world! By actively engaging in these endeavors, they become advocates for social and environmental causes, fostering a culture of responsibility and collectinve action. Their efforts serve as a testament to the transformative power of student-driven initiatives, showcasing the immense potential for youth to shape a brighter future.

In closing, we extend a heartfel invitation to all students and teachers to enthusiastically participate in the upcoming edition of our school competition. The remarkable achievements and inspiring projects we have witnessed in the current year have reminded us of the boundless creativity, talent and dedication within our school community. We encourage each and every one of you to embark on this incredible journey, unlocking your creative potential, and sharing your brilliant ideas with the world. Whether it's through academic pursuits, artistic endeavors or community engagement, the Going Green School Competition provides a platform  for YOU to showcase your passion, skills, and commitment to excellence.

Your participation is not just an opportunity of personal growth, it is also a chance to enrich the tapestry of your school's legacy. So let your imagination soar, let your talents shine and -most importantly- let your voice be heard! Get ready to embrace the Eco-challenges, unleash your potential and make the next edition of the school competition an even greater success. We look forward to witnessing your extraordinary contributions and celebrating your achievements. WE COUNT ON YOU!!

 #Competition  #GoingGreen

Sustainable mobility - What’s the hype about E-scooters and e-bikes?

by Sarah Rauf -

Can e-scooters and e-bikes contribute to improving people's mobility and at the same time make it more environmentally friendly? Who uses it the most and for what purpose?

E-scooters are kick scooters with an electric motor and are primarily used as rental devices in many cities worldwide. Users download the provider's app on their mobile phones, scan the scooter's QR code, and can start riding. Of course, those services are not for free. The duration of the ride is calculated and billed in minute intervals, with payment made through the app. In Germany, E-scooters have been allowed for road traffic since June 2019 and can be used as private vehicles from the age of 14. However, to rent an E-scooter, you must be at least 18 years old. They are allowed on bicycle paths but not on sidewalks. If there is no bike lane available, riders must move to the road. Also, wearing a helmet is not mandatory.

Overall, compared to other countries not many people in Germany use E-scooters. This is also due to the unavailability of rental devices in small towns and land areas. In a survey conducted across multiple countries from April 2021 to March 2022, only one in ten respondents stated that they had used an E-scooter in the last twelve months. E-scooters are also not widely used in Austria and Switzerland.


The enthusiasm that E-scooters at first had and the thought it could be a truly sustainable mode of transportation is not as much anymore. These small scooters also come with disadvantages. Often, the rental vehicles are not properly parked, blocking sidewalks and can be a risk of injury to pedestrians.

The German Federal Environment Agency points out in a report from 2021 that the environmental impact of E-scooters is rather low and depends on several factors. The production of lithium-ion batteries involves the use of limited resources, and their extraction can be harmful to the environment. Furthermore, the lifespan of the batteries is often not long enough to achieve a positive environmental balance. Also, the proper disposal of the scooters is also problematic.

E-scooters only have more or less a positive impact on the environment when they replace car trips. Compared to cars, they have a significantly better ecological footprint. However, the most environmentally friendly option remains the conventional bicycle or, for shorter distances, walking. 

The moment users choose an e-scooter as a substitute for journeys they would typically make on foot or by bicycle, the e-scooter becomes a less favorable alternative for the environment. 

While e-scooters are primarily used as rental devices, an increasing number of people are choosing to purchase electric bicycles, known as e-bikes, for personal use. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, in the year 2020, 4.3 million households in Germany owned at least one e-bike. In 2021, the total number of e-bikes in Germany reached 8.5 million. 


The use of e-scooters do offer advantages such as environmental friendliness, efficiency, and convenience. They can contribute to emissions reduction and provide a practical alternative for short distances. However, there are concerns such as safety issues. It is important to weigh the pros and cons and introduce appropriate regulations to ensure a safe and responsible use of alternatives like e-scooters and e-bikes.


Sources: [14.06.2023] [14.06.2023]

Our Way to a Zero Waste Lifestyle

by Sarah Rauf -

The term Zero Waste means "zero waste, zero wastage" and refers to a philosophy aimed at eliminating the causes of waste and wastage in human behavior. The Zero Waste approach aims to promote a shift towards sustainable, conscious use of our natural resources in order to bring our production and consumption behavior back into balance with nature. Zero Waste is not intended as an immediate rule, but rather as a long-term guiding principle that should be continuously strived for. 

The Zero Waste Hierarchy describes the priority order of strategies that have the goal of a waste-free society, and is intended for political decision-makers, industries and individuals as well. Refuse as the fundament of this hierarchy means avoiding unnecessary consumption: where nothing is consumed, no waste is generated. A fundamental shift in thinking may sound simple at first but being aware of one’s one consuming behavior is in many cases the starting point. Good ways to reject mass consumption include shopping at packaging-free stores or second-hand shop. Second comes Reduce and it involves reducing one’s household to the bare minimum. Unnecessary possessions, such as clothing, electronics, etc. are replaced by borrowing those items instead of purchasing new ones. 

The third principal Reuse aims to promote repairing older household items and then reusing it. This includes promoting repairable products and the repurposing of household items and materials for other uses. Recyclingmeans that everything that cannot be avoided, reduced, or reused back, should be added into the sustainable cycle. Since in reality, far from hundred percent recycling rate is achieved and additional energy and resources must be expended in the process, recycling is not a desirable guiding principle in the Zero Waste philosophy. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the Rot stage refers to composting biodegradable materials, such as kitchen waste at home or in local composting facilities. This can be used to produce compost for flower or plant fertilization. 

In 2002, the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) was founded to establish global standards for the development of Zero Waste. Nowadays, many countries and cities have established local or national Zero Waste associations, all committed to the same goal. The French American environmental activist and author Béa Johnson, who lives in California, is considered a pioneer of the Zero Waste lifestyle. Johnson and her family produce only one Mason jar of waste per year. Johnson is also responsible for defining the 5R rules of the Zero Waste hierarchy. 

Source: [12.05.2023]. 

Further, the Concept of Zero-Waste Cities has been developed, which requires a proper certification. Following this plan, communities commit to waste reduction and engage in a multi-year process actively pursuing zero waste through various measures. In Germany, the city of Kiel is a pioneer in this political development: by 2035, Kiel as a Zero Waste City aims to reduce its household and commercial waste by around 50 percent compared to 2017, and by around 70 percent by 2050. The goal of the Zero-Waste City program is to support and recognize communities in their transition towards Zero Waste through a sustainable approach and citizen participation.




Sources: [12.05.2023]. [12.05.2023]. [12.05.2023]. 

Green or Greenwashed: Navigating the Murky Waters of Eco-Friendly Marketing

by Mailin Zschage -

Looking at the shelf of your nearest supermarket or drug store you might see many “green” products that were not there a few years ago. That is because of the consumers’ increasing interest in sustainability. According to Wall Street Journal, sales of consumer-packaged goods advertising sustainability in North America rose by over 30% from 2018 to 2022. Companies use this interest to produce goods that are supposedly “eco-friendly” and “green”. However, not all claims are true, and some companies are engaging in a practice called "greenwashing."

Was ist Greenwashing? Definition und Beispiele


According to Greenpeace, “greenwashing is a PR tactic used to make a company or product appear environmentally friendly, without meaningfully reducing its environmental impact”. In other words, greenwashing is a form of marketing that uses environmental concerns to appeal to consumers, but the claims made are often exaggerated, misleading, or entirely false. Some common greenwashing tactics include using vague or undefined terms such as “natural,” “eco-friendly,” or “sustainable,” without any actual evidence to back up those claims. By this, companies aim to boost their public image and environmentally conscious consumers are enticed to buy their products.

With the recent rise of “green” products, one might think that greenwashing is a relatively new phenomenon. However, the term was already coined in the 1980s and there are even examples of greenwashing from before that time. 

The issue with greenwashing is not only the misleading of customers. Companies who use this PR tactic continue with their business as before while pretending that they executed major changes for a better future. Thus, the planet-polluting procedures in their productions continue to harm our environment. Moreover, as many consumers are willing to spend more money on eco-friendly products, companies earn more and more money by greenwashing their products.

A famous example of greenwashing is the H&M greenwashing scandal. According to an investigation by the environmental campaign group Changing Markets Foundation, H&M, the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, has been showing bogus environmental ratings for its clothing. The ratings were displayed on the company's website and in stores as part of its sustainability initiative. The Higg Index scores, which are based on a set of sustainability metrics developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, were allegedly inflated or inaccurate. The investigation claimed that H&M's use of these scores was misleading for customers, as the company continued to produce large amounts of fast fashion, which is known to harm the environment.

As an environmentally friendly person, those misleading products can lead to a lot of frustration. Greenwashing is not always easy to detect for consumers. However, if you still want to invest in eco-friendly products, there are certain strategies you can use to spot greenwashing:

  1. Look for specific and quantifiable claims. Companies that make vague or general statements about being "green" or "eco-friendly" without providing concrete information or measurable metrics may be engaging in greenwashing.
  2. Check for third-party certifications. Trustworthy certifications from independent organizations can assure that a company's claims are genuine.
  3. Research the company's track record. Look at the company's environmental history and see if they have been involved in any past controversies or violations.
  4. Consider the entire lifecycle of the product. Evaluate the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of a product, from manufacturing to disposal, rather than just one aspect.
  5. Be skeptical of green marketing buzzwords. Companies may use buzzwords like "natural," "organic," or "green" to make products seem more eco-friendly than they are. Be wary of these claims and do your own research.

Overall, greenwashing is an ongoing issue which uses the good will of people to keep on harming the planet. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the tactics companies use to greenwash their products. By this, we can make more informed choices and make a positive impact on the environment. So, the next time you see a product claiming to be eco-friendly, remember to do your research, be skeptical of buzzwords, and look for specific and quantifiable claims. Let's work together to make the world a greener place.


Das, Leah. 2022, April 12. "Greenwash: what it is and how not to fall for it." Greenpeace. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from,looked%20at%20in%20more%20depth.

Gibbens, Sarah. 2022, November 22. "Is your favorite ‘green’ product as eco-friendly as it claims to be?" National Geographic. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from from

Shendruk, Amanda. 2022, June 29. "Quartz investigation: H&M showed bogus environmental scores for its clothing." Retrieved May 3, 2023, from

Wall Street Journal. 2023, April 21."Greenwashing: When Companies Aren’t as Sustainable as They Claim | WSJ" YouTube. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from

Who are the "Last Generation" and why are they causing so much attention and unrest?"

by Sarah Rauf -

Many teenagers are frustrated. Researchers have been warning about the consequences of climate change for over 50 years, yet little has been done so far: international climate agreements fail, the 1.5-degree target seems hardly realistic - even though temperatures are rising worldwide. For this reason, more and more young people in Germany are gathering to demonstrate for climate protection. "Fridays for Future" is one of the most popular movements, but another one called "The Last Generation" is gaining more attraction and facing criticism. The "Last Generation" is a movement of activists demanding more climate protection from politics and society. The demands of the climate movement include:

  1. A drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition to renewable energy and a decrease in energy consumption.
  2. A fair distribution of the burdens and costs of climate protection, particularly between industrialized and developing countries, as well as between different social classes.
  3. Compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  4. A fundamental transformation of the economic system from a system based on infinite growth and the exploitation of natural resources towards a more sustainable and just economy.
  5. Recognition of the climate crisis as an existential threat to humanity and all other species, as well as the implementation of measures to adapt to the consequences of climate change.


Unlike Fridays for Future, The Last Generation protesters do not limit themselves to legal means like demonstrations to achieve their goals. Young people go on hunger strikes, "occupy" highways and airports, and they are notoriously known for throwing food at famous paintings to ultimately attract the attention of leaders and policymakers. However, the protesters are also facing a lot of criticism. 


Some people view their behavior as disruptive and unnecessary, while others believe that they pose a threat to public safety. Additionally, some critics argue that their demands are too radical and unrealistic, and that they do not take into account the economic and social complexities of transitioning to a more sustainable and just economy. Some have even called the activists "climate terrorists", a term that was chosen as the "Unwort des Jahres" (non-word of the year) in 2022 in Germany, as it equates young people with criminals. Nevertheless, climate activists are not terrorists. They have raised awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for immediate action. Furthermore, they have brought the issue of climate change to the forefront of public discourse and political agendas. Most importantly, the symbolism of the movement lays in that young people have, indeed, a powerful voice and can mobilize to make change.


[1] Podcast: Klimaaktivismus - Was darf Protest? (PASCH). [10.04.2023]

[2] Die letzte Generation - Klimaaktivismus (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) [10.04.2023]

[3] Letzte Generation. [07.04.2023]

[4] Laut Verfassungsschutz „Letzte Generation“ nicht extremistisch. (ZDF Heute). [07.04.2023].

From Composting to Keyhole Gardens: How Permaculture Can Revolutionize Your Approach to Sustainable Gardening

by Mailin Zschage -

Imagine a world where food grows abundantly, waste is eliminated, and communities thrive in harmony with nature. This world might seem like a distant dream, but it is the vision of permaculture, a sustainable agricultural practice that is gaining popularity around the world. Permaculture is much more than just a way to grow food; it is a way of life that seeks to create sustainable systems that benefit both humans and the planet.

First mentioned by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, permaculture combines the words "permanent" and "agriculture" to describe a system of farming that mimics the natural ecosystem. It is based on three ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. These ethics are the foundation of all permaculture design and practice. While Earth Care is the recognition that the Earth is a living, interconnected system that must be cared for and maintained, People Care emphasizes the importance of taking care of oneself, one's community, and others, and is closely linked to the concept of social sustainability. Lastly, Fair Share recognizes that resources are limited and underlines the importance of having equal access to these resources by everyone in the present and in the future.

Overall, permaculture design is a holistic approach to creating sustainable systems. It looks at the entire ecosystem, including the soil, water, plants, animals, people, and seeks to create a self-sustaining system that benefits all of these elements. Permaculture design uses a variety of techniques, including companion planting, intercropping, natural pest control, and water conservation, to create a healthy and productive ecosystem.

A specific example of a permaculture design is a keyhole garden, which originated in Africa out of necessity. Keyhole Gardens offer a sustainable and affordable solution to grow food in dry surroundings as they only require minimal resources and can be easily adapted to local conditions and cultural practices. A keyhole garden is a circular raised bed that is typically six feet in diameter, with a keyhole-shaped indentation in the middle. The keyhole shape allows easy access to the center of the garden bed and creates a space-efficient design that maximizes the use of available land.

To build a keyhole garden, you start by digging a circular trench about 2 feet deep and then adding a layer of organic matter, such as compost, straw, or leaves, to the bottom of the trench. The walls of the garden are then constructed using locally available materials, such as stones or bricks, and filled with a mixture of soil and compost. In the center of the garden, a basket is placed for composting kitchen scraps and other organic matter.

One of the key benefits of a keyhole garden is its water efficiency. The incorporated composting basket in the center of the garden provides a constant source of moisture to the surrounding plants. As the compost breaks down, it releases nutrients and moisture, which are absorbed by the plants' roots. Additionally, the garden is designed to capture and retain rainwater, which further reduces the need for irrigation.

Keyhole Garden


To sum up, the keyhole garden is a great example of permaculture design because it allows water conservation, recycling, and efficient use of space. However, you might want to start with an easier project to incorporate permaculture techniques into your everyday life. One of the easiest ways to do so is to start using a simple compost bin. By recycling organic waste such as vegetable scraps, leaves, and grass clippings, you can reduce your environmental impact, save money on fertilizers, and improve the health of your soil and plants. Composting is a simple and effective way to promote sustainability, waste reduction, and soil health. It is a great starting point for those who are new to permaculture and want to explore ways to create more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyles. As you become more comfortable with composting, you can also explore other permaculture techniques, such as rainwater harvesting, companion planting, and food forests. To learn more about other permaculture designs, have a look at the Permaculture Research Institute website. Here you can find a wealth of information about permaculture, including articles, courses, videos, and research papers.

As the global community continues to grapple with the effects of climate change, permaculture offers a powerful solution that can help us build a more sustainable and regenerative future. By learning from nature and adopting permaculture practices, we can create a world that is truly abundant, where people and nature thrive together in harmony.

So let us take inspiration from permaculture and work towards a future that is not only sustainable but also abundant and regenerative, a future where people and nature thrive together in harmony.

Suggested reading:

Keyhole Gardens: What Are They, The History Behind Them and Photos


Harland, Maddy. n.d. “What is Permaculture: Part 1 – Ethics.” Permaculture – earth care, people care, future care. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from,by%20many%20throughout%20the%20world.

permaculturefoodforest. 2016, April 14. “Keyhole Gardens.” permaculturefoodforest. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from

Plump, Gabriela. 2016, February 16. "Keyhole Gardens Change Landscape and Lives." Concern Worldwide U.S. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from

Tortorello, Michael. 2011, July 27. “The Permaculture Movement Grows From Underground.” The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from

What sand got to do with a sustainable future

by Mailin Zschage -

When we think of sand, we tend most likely to have in mind the picture of a nice summer vacation at the beach. But little did we know that sand plays an essential role in our lives. Did you know that sand is an essential commodity in our everyday life? You can find it in chemical production, water filtration, fracking and the production of glass. It is everywhere, marking the second most consumed raw material, right after water. If the German proverb “wie Sand am Meer” (whose English equivalent would be “a ten a penny”) might make it sound like sand is an inexhaustible source of commodity, the truth is, that we are facing a sand shortage worldwide. In fact, the demand for sand in the construction industry exceeds the supply.  As a result, many countries import sand from abroad, which not only affect people economically but also harms nature. Over the last two decades, the use of sand, gravel and aggregates has tripled, now reaching between 40 to 50 tons per year. Thus, climate scientists warn that this shortage can become one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the century.

Compared to other raw materials, the global sand business is far less transparent and unfortunately often handled illegally. The so-called sand mafia operates in countries all over the world, but they are often more active in India. A report by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People summarizes the incidents of sand mining which led to death and violent incidents in East India between April 2022 and February 2023. Overall, not only elderly workers were killed in sand mine pits but there was also a 7-years old child drowning in a sand mine pit in Kiul river and policemen were attacked by illegal miners. Thus, not only does nature suffer from the effects of sand mining, but it also harms people in different ways. After all, poor working conditions and child labor occur pretty frequently in this field.

Even countries like Saudi Arabia suffer from a shortage of sand. This might sound counterintuitive, as the country inhibits a great part of Rub' al Khali, the world’s biggest sandy desert. However, desert sand is almost worthless for the construction industry. The sand grains are way smoother than the grippy sand particles found in riverbeds, seabeds or beaches. Thus, desert sand is not suitable for the construction of stable concrete. This is why for the construction of the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, imported sand from Canada and Australia. That might sound astonishing because the city of Dubai lies directly in the Arabian desert and is surrounded by sand.

Although sand mining habitats are destroyed, rivers are polluted and beaches that are already endangered by the rising sea levels are eroded. These are only a few examples of how sand mining harms nature. Many effects are not yet foreseeable. Thus, it is important to act now.

Only in 2019 did governments within the UN recognize the danger that emanates from the sand crisis and finally placed this issue on their political agenda. In 2022 the UN proposed 

“10 strategic recommendations to avert a crisis” concerning the shortage of sand and its effects on sustainability. You can find an overview of those ten recommendations in the table below. Overall, the recommendations are addressed to the government but industry, the private sector, as well as civil society also play an essential role in their implementation. The next years will show if those recommendations will efficiently be implemented and whether they will help against the sand shortage.

Source: full report of United Nations Environment Programme

To learn more about why the world is running out of sand, watch the following video of CNBC:


Meredith, Sam. 2021, March 5. “A sand shortage? The world is running out of a crucial — but under-appreciated — commodity.” CNBC. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from,of%20silicon%20chips%20uses%20sand.

SANDRP. n.d. "Sand Mining Deaths & Violence in East India between April 2022 and February 2023." SANDRP: South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from

Niranjan, Ajit . 2021, May 17. "Sand-Krise: Mafia profitiert von drohendem Sandmangel." Retrieved March 14, 2023, from

UN environment program: GRID-Geneva. n.d. "Global Sand Observatory Initiative: Project description." Retrieved March 13, 2023, from

Zero waste stores - a better way for a sustainable lifestyle?

by Sarah Rauf -

Milk without a bag and pasta in a jar? Shopping without packaging is trendy and also quite environmentally friendly. Zero waste stores are a place, which make that possible.  These kinds of stores aim to eliminate or minimize the amount of waste, produced in the consumption of goods. Therefore, they offer products that are package-free, unpackaged, or sold in reusable containers, with an emphasis on reducing the use of single-use plastics and packaging. Zero waste stores encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers, bags, and jars, and may offer a variety of reusable and sustainable products such as cloth produce bags, metal straws, and bamboo utensils. The goal of zero waste stores is to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly living by reducing waste and encouraging consumers to adopt zero waste lifestyles.

Source: (10.03.2023).

The concept of zero waste stores is not new, as the idea of reducing waste and promoting sustainable living has been around for decades. However, the movement towards zero waste stores has gained more popularity in recent years with the increasing concern about plastic pollution and its impact on the environment. Zero waste stores have been established in many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia. 

One of the biggest advantages of zero waste stores is that they help reduce waste by promoting package-free, reusable, and sustainable products, and encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers and bags. This helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste and other types of waste that end up in landfills, oceans, and other parts of the environment. Moreover, zero waste stores promote environmentally friendly living by offering products that are sustainably sourced, organic, and free of harmful chemicals. This helps to reduce the environmental impact of consumer products and support sustainable production practices. Most importantly, these stores also provide educational opportunities and raise awareness about the importance of waste reduction, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. This can help to empower consumers to make them more aware of their choices about the products they buy and the impact they have on the environment.

Zero waste stores, however, are limited in their product selection when compared to traditional stores. This is because they focus on offering package-free and sustainable products, which may not include all the products that consumers are used to buying. Furthermore, zero waste stores may have higher prices compared to traditional stores because sustainable and eco-friendly products are often more expensive to produce and source. Another disadvantage can be that zero was stores may be less convenient for some consumers, as they require customers to bring their own containers and bags and may not always be in easy to reach locations. This may make it more difficult for some consumers to shop at zero waste stores, especially if they have busy lifestyles or limited access to transportation.

While the concept of zero waste stores is still relatively new and the number of such stores may be limited, the growing interest and demand for sustainable living suggest that the trend will most likely continue to grow in the coming years.

[1] Bagui, B.E., Arellano L. (2021). Zero Waste Store: A Way to promote Environment-friendly Living. International Journal of Qualitative Research. (1):150-155.

[2] Unverpackt und Pop-up-Stores: Neue Formen des Einkaufens. Initiative „Schulen: Partner der Zukunft“ (PASCH). [10.03.2023]. 

[3] Jamar, Y. (2023). Goodfor Store Auckland - Vollwertkost ohne Verpackungen.

The female fight for sustainability

by Mailin Zschage -

March 8 is International Women's Day (IWD). On this global day, we not only celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all around the world, but we also remind ourselves of the importance of the ongoing struggle for women’s rights.

The first IWD took place in 1911 but it was not before 1975 that the United Nations recognized it. Since 1996 the UN gives the day an annual theme, which aims to draw attention to a specific issue related to gender equality. While this year’s theme is ‘DigitALL: Innovation andtechnology for gender equality’, last year’s IWD focused on the theme of ‘Genderequity today for a sustainable tomorrow’. These annual events celebrate women's contributions and efforts to build a more sustainable world for everyone. At the same time, they also highlight the environmental disadvantages that many girls and women all around the world have to deal with.

A report released at the Bonn Climate Change Conference 2022 has shown that women are oftentimes differently affected by climate change than men. For example, as a result of climate change, extreme weather leads to fewer harvests in some African countries. While many men migrate from rural to urban areas to find a new source of income, women are mostly left behind to care for the kids and land. They are not only robbed of the opportunity to earn their own money, but they often also lack the respective legal rights or social authority to be legally in charge of their land and household.

Another example of gender-based environmental injustice can be seen in some parents' motives of giving their daughters away for child marriages in countries like Kenya, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. While it may seem unintelligible to us that such young girls are forced into marrying a much older man, it is increasingly done to recover their families’ financial losses from climate-related disasters like droughts or intense floodings.

But not only in third-world countries correlation between gender and sustainability occurs. An interesting cognition is the so-called eco-gender gap found in many western countries. This gap was first written about in a 2018 Mintel report. It focused on the marketing strategy of eco-friendly products as they are mainly aimed at female consumers. Whether it be replacing nylon with a more environmentally friendly material enforced by hosiery manufacturers or marketing menstrual cups, many products rely on women to establish an eco-friendlier lifestyle. This might also affect the will of living more ethically. The study by Mintel has exposed that 71% of women try to do so while only 59 % of men feel the same.

You may wonder what the reasons behind the focus on female consumers in the marketing of eco-friendly products might be. The sad truth that the research of 2018 discovered is that women not only tend to buy more sustainable products, but they are also disproportionately responsible for running the household. Even though it might seem like stereotypical roles of men and women are nowadays not that predominant anymore in western countries, “many women still tend to take charge of the running of the household, with chores such as cleaning, laundry and even recycling falling under that banner” (Duckett 2018). Thus, it appears that women are more responsible for sustainability than men.

But the responsibilities in a household could not be the only reason behind men’s poor enthusiasm in sustainability matters. As researches from the 1990s to early 2000s indicate, women tend to be more "prosocial, altruistic, and empathetic". Those characteristics that society often declares as female are fostering the motivation of building a more sustainable future. Accordingly, men could have the impression “that caring for the environment somehow undermines their masculinity” (Hunt 2020).

However, time is changing. Looking at the number of boys and men attending the youth climate movement one could state that the lack of male involvement is rather a generational problem rather than gender realted (Hunt 2020). Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind how different women and men are involved with and affected by sustainable matters such as being eco-friendly or the results of global warming. Only by keep talking about these issues that something can be changed. Words have power.

This is why International Women’s Day is so important. Each year it draws our attention to areas in which women are still not treated equally to men. Keep this in mind while you celebrate this year's IWD on March 8 and be confident that it is going to change for the better.

Logo for 2022 International Women's Day

Image source:


Duckett, Jack. 2018, July 27. "The eco gender gap: 71% of women try to live more ethically, compared to 59% of men." Mintel. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from

Hunt, Elle. 2020, February 6. "The eco gender gap: why is saving the planet seen as women's work?" The Guardian. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from

United Nations. 2022, June 1. "Dimensions and examples of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change, the role of women as agents of change and opportunities for women. Synthesis report by the secretariat." Retrieved February 21, 2023, from

Why we should care about the “Forever Chemicals”

by Sarah Rauf -

You might have never heard of Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), even though they are part of our everyday products. PFAS are a group of chemicals that can be found in a wide range of consumer products, like non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, furniture, carpets, and food packaging. They are characterized by their chemical stability, water and grease resistance, and water-repellent properties.

The chemicals were first synthesized in the 1930s by chemists in the United Stated. They were first developed as specialty chemicals for use in a variety of industrial and commercial applications, like surfactants and fire suppression foams. Despite early warnings about the potential health risks of PFAS, the widespread use of these chemicals continued for several decades. In the 1990s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to investigate the environmental and health impacts of PFAS, and in 2000, several companies agreed to lower its production. 

The reason why PFAS are so useful is due to their chemical properties, which make them highly resistant to heat, water, and other environmental factors. This has made them ideal for use in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, such as in firefighting foam.

However, PFAS also have many negative impacts on the environment and by extension on human health. These chemicals can enter groundwater, rivers, and lakes and therefore also come into our food chain. Some PFAS compounds have also been linked to various health problems, such as cancer, hormone disruption, kidney damage, and impaired immune function. Due to these concerns, many countries have restricted or banned the use of PFAS. Some companies have also begun using alternatives and more environmentally friendly chemicals. PFAS spread via air, water and soil

Image Source:  

It is quite obvious that it's not easy to completely avoid PFAS as they are used everywhere. You can come into contact with PFAS through food, drinking water, clothing, cosmetics, and many other products. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce your exposure. It is important for consumers to be aware which products contain PFAS and to make an effort to avoid them in order to protect themselves and the environment.

Some tips to minimize exposure to PFAS include:

  • Use stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic pans instead of Teflon pans.
  • Avoid purchasing water and dirt-resistant textiles.
  • Use reusable glass or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic or cardboard packaging with water-resistant coatings.

Overall, we should all strive to reduce our use of PFAS and find more environmentally friendly alternatives in order to protect the health of our communities and our planet. 


[1] Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, nukleare Sicherheit und Verbraucherschutz (o.J.). Per- und polyfluorierte Chemikalien (PFAS).[21.02.23]

[2] Europäische Umweltagentur (o.J.).  Was sind PFAS und inwiefern sind Sie für meine Gesundheit gefährlich?[21.02.2023]

[3] Umweltbundesamt (o.J.). Perfluorierte Alkylsubstanzen. [21.02.2023]

[4] Kinder und Jugendliche haben zu viel PFAS im Blut (o.J.).[21.02.2023]. 

[5] Duffek, A.: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in blood plasma - Results of the German Environmental Survey for children and adolescents 2014-2017 (GerES V). In: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health

[6] Kinder und Jugendliche haben zu viel PFAS im Blut (o.J.).[21.02.2023].

Welcome back!

by Taieb Oussaifi -

Now that the new school year has begun, I would like to remind you of a few updates that are coming up. We are very happy to welcome the new teachers who recently joined our network and will be teaching Going Green in their classes. On behalf of the TAUS team, I would like to welcome new teachers and seize the opportunity to recommend having a look at the documents attached below:

Going Green – Education for Sustainability is a multi-award-winning blended-learning project specifically designed for the English as Foreign Language (EFL) classroom in Germany and the U.S. More than 6.800 teachers and students participated at the project since its initiation in 2014. Participating classes range between 10 and 12 grades on average. However, younger classes could also participate thanks to the customizable character of the activities and tasks. In fact, Going Green tasks could be adjusted to your students’ learning needs and abilities. The action and inquiry-based activities give your students the opportunity to interact with the English language and grasp environmental concepts and terminologies. While a large focus centers on critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills, Going Green activities seek to foster students’ intercultural competence as they will learn more about what the government and civil society in the U.S. are doing to face environmental challenges. For example, students will listen to “Going Green experts”, learn more about governmental initiatives and policies, and inspect the struggles of different indigenous groups and minorities in the U.S. society. They will, thereby, look at things beyond stereotypes and develop their "insider-outsider" perspectives. Moreover, students will examine their own communities and attempt to actively and positively impact it by identifying problems, designing and evaluating solutions, and implementing their solution by working collaboratively on a project.

Going Green 21/22: And the Going Green Prize goes to...

by Taieb Oussaifi -

If this Going Green cycle needs to be titled, there won’t be any better label than “Sustainability in challenging times.” The current pandemic, disinformation on social media, along with the recent wars and the escalation of political tensions, all make it particularly hard and confusing for students. Where is the world heading? Still, let us not forget that in the words of Martha Beck “any deep crisis is an opportunity to make life extraordinary in some way.”  John F. Kennedy also said once “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” So let us understand the surrounding dangers to create ample opportunities for a better life... That is my philosophy.

I've become passionate about Going Green for the reason that the trend aims to help students seize the opportunity and promote a sustainable and prosperous life for themselves and their communities. If by the end of the program, students understand the importance of taking action to improve the living conditions of their society, if they could read the news critically and learn how to reflect analytically on social, economic and political sustainability-concepts, Going Green would have fully served its purpose.  

The action plans for this cycle could not make us any happier! Students’ initiatives are indeed the best proof that if the world is going somewhere, it is certainly going to “go green!” In fact, despite these difficult times, we were pleasantly surprised by students’ creative ideas and original projects – which, once again, offer a glance of optimism and reaffirm that youth today are clever, knowledgeable and capable of taking the lead.

We are very proud and inspired! Hats off to all students who engaged with Eco-challenges both online and offline. Their efforts should be rewarded. So on behalf of the TAUS team, I am delighted to announce and briefly present the winning projects of the Going Green 20/21 Awards:

The Going Green Best Eco-Friendly Award goes to Bee Hotels – Saving bees!

By Marie-Curie Gymnasium, Bönen.

The 7a class consists of 32 students, aged 12 to 13, many of whom come from migrant backgrounds, namely Ukraine, Turkey, Armenia and Lebanon. This multicultural class organized itself in several groups and started researching innovative ways to green-up their school and city. During three weeks, they came up with stunning ideas and inspiring projects! One of the projects was to create a bee hotel in a school garden and surround it with informative posters to raise awareness as to the importance and usefulness of bees to our eco-system. A wonderful idea, indeed! Especially that bees are my insects, so doing good to them is always highly appreciated. You hit the right spot ;) Bravo!

 Photo Credit: U.S. Consulate General - United States of America

The class 7a at Marie Curie Gymnasium in a memorable picture with the General Consul, Pauline Kao, at the General Consulate of the United States in Düsseldorf.


The Going Green Transatlantic Partnership Award goes to Sustainability: From Ozark, Arkansas, USA to Oranienburg, Germany! and Fashionably Sustainable

By Ozark High School, Arkansas and Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium, Oranienburg

Both schools used Padlet to discuss the impact of sustainability on our lives and share thoughts on the existing differences and similarities between Germany and the U.S., when it comes to sustainability-related topics. Both schools stressed the importance of local solutions.

Students created a guide to upcycling and circulated it through social media. Their aim is to help and encourage people reuse their old outfits instead of throwing them away! Their social media pages contain well-explained and motivating tutorials.


 Louise and her classmates shared fashionable and sustainably homemade clothes that they made on their own with their followers on instagram @fashionably_sustainablelhg. Great job!!

The Going Green Most Creative Project Award goes to Waste Art

By Ozark High School, Arkansas and Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium, Oranienburg

The project seeks to make use of garbage and reduce trash to help overcome pollution and keep the city clean. Students collect trash on the street, thereby cleaning their city, and use what they’ve collected to create artworks and post them on their website and Instagram page @lhg_wasteart to encourage and inspire others to start a similar action.

And last but not least…

The Going Green Best Environmental Song goes to Plastic Song!

By Oberstufenzentrum, Teltow-Fläming

A catchy song with lively vibes and nice rhymes. The song raises awareness on the dangers of plastic pollution in our oceans and points out to the deadly effects it can cause to our environment. That was another brilliant idea and project! Why not an album next time?

With these projects, the Going Green cycle for the school year 21/22 comes to an end. Heartfelt congratulations to all winners for their well-deserved achievements! Students have again confirmed that sustainability, even in challenging times, still prevails... We’re excited and curious to see them participate again and develop new action plans on the latest modules we’re currently releasing. 

What they do with the bodies

by Deleted user -

If you’ve ever travelled by car on crowded highways or country roads, you’ve seen the remains of the ones that didn’t make it. And if you live in a city, passing roadkill on a long drive may be one of the rare situations where you see wildlife at all. Collisions with animals are staggeringly common. In Europe, cars claim 29 million mammals and 194 million birds annually, Lisbon’s Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies estimated in 2020. Meanwhile, in the US, over 90 million mammals and anywhere up to 340 million birds will spend their final fleeting moments facing headlights each year.

The authorities responsible for dealing with the dead – public works personnel and animal control officials – don’t have long to do their jobs. The longer the creature remains on the road, the greater the risk to other cars and their passengers. Not to mention the potential threat of disease the dead fox or rabbit poses to humans, livestock and wildlife. Because of this time pressure, many carcasses are collected and disposed of in landfill. An aversion to death in many societies means that these untold millions are regarded as merely an unfortunate by-product of the road system. It requires bold thinking to reframe the waste as a resource. Worldwide, scientists and members of the community are examining the issue with fresh eyes. Here are some of the people who aren’t looking away.

Goanna Australia

Carrion is a vital food source for many creatures, like Australia’s lace goanna

Surveying the carnage

Fraser Shilling,a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, heads the California Roadkill Observation System, a research project which encourages members of the public to document their sightings of roadkill and submit them online. As of August 2018, the website had collected over 58,000 observations from more than 1,500 users in less than ten years – from retirees to high school students. For Shilling, the bodies littering highways are an essential tool for understanding animal populations. “I sometimes think of the roads as a continuous wildlife sampling system,” he told Vox. Because of randomness of collisions, the different types of animals hit by cars accurately represent the ecosystem of the surrounding area.

David Wembridge, a surveys officer with UK wildlife charity, the People’s Trust for Endangered Animals, agrees. “While recording road kill can be a little gruesome, high numbers of road kill can indicate a healthy population of mammals in the surrounding landscape,” he explained to BBC Northern Ireland. “In life, mammals are often difficult to survey, so by recording casualties that are easier to observe, it's possible to get an idea of total numbers and how population changes from year to year.”

Because introduced species are just as likely to be killed on the road as native animals Shilling has used his database to track the movement of the Eastern grey squirrel and the Eastern fox squirrel into California. “They're both invading different parts of the Western grey squirrel’s habitat, and we can see that in the roadkill data," he says.

Google Map with roadkill

Road users are helping scientist Fraser Shilling map the spread of pests – like the invasive Eastern fox squirrel in Northern California

Photo: California Roadkill Observation System, 23 December 2014 – 23 March 201

Learning from disaster

Due to the public stigma surrounding death, as well as European Union legal requirements, it has has been official practice to remove carrion from German national parks – depriving scavenger animals like lynx of their food source. When an influential 2019 study highlighted the plight of Europe’s disappearing scavengers, leading scientists like German Peter Südbeck rose to challenge the taboo around death. It took a dramatic weather event in the Netherlands, resulting in the sudden deaths of 3000 horses, cattle and deer, to present a new way forward.

The Oostvaarderplassen, part of Niew Land National Park, is one of Europe’s oldest nature reserves. The shock deaths of thousands of grazing mammals during a 2018 Winter cold snap showed how an influx of large carcasses in turn drove an increase in the numbers of insects and other small lifeforms. The nutrients were absorbed by local plant-life too, which experienced rapid growth in the following months. A different investigation into a 2016 Norwegian electrical storm revealed how 323 reindeer struck by lightning and instantly killed, ultimately nourished ravens, golden eagles and wolverines.

Just as Emma Spencer recycles roadkill for her scavenger studies in the Australian outback, Peter Südbeck is learning from the Norwegian and Dutch studies to boost scavenger numbers in Germany. “The motto of German national parks is ‘let nature be nature’,” he told BBC, “but we skipped out this natural process of what's happening with a dead animal.” Head of Niedersachsisches Wattenmer National Park in Lower Saxony, he is leading his team in an initiative to bring back the bodies of locally important species like roe deer to locations in the park – scheduled to begin in September 2022. They will be eagerly awaiting the findings, with cameras trained on any new signs of life entering sites. A sister project in the Bavarian national forest has already proved popular, with live feeds of lynx feeding capturing the public imagination. In June 2021 bearded vultures were reintroduced to Germany for the first time in 100 years; with any luck, there’ll be soon be more of them on the scene.

bearded vulture

Bearded vultures were until recently considered extinct in Germany. A young captive bird was recently released in a remote cave in Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden National Park

Reuben Holt//  19May 2022 // #GoingGreen

Reuben Holt is an M.A. student at HMKW Berlin where he studies journalism

We need a more nuanced narrative than “global sacrifice” at COP26

by Deleted user -
While former President Barack Obama was hailed as supportive of developing nations at COP26, he still spoke in language used in many speeches: referring to climate change as a global problem, not a complex geopolitical one. But perhaps this misrepresents where the responsibility lies. Said differently, when we ask for more sacrifices from our entire world in the face of climate change, are we failing to fully recognise the context of oppression? Requests for people to change their individual behaviors cannot be made without recognising the dynamics of privilege and poverty that play out across the globe. If I, as a privileged white man, asked a Black woman living in destitution to “make more sacrifices” – the ugly histories of colonialism, racism, sexism, patriarchy and classism would be painfully apparent. How can we account for these histories when we allow powerful men to stand at podiums at COP26 and other climate conferences and suggest we “all need to make more sacrifices”.

Matthias Lyunda, a Tanzanian representative and Executive Director of the Foundation for Environmental Management and Campaign Against Poverty (FEMAPO), told The National that “The US emits more carbon each year than the entire continent of Africa. And for the last 200 years, like all developed nations the US has benefited from the energy it created from its fossil fuel reserves.” Lyunda related this to the untapped fuel reserves of his continent: “Africa is being hit twice – our populations are very exposed to climate shock – food is becoming scarcer. We are also being told that we can’t use our fossil fuels – but people don’t seem to understand the implications of that in the African context,” Lyunda said.

Let that sink in – the US uses more carbon than everyone in Africa. That’s a population of 329.5 million (which would be 27% of Africans) creating the same carbon emissions as 1.216 billion people. Sadly, the only real dominant carbon emitter in Africa is South Africa, a country whose history is plagued with the racism of aparthied and colonialism. South Africa’s wealthy white minority have most benefited from the country’s industrialisation and large carbon footprint (7.5 metric tonnes per capita). The vast majority of African states, Tanzania included, emit almost nothing: In 2018 Tanzania was at 0.2 metric tonnes per capita; in 1975 the US was emitting 22.51 per capita. When we dig deep into this data, it should unearth doubts about our efforts to address the inequalities of climate change.

Graph 1.1 below:

Who has contributed most to global CO² emissions?

This graph shows a more global look at the data that Lyunda addressed. The sheer proportion of global emissions caused by North America and Europe draws into question an important problem: not only is it politically complicated to suggest developing nations should be part of the effort to “make sacrifices” – statistically, it doesn’t make that much sense. The developed nations of Europe, North America and Asia are basically the only players who matter in terms of climate justice. Africa and South America have caused about 3% of emissions respectively, despite (collectively) being worth 1.6 billion people. Looking at these figures (as displayed in 1.1), you could be forgiven for thinking many developing nations might as well be left out of demands for commitments to change practices. Instead of a narrative of global sacrifice, should we be promoting a narrative of selective sacrifice?

To make matters worse, the impact of climate change is ravaging already economically and technologically deprived states across the world. As of 2030, it’s anticipated climate change will contribute to or cause a quarter of a million deaths per year – almost exclusively in developing countries. These deaths are predicted to be caused by malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea and heat stress – all avoidable conditions for those in developed states. Can the financial costs of saving the planet in terms of investments by developed states be weighed against these deaths? How much money is a Tanzanian or Bangladeshi life worth to The Federal Reserve or The Bank of England?

This seems a particularly gloomy state of affairs. However, as President Biden addressed in his COP26 speech, there is ground work being laid to help developing states go green: “We want to do more to help countries around the world, especially developing countries, accelerate their clean-energy transition, address pollution, and ensure the world we all must share a cleaner, safer, healthiest planet.” This is a beautiful sentiment, but I’m not convinced it is backed by a clear statement of responsibility. Nowhere in Biden’s speech does he say: “This problem is the responsibility of developed nations. We must provide solutions for developed nations, not make requests.” Perhaps Biden’s heart is in the right place, but his COP speech may have incurred suspicion in an audience nervous about further broken promises – like the developed nations’ failed promise to pay out $100 billion in climate aid by 2020.

The language of global leaders was careful at COP26, but there’s a reason Lyunda thinks his country is being told not to use its natural resources, and that he is scared about the implications. The narrative of a global switchover was ever omnipresently clear at COP26, while the statement in Biden’s speech on taking responsibility for developing states was more a statement of intention than a commitment. If I was Lyunda, I would be scared too.

In my view, we should be using the resources of developed nations to make switching to renewables financially, socially and politically irresistible to developing nations. As Lyunda points out, the west has reaped the benefits of fossil fuels for centuries. In order to redress the balance, we need to face up to a controversial question: How much money is Tanzania’s fossil fuel worth? Biden says: “We have an obligation to help.” Are we asking if we can “help” Tanzania lose out on that wealth? The question isn’t whether or not they should burn those resources; they shouldn’t need to. The question is: how do we make it up to them? The answer: We must make a climate neutral future a solution for developing countries, not a sacrifice.

Walter Bruce Kemp is an M.A. student of Digital Journalism at HMKW Berlin.

Walter Bruce Kemp//  4 May 2022 // #GoingGreen

Walter Bruce Kemp is an M.A. student of Digital Journalism at HMKW Berlin.

Real men don’t wear green: Why gender norms are ruining the planet

by Deleted user -

Toxic masculinity isn’t just a societal problem it’s also an ecological one.

We all have a story that goes like this: it’s holiday dinner at your household, the living room has been decorated, the main course – served, and your whole family is deep in conversation (and bowls full of mashed potatoes). While biting into the turkey, your uncle passionately makes some controversial comment (say, on immigrant rights) that inevitably makes your skin crawl.

You look over at your kind, smiley aunt Sophie and wonder “Why can’t he be more like her?!”.

There’s a reason why most of us are apprehensive to discuss new ideas with our male relatives, but quick to open up to female ones. A study conducted on US teenagers found that young people often find the men in their family more authoritarian and resistant to change than the women. When we talk about climate change, this finding becomes particularly relevant. Anecdotally, a lot of us might associate eco-friendly behaviors with females more than with men: think Greta Thunberg, or a charismatic young woman modelling a KeepCup. Research by the platform Scientific American confirms this idea, indicating that women are more likely to use sustainable products and purchase reusable bags.

In the study, male participants had to categorize supermarket items (such as shampoo and dish-washing liquid) as either “sustainable” or “unsustainable”, and as “masculine” or “feminine”. In addition to this, they were asked to indicate how likely they were to buy each product. The findings were conclusive: the items which were seen as more environmentally friendly were also perceived as more feminine, and were less likely to be purchased by the research subjects.

Similarly, researchers from Northwestern University, Illinois found that guys were less willing to purchase food items that they viewed as “feminine”, such as quiche. Since they saw eco-friendly products as less masculine, they were likely to deliberately opt out of buying them.

The fear of appearing effeminate seems to be a major subconscious driving factor for a lot of men. A 2020 study found that most males were likely to avoid affiliation with anything they deemed “unmanly” – so much so that they didn’t want to be seen next to actors wearing gender-bending clothing. Interestingly, these same participants also admitted to considering environmentalism “effeminate”. According to the researchers, this stemmed from the fact that going green means caring for the planet, and – in its most stereotypical form, the very notion of “care” is linked to femininity.

Several of the people interviewed for this blog post (all of whom identify as male) seemed to have experienced these stereotypes first-hand. “I think it comes down to toxic masculinity,” says Victor Lombard, an Environmental Studies major at the Amsterdam University College. “I know some guys who don’t recycle because they think it’s ‘gay’.” For him, this was especially true during high school, which he dubs as a “pressure community”: “As a group dynamic of fifteen to sixteen-year-olds, you quickly felt the pressure to act the same way, so you had to make fun of vegans or whoever tried to be sustainable.”

Walter Bruce, a Digital Journalism MA student at HMKW Berlin, has had a similar experience. “I used to be vegetarian for environmental reasons,”he says. “Back then some people would insinuate or imply that it was feminine or effeminate to not eat meat and masculine to consume it.” Walter also suggests that the reason why some men are averse to environmentalism is fear: “Masculinity is associated with power, and accepting the climate situation is acknowledging that you are powerless unless we change things,” he explains. “This initial position of helplessness is uncomfortable for the hypermasculine.”

The good news is, this avoidant (and sometimes even outwardly negative) attitude towards environmentalism doesn’t have to last forever. “I remember actively throwing pieces of gum on the floor so I could look cool in high school,” says Victor. “Now as an adult, I realize how flawed this idea of not caring about the environment is.” Mario Troyanov, a 23-year-old marketing specialist from Bulgaria, has had a similar journey: “I became more aware of climate change as it featured more heavily in the media,” he says. “This made me start buying local produce and sustainably wrapped products.”

Research suggests that these aren’t just stories of individual experiences, but more so indicators of a generation-wide change. A 2020 study by the Pew Research Center found that almost 50% of Millennial and Gen Z men in the U.S. – even those from a Republican background, were concerned about climate change (as opposed to just 25% of their fathers). Still, there are a lot of uncomfortable questions that need to be asked in order for this progress to continue: Why do we still think it’s un-manly to care? And what’s the reason why young men avoid being associated with (what they perceive to be) feminine behaviors?

Some environmental experts suggest that eco-friendly products with more “masculine” labeling (or what they call “men-vironmental” packaging) can be a way of enticing male consumers to make greener choices. But isn’t that further leaning into the idea that “feminine = bad”?

Ultimately, there are no simple answers to any of these questions. But perhaps this is how we initiate change: by being brave enough to open a discussion, and to question our own gender biases. Because it’s the future of not only our society, but the planet at large that’s at stake.

Ralitza Petrova//  19 April 2022 // #GoingGreen

Ralitza Petrova is a lifestyle and entertainment journalist currently based in Germany. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria she graduated with a BA in Media from the Amsterdam University College and is now completing a master's in Journalism at HMKW Berlin. Besides studying, she has her own entertainment column for the website, writes poetry and occasionally vlogs. Her main areas of interest include environmentalism, pop culture, health, and wellness.

With eco-anxiety on the rise, now it’s time to intervene

by Deleted user -

Fierce forest fires, devastating floods, global epidemics, an increased number of hailstorms and tornadoes, are all visible consequences of climate change. Increasing awareness of these disasters around the world affects human health psychologically, especially among children and young adults. This novel psychological problem is known as "eco-anxiety."

Climate change, the disruption of the normal cycle of seasonal warming and cooling, is not a recent phenomenon as its early effects began decades ago. For example, according to Climate Change History, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius introduced one of the earlier theories of climate change in 1895, and he suggested that global temperatures would increase by 5 degrees Celsius. More than a century later, modern climate modeling has confirmed Arrhenius’ numbers.

Most of us understand the effects of climate change such as air pollution, drought, and epidemics. But we know little about how climate change affects our mental health. Scientists at the Institute of Global Health Innovation and the Grantham Institute report that the more concerned people are about the future of the world, the more likely they are to suffer from mental health issues. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), when these issues are severe, they may turn into a chronic fear of environmental doom, which is labeled as “eco-anxiety”.

A video clip “How does climate change affect our mental health?” by the Institute of Global Health Innovation and the Grantham Institute

Young people extremely worried about the climate crisis

Not only adults but also young people experience such climate-related concerns. According to a survey conducted by the APA in 2020, more than two-thirds of Americans are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet. The survey reveals that 67% of Gen Zers (18-23 years) and 63% of millennials (24-39 years) are somewhat or very concerned about the impact of climate change on their mental health compared to 42% of baby boomers (56-74 years) and 58% of Gen Xers (40-55 years).

Two questions on climate change and mental health from APA Public Opinion Poll.

Another survey conducted by the University of Bath among children and young adults shows that political inaction contributes to eco-anxiety. This survey conducted across 10 counties with 10 thousands of young people, for the first time, also shows that climate distress and anxiety are significantly related to perceived government inaction and associated feelings of betrayal. 64% of children and young people surveyed said their governments are not doing enough to avoid a climate catastrophe. University of Bath researcher Caroline Hickman highlights that the disconnect between what politicians say and what they do troubles the youth: “Broken promises and inaction coupled with the enormity of the climate crisis are all beginning to take their toll on children’s mental health.”

Although the empty words and inaction of politicians trigger eco-anxiety in young people, some young climate and environmental activist turn their concerns into actions courageously.

Actions to mitigate climate change can positively influence mental health

According to the data and discussions of scientists, we won’t “solve” climate change, at least not any time soon. But that doesn't mean there's nothing we can do. While helping to improve the environment, we also help ourselves. Climate change mitigation options can be directly beneficial to mental health. Dr. Gesche Huebner, a Senior Research Associate at the UCL Energy Institute, talks about the co-benefits of climate change mitigation actions that are helpful also for mental health in a podcast episode. Such small actions like reducing fossil fuel-powered traffic, moving to electric vehicles, and promoting active transfers such as walking and cycling that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she claims, not only make us feel better physically and mentally but also mitigate the effects of climate change.



A podcast episode on the impacts of climate change on mental health by UCL Energy Institute

Dr. Huebner further explains in Climate change and mental health that electric vehicles and active transport trade less noise and produce less heat. Infrastructure for active transport such as cycling or walking reduces the surface area of roads and parking spaces. We create more green and blue spaces for trees, plants, and water, all of which support our mental health. These “small” solutions applied to our communities can be bigger for one's mental health than they seem.

Eco-anxiety is on the rise, but anyone who is aware of the consequences of climate change could act now. We can start with walking or cycling as one of the basic solutions to reduce visible consequences of climate change as well as eco-anxiety. The next step would be to work with our communities to create green urban spaces freed of fossil-fueled traffic from which we all benefit mentally and physically.

What plans do you have?

Merve Kartal//  30 March 2022 // #GoingGreen

Merve Kartal has been working in the civil society sector for eleven years. She is currently Financial Support Programme Manager of the ongoing Media for Democracy, Democracy for Media Project in Turkey. She guides journalists in terms of networking, organization, visibility, and fundraising. She has significant experience in developing and implementing democratic support mechanisms for activists, civil society organizations, and journalists in Turkey. She contributes to the communication and PR activities of German Sparkassenstiftung Turkey as a Communication Specialist. She is currently studying in the M.A. Digital Journalism at HMKW University in Berlin.

(Edited by Ralitza Petrova - original submission Wednesday, 30 March 2022, 2:06 PM)

Prescribed Burns: Can They Save California?

by Deleted user -

Everyone in California dreads the fire season, which seems to get longer every year due to climate change. It is hard to enjoy a warm summer's day when the sky is an eerie orange-grey and your lungs are filled with smoke. From 2016 to 2020, wildfires in the state have increased from 6,959 to 7,335. Even more shocking is the jump in acres burned, with an increase from 669,534 acres in 2016 to 1,666,286 acres in 2020. As California’s climate is becoming drier as rainfall is decreasing, experts are looking for strategies to help prevent wildfires from increasing in intensity.

One old technique called prescribed burning has been proven to be very successful at preventing large wildfires. Indigenous groups developed this method, sometimes referred to as “cultural burning”, centuries ago. The technique involves removing small trees and brush and then setting intentional fires to specific areas of land. Combined, these actions help clear natural spaces of dry and flammable debris in order to prevent the rapid movement and intensity of wildfires. But they were prevented from practicing prescribed burning at the beginning of the 20th century when modern firefighting techniques were deemed more successful.

History of Fire Suppression

The long and robust history of fire suppression in the United States is tied to the creation of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. In 1910, a series of destructive wildfires swept across the Western United States. In total, three million acres were burned across Montana, Idaho, and Washington. In the aftermath of these fires, many people agreed that the extreme damage could have been prevented by fighting the fire more fiercely. This attitude ultimately shaped national fire policy at the time to one centered around fire prevention and suppression. This led to the reduction, and in some places complete elimination, of light or prescribed burns.

Burnt Area 1910
Acres burned in the fires of 1910 in Idaho. Source:

Indigenous Knowledge

The systematic killing and removal of indigenous people from their native lands such as the later established Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks over more than two centuries led to a significant loss of knowledge concerning native techniques of tending to nature. After the horrendous fires of 1910, indigenous communities were completely banned from practicing cultural burning because modern fire prevention did not comprehend the connection between a healthy ecosystem and controlled burning. Burning helped them keep the ecosystems healthy and thriving, which in turn led to ample game and resources on which their communities relied. It also connected them to the traditions of their ancestors who had been practicing burning long before them.

Some plants used by indigenous groups, such as deer grass and sumac rely on fire to spur new growth and kill off predators. Without the help of fire, these plants struggle to thrive, which has a heavy impact on indigenous people who use them for artistic production such as basket weaving, spiritual and everyday needs. As Ron W. Goode, of the North Fork Mono Tribe, told KCET in an interview: “we are burning to perfect this resource to supply resources for our culture.”

Photo of a deergrass and sumac basket.

Photo of deergrass and sumac basket. Source:;id=38481;type=101

Why Burning Is Important

Although it may seem counterintuitive, fire is very important for California’s ecology. Clearing out dry leaves and debris reduces the amount of fuel for wildfires, which prevents them from becoming large and destructive. They also keep invasive insect populations in check that would otherwise cause harm to native plants. They help plants and the landscape regenerate. Nutrients are returned to the soil in the form of ash, and seeds are dispersed. Some plants, like the knobcone pine, only disperse their seeds when in contact with fire. Therefore, fire suppression can actually be detrimental to a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Photo of a knob cone pinecone

Photo of a knob cone pinecone. Source:

The Process of Prescribed Burning

A lot of planning and thought go into every prescribed burn. It is crucial to prevent the fire from jumping from its designated area and burning uncontrollably. Sarah Gibson, a “burn boss” in training told the New York Times she only burns “when I’m confident that either it's not going to escape, or...I’m going to immediately catch it”. Fire crew will use both natural firebreaks, like bodies of water, and man-made fire breaks such as mowed areas and roads. The burn will only take place on a day with low wind, high humidity, and low temperatures. The fire is always started downwind next to a firebreak, to make sure it doesn’t move too fast. Once that fire is established and burning well, the crew will light fires on each side and the top of the plot of land. At the end of the burn, the crew will put out any lingering flames and drench the area in water.

A prescribed burn in Fort Ord, CA.

A prescribed burn in Fort Ord, CA. Source:

What Is Happening Now?

Not until the 1970s did national fire policy slowly include some prescribed burns when emerging research showed the positive impact this method had on wildfire management. But only in the past few years has prescribed burning been more widely accepted and suggested by the state as a means to control increasing wildfire threats.

Today, with wildfires posing an immense threat to both wildlife and property, federal, state, and private, “burn bosses” are involved in setting prescribed burns throughout California. In fact, in 2021 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that encourages more prescribed burns in the state. The bill he passed, SB 322, enacts legal protection for parties who practice prescribed burning for the benefit of the public protecting those who were previously hesitant to practice these burns due to legal and other obstacles they faced.

This change in legislation and attitude has a beneficial impact on California’s indigenous communities as well. As Rick O’Rourke, who grew up on the Yurok reservation in California, explained in The Guardian, “our first agreement with our creator was to tend the land. It was taken away from us and now we’re trying to reclaim it.” Although the process is slow, tribes like the Yurok in Northern California finally have the ability to participate in cultural burns again.

Hope For The Future

The truth is scary: California is in an extreme drought, and its fire season is growing in length and intensity. Fire suppression has been harmful to the landscape’s health and resilience, but it’s not too late to change course. Returning California’s relationship with fire to one of respect and understanding is a critical piece to saving the state from unchecked wildfires.

Resource on learning to live with fire:

Savita Joshi//  10 March 2022 // #GoingGreen

Originally from California, Savita Joshi lives in Berlin. She is working towards a Masters in Digital Journalism at HMKW. It is through her writing that she combines her passion for human rights, the environment, and reproductive justice with her love of words.

The War Against Methane Will Be Fought From Space - And Other Promising Strategies To Combat A Potent Greenhouse Gas

by Deleted user -

Hitting ambitious new methane reduction goals means relying on the latest tech, but real progress requires a wholesale change in consumption and energy use.


I grew up in the San Juaquin Valley of California, an extremely productive agricultural region of the Sunshine State. Almost everything you can think of is grown there, most of it in enormous quantities, including cows. When you enter the valley, no matter from which direction, your arrival is first and foremost signaled by the aroma these cows produce. To me it is like a combination of baked brie and a bucket of plums left to ferment in the summer heat. It seems to have a certain weight to it, like a blanket, and hits you like a freight train, all at once. It often elicits reactions of disgust and horror in others, but not for me. This particular pungent encounter always brings out an upswelling of excitement in me when I visit my family. It signals that I am almost home.

I found myself reflecting on the smell of the valley, and the cows that produce it, when I read that more than 103 countries pledged to cut their methane emissions by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030 at the COP26 conference in Glasgow last November. In concert with the announcement of this global pledge, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States announced new rules requiring oil and gas companies to more accurately detect, monitor, and repair leaks in their production infrastructure.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with a Global Warming Potential 80 times that of CO2.It is responsible for one quarter of the global warming we are experiencing today. CO2 can persist in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Methane, on the other hand, has a much shorter life-span of about 20 years. A sharp reduction in methane emission could have a disproportionate effect on the overall rate of global temperature rise. It is perhaps the most efficient way that we can affect climate change right now, as climate scientist Ilissa Ocko explained in a TED talk in 2021.

Burping Cows

The largest contribution to methane emissions comes from agriculture, specifically from enteric fermentation – the digestion process that occurs in the stomachs of ruminant animals, primarily cows, and results in burps (and farts, to a lesser extent) that contain methane. According to the EPA, methane emissions increased by 8.4 percent between 1990-2019. The increase can be attributed to a trend toward large-scale industrialization of dairy production.. Though the overall population of dairy cattle in the U.S. fell over the same period by 3.1 percent, milk production increased by 58%. As dairy cattle become concentrated in large-scale production operations, their methane emissions actually increase.

CH4 Emissions from Enteric Fermentation

Source: EPA Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2019

A number of approaches have been developed to reduce methane emissions in agricultural production, the most common of which is the use of methane digesters. Animal waste is collected in enormous containers that trap the gas produced for usage in energy production. Increasing the quality of animal feed also has an impact on the amount of methane produced. Dairy cattle in industrial operations are generally fed a homogenous diet of either corn or soy – a far cry from the variety of plants they would encounter in the natural environment, and a diet that results in excess methane emission. Certain feed additives, as recently approved for use in Brazil and Chile, greatly reduce methane emissions in cattle. Adding certain types of seaweed to their diet can have a similar effect.

Leaking Infrastructure

The second largest source of methane emissions comes from oil and gas production. The vast infrastructure of wells, pipelines, refineries, and ports that facilitate the extraction and consumption of oil and gas is continuously leaking vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere. . The potent greenhouse gas is both colorless and odorless, so these leaks are difficult to detect. The task of detecting and repairing these leaks is expensive, and most oil and gas companies have avoided doing it all together – out of sight, out of mind. However, the new EPA rules instituted in November 2021 are forcing oil and gas companies to take responsibility for what is estimated to be 15 percent of total emissions in the energy sector.

This new burden on energy companies presents an enormous opportunity for numerous innovative companies in the field of methane detection. The most common technology used is based on infrared imaging of the type found in military grade night vision goggles. Special cameras attached to planes and drones are flown over larges areas to detect leaks. These types of cameras are effective, but expensive, costing up to $100,000 each.

Infrared imaging is being deployed on a much bigger scale by the organization MethanSat. Their satellite, to be launched into orbit in October 2022, will continuously monitor for leaks on a global scale. , It will join various other satellite monitoring missions already underway. Other companies, like LongPath Technologies, are using a Nobel Prize-winning innovation developed at the University of Colorado, Boulder called “laser frequency comb.” It projects a broad range of laser frequencies in a rotating beam (like a ships radar) to scan for leaks continuously within a 2.5 mile radius.

Fig. 1: Satellite observations of atmospheric methane from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI), developed by the European Space Agency

We Have a Role to Play The global commitment made at COP26 to reduce methane emissions is a hugely important step in combating the climate crisis. Meeting those goals won’t be possible without innovative solutions to combat the causes. Implementing them at scale will require large scale investment and a continued commitment by both government and industry. We must not, however, lose sight of the true goal –a zero-emission future. We as consumers and citizens have role to play here. We can make choices about the amount of meat and dairy in our diets, and we can pressure our governments to act to accelerate the development of a green energy infrastructure. It is possible for me to imagine a future where I enter the San Juaquin Valley and am struck by the absence of that thick aroma of cow manure. A part of me may long for it, out of a sense of nostalgia, but its absence will signal the progress we’ve made towards a better future. That is a trade-off I’ll gladly accept.

Some Videos and Readings for the Curious:

TED Talk by Lisa Ocko on tackling the problem of methane emissions

CBS News report in San Francisco on the impact of large scale dairy production:

Biogas digester at Oregon's Lochmead Farms turns manure and methane into power,” The Oregonian (Jan, 10, 2019)

Michael Grubb//  22 February 2022 // #GoingGreen

Michael Grubb is a master student in Digital Journalism at the Hochschule für Medien, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft (HMKW) in Berlin, Germany. He was born and raised in the Central Valley of California, and completed his undergraduate degrees in German Literature and Political Economics at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. He has been living and working in Germany since 2014.

Webinar: Media Literacy – Detecting Disinformation in the Classroom

by Katja Krüger -

Die Akademie der Bayerischen Presse bietet Seminare für Journalisten, Volontäre und Mitarbeiter in der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und Unternehmenskommunikation an.

> Link zur Webseite und zur Registrierung

Fake or misleading news can crucially affect opinions on specific topics. We can currently observe this using the example of the COVID-19 pandemic. But how to detect disinformation – especially if it targets or is spread among school students? We will show you the basic concepts of information manipulation. And how to fight back against it.

You are
A teacher (English, History, Politics) or journalist in Germany reporting about media literacy efforts / conducting newspaper workshops at schools / with a general interest in the topic.

You have
Good listening comprehension skills in English.



Duration: 4 hours

2.00 - 6.00 p.m.

Registration Link:

Fireside Chat with Climate Activist Bill McKibben

by Katja Krüger -

Saving Our Planet? What We Need to Do Now to Combat Climate Challenges and Secure Our Future

The US Embassy in Berlin and US Consulates in Germany are launching a  Virtual Speaker Series that  engages extraordinary American experts and visionaries with counterparts and  audiences here in Germany. We are excited to invite you to the first event featuring the prominent environmentalist, activist and best-selling author Bill McKibben in dialogue  with the chair of the Environment and Climate Policy department at TU Munich, Dr. Miranda Schreurs.

In 1988 Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest and most salient warnings about climate change in The End of Nature. It was the first book for a mass audience about global warming. Since then, Bill McKibben has written numerous books and articles, including in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone. He also founded – the first planet-wide grassroots climate change movement. Bill McKibben recently announced in his blog that he intends to return to activism to motivate the Boomer generation to join the young in combating climate change.

As Vice Chair of the European Environment and Sustainable Development  Advisory Councils, Dr. Miranda Schreurs is involved in projects examining the climate policies of Europe, the United States, and China. She will share her view on comparative environmental policy and low-carbon energy transitions.

Join us on October 28, 2021 at 7 p.m. (GMT +2) for a Fireside Chat with the leading climate policy opinion makers. Participation is free of charge.

Please register here 

in order to receive further information and the participation link for the event.

Brush up your language skills and sign up for a German-American summer program

by Katja Krüger -
POCACITO is the German-American Summer Academy on Coastal Biodiversity and Climate Change in Mississippi. From July 12 to 16 you will work on a team project and the online segment of the program is scheduled for 9-12 CT / 16:00 – 19:00 CEST on Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Friday Youth from Germany and Mississippi will meet online and explore how to preserve coastal biodiversity and how to protect the coasts and coastal ecosystems against the impacts of climate change. You will hear from scientists in Germany and Mississippi and run your own investigative project. For more information on the program visit

Going Green in 10 Steps

by Mallory King -

Even at a young age, I recognized the importance of our environment, which is why I decided to apply to one of the most environmentally friendly universities in the United States. Our campus was almost exclusively run-on biomass, wind and solar energy; however it was once I came to Germany that I really understood what I could do on a smaller scale to be more environmentally conscious. 

Which is why I wanted to write about ten changes I have made since moving to Germany, that help make my carbon footprint a little bit smaller.  


Going on a bike trip

  1. Reusable bags – Although this is common practice in Germany,  I never used reusable bags regularly in the United States. Since moving to Germany, if I don’t have enough reusable bags in my backpack, I just don’t go to the grocery store. Although this is slowly changing in the United States, I am still shocked how many plastic bags are still used on a regular basis. Last year while visiting home, I bought a lip balm, smaller than your average roll of tape and I was shocked to see the cashier throw the tiny container in a plastic bag and hand it to me. 
  2. Ziploc bags – I love picnics, I love the stereotypical American sandwich with chips for lunch. I would use a small plastic bag for my sandwich, another for my carrots, and another for chips. I did this for years. When I think about it now, I cringe a bit. Those hundreds of bags are sitting in a landfill to this day, probably in similar condition as they were when I used them. I am now the proud owner of a bento box and several reusable plastic containers (most of which, are recyclables).
  3. A drying rack – This took some getting used to. In college, I only washed my clothes with cold water. Someone had once told me it was a great way to save energy. However right after using cold water I would throw my clothes in the dryer, which is very energy inefficient. I now too am a proud owner of a dryer rack. I like them so much, I made my mother who lives in Arizona buy one too. You rarely see rain in Arizona and the sun constantly shines, perfect conditions for naturally drying clothes.  
  4. Bars – In college I was gifted a shampoo bar and I loved it. After using one and loving it I for some reason never again used a shampoo bar in the states. However, when I moved to Germany they were everywhere and super easy to buy. They aren’t expensive and if I buy the right one, I don’t need a conditioner, just one bar and two less plastic bottles. But I didn’t stop there, I also now use a body bar. I have even found lotion bars, facial soap bars among other cool beauty product bars. I read an article once, that stated the average person in Germany has 30 plastic bottles in their home… I had even more! Between cleaning products, food, soaps, lotions, reusable drinking bottles etc. Now days it is easy to buy tablets to make cleaning products, refill oils or soaps at no packaging stores and get beauty products in the form of a bar.  
  5. Eating organic – In the states organic food is really hard to buy, because it is so expensive. When I went home last summer, I was craving pineapple, which at the time was in season (although definitely not local). The pineapple which was not organic was almost ten dollars! Eating fresh foods is expensive already, buying organic was near impossible as a student. Germany offers many low budget organic food products at discount supermarkets. Although I don’t eat exclusively organic, I am willing to spend a little more to buy organic. 
  6. Investing in quality and fixing old things – I look back at my buying habits and I almost exclusively bought the cheapest option available, as long as it was decent quality. I am now very German in my purchasing habits. I read reviews, I check the test scores of products and spend more money on something with the hopes that it will last ten years rather than one. I have had my winter jacket stitched up where it got a rip and I have had the zipper replaced. This is a new way of thinking for me.  I would simply throw out the broken things.
  7. Properly recycling – Being rewarded for recycling sure does help, I love getting a discount on my groceries when I bring back those plastic bottles. This does happen in the states too, but only in a few select states. Boy oh boy do I look back at my waste in the states and think… this is so easy, why was this not happening? We did recycle, by putting plastic, glass and paper all in the same bin, and bringing it to the curb once a month to be picked up. I do wonder though how everything was sorted and to what extent everything was recycled. Biomüll?! Never had it, never tried it and never wanted to… that is until I moved here. Composting is something farmers did, but it has definitely caught on in the states too. 
  8. Biking not driving – This is huge! I bike everywhere here, which saves me money, time and gives the environment a bit of a “breather.” Living in the states I would drive loops around the parking lot trying to get a closer spot, so I didn’t have to walk as far. I bike to work here, it is a 45-minute ride, but I feel refreshed and more fit than ever before. When it is cold, rainy, or  snowy I take the train, but  for the most part biking is the “way to go.” After living in Germany for three years, I moved back to the states for a six-month span and used my bike to get to work. I rarely if ever saw someone else on a bike. I sometimes took the train or bus, but it was very empty and not properly utilized.  I will say I miss using my car as a storage facility. When going from one job to the next, it was easy to pack both uniforms in the trunk of my car, leave snacks in the back seat and bring a gym bag for the occasional stop, running multiple errands was never a hassle, because I didn’t have to carry everything home and if I did, I wasn’t dripping in sweat, by the time I reached my front door.     
  9. Considering plastic – It is incredible how much one time use plastic is on the market. I realize now how often I was buying a lot of my groceries in plastic packaging, when it simply wasn’t necessary. A pack of three bell peppers in a plastic package is just a few cents less than the bell peppers sold separately. I have never understood, why the item with plastic is cheaper than the product without.
  10. Eating less meat – America loves meat, I love meat. I went vegan for two years in college, I couldn’t keep doing it. Cheese and ice cream are my favorite foods. However, moving to Germany made finding alternative milk products so much easier. I have cut back on my meat consumption to once or possibly twice a week. I now drink Oat-milk, coconut yoghurt and although I still eat cheese, I have cut back on that too.

I see changes in my own life, but one of the huge things that has changed is the people around me. When I go home and tell my mom the benefits of using a hanging drying rack, or my partner decides to eat more vegetarian meals, because that is what I prepare, I see my footprint already effecting others. So spread your knowledge and help others see how easy it can be to make a few small changes that spread quickly. The environment isn’t going to save itself, so as Gandhi once said, be the change you wish to see in the world. 

To learn more about how other Americans are changing their habits to protect the environment check out the blog to hear a few other perspectives.

U.S.-Wahl: Schüler*innen prognostizieren Sieg für Biden

by Joannis Kaliampos -

(scroll down for English version)

2. November 2020

Berlin/Lüneburg. Das Ergebnis der U.S.-Wahlen steht für mehr als 5.000 deutsche und amerikanische Schülerinnen und Schüler bereits fest: Joe Biden wird der 46. Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika heißen. Bei der heutigen Online-Abschlussveranstaltung des U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2020 gaben die Schüler*innen Bundesstaat für Bundesstaat ihre Prognose zum Wahlausgang ab. Biden wird danach 334 Stimmen erhalten. Donald Trump brachte es bei der Vorhersage nur auf 204 der 538 Wahlmänner und –frauen des Electoral College. Kursinhalte und Lerndesign des Projekts hatten Joannis Kaliampos und Professor Torben Schmidt vom Institute of English Studies der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg entwickelt. Das bundesweite Schulprojekt wurde von der U.S.-Botschaft initiiert.

Seit dem Schuljahresbeginn beschäftigten sich die Schüler in ihren Englisch-Kursen damit, den Ausgang der Wahl richtig vorherzusagen. Jeder teilnehmenden Klasse wurde dazu ein U.S.-Staat zugelost. Die Aufgabe bestand darin, nach eingehender Beschäftigung mit den jeweiligen gesellschaftlichen Themen und den Wahlaussagen der Kandidaten den Wahlausgang für ‚ihren’ Bundesstaat zu ermitteln. Die Prognosen trafen bei vorangegangenen Wahlen schon mehrfach ins Schwarze: Die sehr genauen Vorhersagen zum Wahlausgang waren teilweise besser als manches Polit-Barometer in den USA oder Deutschland.

Dieses Jahr gaben unter allen Teilnehmern 195 Kurse eine Prognose für ihren Staat bis kurz vor der Wahl ab, sodass für einzelne Bundesstaaten mehrere Prognosen vorliegen. Die Prognosen sind nicht immer einstimmig, aber zu jedem Staat konnte eine Mehrheitsentscheidung ermittelt werden. Die Schüler*innen sehen dabei den Herausforderer Biden in mehreren Schlüsselstaaten vor Trump, die dieser 2016 noch für sich entscheiden konnte, etwa in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania oder Florida.

Das US Embassy School Election Project 2020 ist eine Weiterentwicklung eines bereits zu den Präsidentschaftswahlen 2008, 2012 und 2016 von der US-Botschaft in Berlin ausgerichteten Projekts. Das innovative Curriculum für das Projekt entwickelten ein Projektteam der US-Botschaft, der Berliner Bildungsorganisation LIFE e.V. und des Institute of English Studies der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. Mit Unterstützung des Transatlantic Outreach Program beim Goethe-Institut in Washington D.C. gelang es, Schulklassen mit amerikanischen Partnerschulen zu vernetzen und so einen direkten transatlantischen Informationsaustausch im Wahlprojekt zu ermöglichen.

U.S. Election: Students Predict Victory for Biden

Berlin/Lüneburg. More than 5,000 German and American students already know the outcome of the U.S. elections: Joe Biden is going to be the 46th President of the United States of America. At today's online closing event for the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2020, students will give their predictions for the election outcome state by state. Biden will receive 334 electoral votes while Donald Trump is projected to only receive 204 of the 538 electoral votes. Joannis Kaliampos and Professor Torben Schmidt of the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University Lüneburg co-developed the course content and learning design of the project. The nationwide school project was initiated by the U.S. Embassy.

Since the school year began, students in participating classrooms have dealt with the election in their English courses. Each participating class was assigned a U.S. state. The task was to determine the outcome of the election for 'their' state by examining the respective social issues and the candidates' statements. Their forecasts have been correct before and in previous years predicted the election outcome more accurately than many political polls in the USA or Germany.

This year, 195 courses submitted a forecast for their state shortly before the election, with each state being covered by multiple classes. The forecasts are not always unanimous, but a majority decision could be determined for each state. The students predicted Biden would win several key states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida, all of which Trump carried in 2016.

The U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2020 is a continuation of precursors organized by the U.S. Embassy Berlin for the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections. The innovative project curriculum was developed by a project team from the U.S. Embassy, the Berlin-based educational non-profit LIFE e.V., and the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University Lüneburg. With the support of the Transatlantic Outreach Program at the Goethe-Institut in Washington D.C., it was possible to network school classes with American partner schools and thus enable a direct transatlantic exchange of information in the election project.

(Leuphana University)

Click the map to create your own at

» Results of the student competition

» Press information

Chapter 6: Jay (65) CONNECTICUT Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

Our next interviewee is Jay, a 65 year old caucasian male originally from Rhode Island, currently living in Connecticut. Jay identifies as a Roman Catholic and after completing high school Jay worked in the sporting goods industry and retail before retiring in 2019.  

Q: Did you vote in the 2016 presidential election? If so what was your experience like?

JAY: Yes. I drove to designated polling/voting location, passed through voting registration, then filled out a computerized voting form at one of the individual private voting tables. I then proceeded to a voting machine and fed my completed voting form into the machine that then tabulates the counts as the form is fed into it.

Q: Have you registered to vote? If so, what was the process like?

JAY: Yes. When I registered a number of years ago, all I did was fill out a “Voter Registration Form”, bring it to my city clerk’s office with a state issued ID card (usually your driver’s license) and then I was registered. In turn, they contact your previous voting city/town to take you off that city/town’s voting registration list.

Q: Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? Why (not)? How?

JAY: Sometimes with other willing parties. However, there are factions that “only their opinion counts, so it’s their way or the highway!” Those folks are not worthy of an adult conversation.


Jay with his dog Jacoby

Q:Will you vote in the upcoming election? How? 

JAY: Yes, I will go to the polls and vote in-person. Of course, using safe practices associated with COVID 19 wearing a mask, not shaking hands, using anti-bacterial solutions and safe distancing.

Q:  What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? Why is this important to you?

JAY: Not being on the financial take or getting political favors from special interest groups

Q: How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S?

JAY: Most are afraid to publically state their voting intentions because of peer pressure of those who believe it’s their way or the highway

Q: What campaign issue(s) is do you feel strongly about? Why? 

JAY: Law and order, economy, creating jobs, peaceful discussions and peaceful  agreements globally 

Q:  Which media do you use to inform yourself about the election?

JAY: I watch local and national news casts on TV.

Q:  How do you feel about the news coverage of the U.S. elections?

JAY: National Newscast coverage of national politics is biased at best against the President, whereas local news coverage appears to be neutral.

Q: Does this information vary in your region? 

JAY: News does not vary within our region. However, local coverage does not appear to favor one candidate over the other.

Q:  What do you feel foreigners don’t understand about the U.S. election? 

JAY: The biased reporting of American news media and their reporters

Q: Have you followed the presidential race from abroad? How does that differ from your previous experiences in the U.S.?

JAY: I have not had the opportunity to follow the U.S. Presidential Election from abroad. So I do not have any idea.

Q:  What would you recommend a German student analyze in your state?

JAY: How the larger cities in Connecticut, namely: Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport remain heavily committed to the Democratic Party. Those living in the inner-cities will vote for whoever runs as a Democratic candidate. It could be a convicted criminal; a rapist; or a cartoon character like Mickey Mouse. The voters in those cities hardly consider the capability or integrity of the candidate when voting.

Chapter 6: Grace (78) CONNECTICUT Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

Grace, a 78 Roman Catholic in retirement from Connecticut 

Q: Did you vote in the 2016 presidential election? 

GRACE: I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote as a young woman).  I am a registered Democrat and usually vote for the Democratic candidate.  I was not especially excited to vote for Clinton until a week or so before the election until I thought, I would be voting for the first female president in our nation’s history.  I wore white to the polling place in remembrance of suffragettes . I fell asleep before the results were in and woke up around 3 AM when my husband told me that Trump had won.  I experienced a feeling of doom, which has not let up since.  I’m fearing for my country and democracy as we know it. I live in Connecticut, which is usually a Democratic state.  The state went for Clinton, but I don’t recall how much she won by.  


Q:  Have you registered to vote? If so, what was the process like and is there anything about the process you wish were different?  

GRACE: I am currently registered to vote. Voting in Connecticut is not a problem.  I might vote by mail this year but not sure yet.  My husband and I have not decided.  The corona virus is mostly in control in Connecticut and we probably won’t experience long lines.  We will request an absentee ballot but may or may not fill it out. I do wish we did not have the Electoral College. We are a small state and do not have many electoral votes and do not get much attention from candidates.  I believe that one person’s vote should have the same value in every state.  Currently, some states’ votes count for more than others.


Q: Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? 

GRACE: I do discuss politics with like-minded friends.  Do not discuss much with those who don’t agree with me as I currently feel we are experiencing two different realities.  Facts don’t seem to matter to those who get most of their information from Fox news.  


Q:  What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? 

GRACE: I will be voting for Biden in the upcoming election. It is important that a presidential candidate have the same or similar views as I do.  A president chooses Supreme Court judges, which must be voted on the Senate.  This is important regarding issues such as environmental restrictions, worker’s rights, women’s right to choose (this  phrase refers to the right of women to decide about abortion, it is a slogan adopted by the women's rights movement, and refers to her right to choose what can and cannot happen to her own body), racial issues, etc.


Q:  How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S? 

GRACE: Currently, in the US, we are very polarized, probably more so than at any time in my lifetime.  I think it has gotten worse because of people’s perception of racial issues.  Having a president of African American descent who was well-educated, charismatic, and admired world-wide seems to have unleashed a hidden racism in the American psyche.  Trump’s ability to become president seems to have become the result of this hatred of the “other”.  Now even when we have recordings in his own words stating in private the opposite of what he told the American people in public, his supporters do not budge in their unwavering support of him.  


Q: What do you think the local perception of the election is (in your own community)?

GRACE: Regarding local perception of the election, Connecticut usually votes Democratic, but I still see many Trump banners in my town and  cars and trucks driving around with big Trump flags blasting horns, etc.  I don’t understand it but am aware that there is a large segment of the population that sees things differently than I do.


Grace chose to share a photo she took looking out at the water.

Q: What campaign issue(s) is do you feel strongly about? 

GRACE: The issues I feel most strongly about are:  

The environment.  Mother Nature is not happy.  Hurricanes, tornados, floods, earth quakes, etc.  The northwest in this country is pretty much on fire.  Several months ago almost the whole of Australia was in the same situation.  Trump has consistently lowered restrictions that favor business to the detriment of the environment.  He calls global warming and climate change a “hoax”.

Racism.  Slavery has been called the “original sin” of this country.  It was finally ended but the effects continue.  The Declaration of Independence said “All men are created equal . . .”  However, all do not have equal opportunity.  Also, all are not treated equally.

Women’s right to choose.  I am not in favor of abortion, but strongly in favor of each woman making choices for her own life based on her own personal circumstances.  Also, those who call themselves “pro-life” are really “pro-birth” as they don’t really seem to care what happens to the baby once it’s born.  For instance, they seem to be unwilling to support the child through access to health care, food, education, etc.

 Those are my top three.  I could go on.  Gun control, Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his suggesting bogus cures for the virus which are then accepted by his supporters as truth, his equating Neo-Nazis and KKK white supremacists with peaceful protesters, his lies about everything, his inability to ever condemn Putin for anything, including interference with our elections, his using the presidency to profit financially—both himself and his family, his vulgarity and ignorant language, etc.


Q: What is your opinion in regard to the current protests (you may choose which protests you want to expand on)?  

GRACE: The treatment of blacks at the hands of the police has gotten more national attention recently mostly because most people now have cell phones that can record these incidents.  I don’t think they are all innocent, but they are treated differently than whites.  For example, a white man went into a Black church a few years ago and joined their prayer group.  Then killed most of them for no logical reason other than that they were Black.  When arrested, he was treated to a hamburger at a fast food restaurant.  On the other hand, Black people have been killed for selling illegal cigarettes, cashing a bad check  (not even sure it was a bad check),  shot in the back 7 times.  The incident that affected me personally was a Black woman about to start a new job in Texas.  She was followed by a policeman closely, and so she pulled over.  He then proceeded to give her a ticket for not using her signal.  I saw the video.  Next thing she was in handcuffs and taken to jail overnight as she did not have money for bail.  She had just lost a baby, and was depressed and committed suicide in jail.  I kept thinking of a time when I was stopped for a minor traffic violation.  I was given a verbal warning.  No way I would have wound up in handcuffs and taken to jail.  And in the unlikely event I had to post bail, no way I would not have had access to the $500 or so necessary to not spend the night in jail.  We are definitely not treated equally.  I do condemn the violence (in the streets), however.  I also question if some of it is not instigated by right-wingers who want to create bad press for the peaceful protests.  I do not believe in turning militia on American citizens. 

Chapter 5: Jason (45) NEBRASKA Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

Jason, a white 45-year-old male living in Kearney, Nebraska, employed full time with Johnson Controls.

Q: What is your religion, if any? 

JASON: I was raised Roman Catholic, but am not currently practicing. I have been clean / sober since March 18, 1998 and have moved toward being more spiritual rather than being involved with organized religion. 

Q: What is the highest degree of school you have completed?

JASON: I have a high school diploma and have obtained 3 years of college credits. 


Jason with his dog

Q: Did you vote in the presidential 2016 election? If so what was your experience like?

JASON: Yes I did. Kearney has roughly 30,000 residents so my voting experience was very easy. With a smaller community we do not have long lines. My job affords me the option to make my own schedule so I always try to vote either mid-morning or mid-afternoon. 

Q:  Do you remember what the results of the 2016 elections in your state were? If so what was your experience like?

JASON: Yes, I was relieved that Trump won our state. Nebraska has 93 counties and 5 Electoral College votes and a population of 1,934,000 (2020 estimate). 91 counties voted for Trump with 2 going to Clinton. All 5 Electoral College votes went to Trump. Trump received 495,691 (58.7%) votes, Clinton received 284,494 (33.7%) votes. 

Q:  Have you registered to vote? 

JASON: Yes, I registered when I was 18. That was 27 years ago, I do not remember the process. 

Q:  Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? Why (not)? How?

JASON: I have several friends that I discuss politics with. Some of my friends align very closely with my own political views and we can have some very in-depth discussions about all issues that the United States are having. I have a few friends who do not align with my political views; we can discuss politics, but we understand there are issues we do not discuss due to our views being too far apart. When my friends and I discuss politics in person, we have a very respectful conversation and try and understand other views or solutions to problems. At times this is very hard to do as each person may have an issue that they are passionate about. I was adopted at 3 weeks old so abortion is an issue that I have a hard time discussing. Thankfully my biological mother gave me up for adoption rather than choosing an abortion. 

Q:  Will you vote in the upcoming election? How?

JASON: I will vote in person in the upcoming election. 

Q: What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? Why is this important to you?

JASON: The biggest concern to me is protecting the constitution and the rights of the citizens. The second the government starts taking away our rights is the second they will start to take more. History has shown us that when a government takes the means for a population to defend themselves (guns) then it is far easier for the government to take total control. We also have freedoms that we do not want the government to take; freedom of choice, equal opportunity to succeed, and a vast network of help for people who are down on their luck. 

I also want a President who will put America first. I don’t want a President to destroy our relationships with other foreign countries, but we have put others in front of America and that has created a lot of issues in our country. 

Q:  How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S?

JASON: The current state of politics is a mess. COVID and race relations have our country divided right now. The media carries a lot of fault in these two issues. Conservative and liberal media outlets have taken too much of a political stance and have used their platform to divide us and have moved away from reporting the facts. In my travels and discussions with a wide variety of people I feel that the population of the country is a lot closer in their ideals than the media lead us to believe. Most of the discussions I have had have been very good and we mostly agree that the average citizen needs to remove the MSM (mainstream media) from their life and do their own research. 

Q: What do you think the local perception of the election is (in your own community)? 

JASON: Nebraska is very conservative as a whole. The metro area of Lincoln and Omaha is more liberal. In my specific area we are conservative, but also progressive. The perception I am encountering is that most people, regardless Democrat or Republican, are sick of the media interference in the elections. I am finding a lot of the locals are starting to do their own research and avoiding major media outlets. 

Q:  What campaign issue(s) is do you feel strongly about? Why? How do you hope the election will influence it?

JASON: The 2nd amendment (gun ownership) is my top priority this election cycle. The Democrats in this election cycle have already stated that they want to abolish the 2nd amendment. What concerns me about abolishing an amendment of our constitution is once they take away one it will be easier for them to start taking others.  

My other priority is to avoid high taxes and socialism. We have seen what socialism has done to so many other countries over the course of history that I do not want to see my country and our citizens end up in bread lines. The Democrats like to point to Scandanavian countries as the model we can emulate in our country yet our cultural diversity and large population coupled with the massive amount of freedoms we have will never work with any form of socialism. 

Q: Are there any campaign issues or topics that are especially important in your state or community or any other decisions that will be on the ballot in your state?

JASON: I think most conservatives in Nebraska are concerned with higher taxes. Legalized casino gambling is one of the main issues that is being pushed in the state. 

Q:  What is your opinion in regard to the current protests (you may choose which protests you want to expand on)?

JASON: I have some strong feelings about all of the protests. BLM/ANTIFA – I am all for peaceful protests, they are protected by our constitution, and I will fully support anyone who wants to hold a peaceful protest. The second those protests become violent, as we have seen throughout our country, is the second I will not support anyone involved with them. I have no love for anyone who burns down a business or home. When they burn a home or business they have created a life altering change for those owners. The BLM/ANTIFA protests are also not looking at the facts of the cases they are becoming violent over. It has been shown over the course of the past 6-8 weeks that incidents that have created the protests have been based upon false information. 

Q: Which media do you use to inform yourself about the election?

JASON: Over the course of the past six months I have moved towards using the Associated Press and Rueters as my news outlets. They are the least biased outlets that I can find. I used to use CNN and Fox News to try and see both sides, but both of those outlets have become increasingly biased. 

Q:  How do you feel about the news coverage of the U.S. elections?

JASON: It has become a cess pool of lies. The bulk of the liberal and conservative media have moved to using very, very leading headlines to get “clicks”.  Nick Sandman, the young man from Covington Catholic school, just won a large defamation suite against CNN for spreading false information about his interaction with a Native American man during a rally in Washington D.C. recently. When a media outlet loses a defamation case, that targets a minor, we can, with out reservation, say that our national media has lost their way and have become a mouthpiece for whichever party they support. It is very disheartening to me. 

Q:  What do you feel foreigners don’t understand about the U.S. election? 

JASON: Most eastern countries do not understand how biased our media is. We have to live with it every day and the crush of information, from both sides, has become overwhelming. Another problem is when a person does not live in the USA they don’t really understand how the country works. The only info they have is what the read or is relayed to them via social media. Without the personal experience of living in the USA for an extended period they will never fully understand how it all works. This applies to all countries of our world. It seems that everyone is now a geopolitical professional and they “know” how it works in other countries. Americans don’t know how things work in Germany politically or socially. 

Q:  What would you recommend a German student analyze in your state?

JASON: Agriculture is a major industry in our state. Taxes hit farmers very hard every year. My friends own 3,600 acres of land and the taxes they pay on that land is roughly $70-$90 and acre. So my friends pay between $252,000-$324,000 on the land they own. 

Chapter 4: Clare (30) OREGON Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

Clare, a 30 year old Caucasian bartender and freelance event organizer from Berlin, New Hampshire, currently living in Eugene, Oregon, USA

Q: Did you vote in the presidential 2016 election? If so what was your experience like?

CLARE: Yes, the process went smoothly, my emotional state was a little strained.  My polling place was at a school fairly close to my home/work, and I was able to go in to vote that morning before work.  I had already registered online so all I had to do was walk in, ‘check in’ with my name and address (which they matched to a master list of registered voters for that polling place) and then I went into the booth to fill out my ballot.

The emotional strain was simply because of the candidates. I generally vote Democrat and although I didn’t really care for Hilary Clinton, I was really worried that Donald Trump would win so I voted for Clinton anyway.


Clare after a hike with Eugene behind her

Q:  Have you registered to vote? If so, what was the process like and is there anything about the process you wish were different?  

CLARE: Yes, I have since moved to a new state (Oregon) so the process was different for me. Oregon has allowed mail-in voting since the early 2000s. Because I am a new resident, I have to go through an additional step to register. I went online ( to complete and print a registration form. That has to be mailed in to our local voting office. They review, verify my information is correct, and then they will mail me a ballot. I can fill out my ballot and then either: mail it in, OR drop it in a sercure ballot box. The ballot box is my preferred option. It looks similar to a mail drop, but clearly marked as an official ballot box, and is heavily built and locked to ensure security. I wish the overall process were a bit simpler but I think COVID may be playing a role in that. I can see where there would be potential for barriers for some people. Not everyone has access to a home computer, printer, or even internet. Accessing the public computers at the library is more difficult right now (COVID is still rampant in the US) so that may make this process more difficult.

Otherwise, I’m actually really pleased with the process in Oregon. Many states do not allow mail-in voting with ease, and that creates more barriers to voting. Everyone should have the ability to vote.

Q:  Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? Why (not)? How?

CLARE: Yes and no. I generally don’t dicusss much with my parents. Although reasonably sensible people, we do have serious generational gaps that make it hard for them to truly understand and relate. I do speak pretty openly with many close friends, and it’s not really a special conversation. With many friends, it’s simply a part of life and discussion, no different than any other topic.

Q:  What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? Why is this important to you?

CLARE: Policies, and then the person. I hate that this is the situation, but I can hardly rely on our politicians to be decent humans anymore. Thus, I vote on policy first. Human rights issues, women’s rights, immigration, environment, and economy are the major points I look at when choosing a candidate. Generally, I fall into the Democratic party.

The ‘why’ is simply because everyone deserves a good quality of life. We all deserve fair wages, access to healthcare, and access to education.

Q:  How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S?

CLARE: It’s a disaster. The parties and people are so divided in such an extreme way, and it’s not getting any better. The idea of individualism is out of control. The ‘blame game’ is happening from both sides and just creating even more division, hatred, and anger. My observation/fear is that many people are behaving in such an extreme way that they may act or even vote out of spite, rather than in a way that’s truly beneficial for the population as a whole.

Q:  What campaign issue(s) do you feel strongly about? Why? How do you hope will the election influence it?

CLARE: Human rights, first. For me that includes women’s rights (plentiful access to healthcare, contraceptives, empowerment to stand up to sexual abusers) and racial issues. Immigration is also a big one that I feel is closely linked to human rights. I believe diversity makes us better as a country and as individuals. People should be able to follow their dreams and opportunities, to leave behind war, or pursue higher education without facing the hurdles and discrimination that often comes with immigration in the US. 

Education. This is a big one. Teachers are grossly underpaid and overworked in the US. Their classrooms are far too large, most of education is based on test scores with no regard to individual successes. Schools receive unfair funding (from property taxes, which means rich neighbourhoods get more funding which equals better education. It’s one of many ways this country keeps poor people poor.). And then beyond that, higher education is hugely expensive with zero promise for return. I am a good example. It took me ten years to finish a college degree, because of the prohibitive cost. I am still a bartender, because I simply make more money doing that than I would in my field of study, and since I have school debt to repay, I can’t afford a pay cut. I could go on endlessly about the issue of education in the US. The reality is: education is the key to everything. Education gives people a chance, a way out or up, and a wider view of the world. Unfortunately, the system in this country is built in a way to ensure certain people never reap those benefits. Beyond those two issues, I look at things like healthcare-for-all, environmental and economic issues, world policy, etc

Q: Are there any campaign issues or topics that are especially important in your state or community? Any other decisions that will be on the ballot in your state?

CLARE: I can, tell you the two major issues that I will be voting on next time around. Oregon, and especially the city I live in (Eugene) has some of the largest numbers of homelessness in the entire country. Taxes here are very high, and yet somehow the city/state never seem to have the funding to provide support/assistance to these people. My next vote will be largely focused on the candidate who has a plan to truly assist in getting people off the streets, into housing, jobs, and a new start. My second major local issue will be environmental. Oregon is currently experiencing the worst wildfires in its known history. The obvious points to climate change, and the fact that the world is only getting hotter and drier which makes the fires worse.

Q:  What is your opinion in regard to the current protests (you may choose which protests you want to expand on)?

CLARE: I participated in the protests. I marched, I helped provide food and medical supplies, and I stayed up all night in a neighborhood watch when we heard the KKK was in town. I am in full, 100% support of the riots and the Black Lives Matter movement. We are living in a time when police are able to commit crimes in plain sight and face no reprecussions. We are in a time when angry white men can carry guns to the capitol because they’re mad they have to wear a mask, but a black man can’t even go for a run (RIP Ahmaud) (For more information about Ahmaud please visit: ). The late, great, MLK Jr. said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The US is a country built on racism. It is still a country that is (sadly) deepy divided on race-related issues, which means many voices are still being silenced. I will gladly protest every day until these voices are heard and supported.

Q:  Which media do you use to inform yourself about the election?

CLARE: NYTimes and NPR are my main major networks. I subscribe to their published works, as well as following their social media outlets.  I do try to occasionally check other popular sources to remain as well informed as possible, while trying to avoid too much of a bias. 

Q:  How do you feel about the news coverage of the U.S. elections?

CLARE: This one is tough. Social media is definitely changing the way news is shared. There seems to be a lot more extremist reporting in this election, even more so than in 2016. The far right vs. the far left. It all feels very sensationalized, but, then again, the current President came out of reality TV so I guess its fitting. Overall I feel that it can be hard to find good, authentic journalistic reporting regarding this election.

Q:  What do you feel foreigners don’t understand about the U.S. election? 

CLARE: Many of us want better. Many of us do not support the electoral college, or even the state many of us are in. Many, many Americans are struggling and want better for their country. And, those who don’t, are often a product of a failed system (it all comes back to education) and truly don’t know any better.

Q:  What would you recommend a German student analyze in your state?

CLARE: Oregon was one of the first states to allow mail-in voting so I would recommend looking into that subject. Pres. Trump has tried to make a big case for voter fraud but the historal evidence shows otherwise. 

Chapter 3: Dalair (28), VIRGINIA Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

As part of our election coverage, we are reaching out to American voters from all walks of life to let you know how they are casting their ballots this election and how they perceive the election in their local communities and in their current life situation. In “Here, there, everywhere—Americans report to the ballot box” we present their answers mostly unedited. They are snapshots of the American voters in the weeks before the 2020 election. The views and opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Teach About U.S.


Here you can see the Washington D.C. area marked in red with Virgina on the southwest.

Our first interviewee Dalair is a 28-year-old black male from Texas, currently living in Virginia, near Washington DC, who completed his bachelor’s degree before starting to work in Information Technology. 

Q: Did you vote in the presidential 2016 election? 


Q:  Have you registered to vote? If so, what was the process like and is there anything you wish were different? 

DALAIR: Yes, I am registered. It only took 10-15 minutes. There isn’t anything I wish were different. 

Q: Do you discuss politics with friends/family/classmates/co-workers/…? Why (not)? How?

DALAIR: Yes, I do, because there are lots of different opinions and I like to understand how people's opinions shape their lives.

Q: What is important to you when selecting a presidential candidate? Why is this important

to you?

DALAIR: 2nd Amendment rights, property and tax rights, individualistic states' rights, and morality

Q:  How do you feel about the current state of politics in the U.S?

DALAIR: People are more emotional than logical. A lot of people have put themselves in bad situations and expect politicians to hold their hand and get them out of it. Decades of participation trophies have caused a lot of people to believe that their political opinions are valid.

Q:  What is your opinion in regard to the current protests (you may choose which protests

you want to expand on)?

DALAIR: BLM/Antifa Protest are useless and misguided, very contradictory. I don’t support either. Most people simply don’t want to accept that they made bad choices in life and need someone to blame them on. Outrage culture has become so big that a lot of people feel that they need to be upset about something to function. It’s similar to people spending all their time watching sports or other TV shows. It keeps your mind off your own problems.

Q:  Which media do you use to inform yourself about the election?

DALAIR: Collection of all news sources left and right. But mostly Twitter. There are more unbiased nonmedia backed reporters providing on the ground information. Not much point in watching things like Fox/CNN. All mass media has its own bias. You can often get information faster via Twitter

Q:  Is there an issue in your community not being discussed?

DALAIR: Community property taxes raise, arbitrary laws increase, citizens’ rights to protect their property are diminishing.

Q: What do you feel foreigners don’t understand about the U.S. election?

DALAIR: Foreigners do not understand how slavery, civil war, mass immigration, decades of recent war - being the most dominant country for hundreds of years has shaped American mindset on the ground. These things can’t all be learned from books. I also believe many foreigners don’t understand or want to accept. - Europe especially – that the peace and prosperity of their countries is a near-direct result of American intervention in the middle east and Asia. Europeans view Americans as arrogant, despite American success being earned. I view it similarly to a child that rebels against their parents. American acts as a parent country most of the modern world lives under the “empire” that America has created. No one wants to accept that someone has power over them.

Q:  Have you followed the presidential race from abroad? How does that differ from your

previous experiences in the U.S.?

DALAIR: I lived in Korea during the 2016 election. - Koreans couldn’t care less

Q: What would you recommend a German student analyze in your state?

DALAIR: Read the American constitution and compare it to the closest thing Germany has. Freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are important to Americans- whereas Germany does not have those rights. Those two things play a big part in shaping why Americans act American.

Chapter 2: I Voted -- Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

I registered to vote in early August. I became worried my registration hadn’t worked when I didn’t receive a confirmation. In Minnesota, you can check the status of your voter registration online. I found that I wasn’t registered 5 weeks later. I panicked, after reading everything in the news, I was so worried I emailed the county. Luckily the server was just down and I was in fact registered!  


Dropping off our ballots at the post office

And on September 21st, 2020 I received my absentee ballot per email. The email included two attachments. The first attachment included an 8 page document, 6 pages of which were instructions on how to complete my ballot, the final two pages were a ballot envelope template (an envelope for my completed ballot, to ensure its secrecy) and a mailing envelope template (an envelope which holds both my ballot envelope as well as a Certificate of Eligibility; this envelope is what I used to send my ballot to the U.S.). The second attachment was simply a two-page document, my ballot and the Certificate of Eligibility. 

I wasn’t exactly sure what would be on the ballot this year. There is a question on the ballot that asks how long I have been abroad. In the past I have checked that I am living abroad indefinitely, and unfortunately, due to checking this box, I am no longer eligible to vote in state elections, just federal elections. 

Nevertheless, I was surprised to see that I only had the opportunity to vote in three categories, for the U.S. President, U.S. Minnesota Senator and the Minnesota State Representative for my district. Unfortunately, I don’t pay much attention to local politics since moving to Germany. It was quite interesting to not know a single one of the candidates when it came to the State Representative. I have always voted with my party (to find out what party you identify with, check out this quiz: ), however I also think it is  important to know who you are voting for.

I voted with two other Americans this past weekend. We met for a sugary American breakfast of French toast with strawberries and maple syrup, before going through the ballots together. We began by printing the ballots. Because we are all registered as living in different counties of Minnesota, our ballots looked very different. With the presidential election drowning out  the Minnesota representatives up for election (drowning out: makes everything other than the presidential election difficult to read, find or learn about, because there are so many things regarding the presidential election, you could "drown" in them), none of us had heard of a single one of the state representatives. We spent over an hour looking at the candidate’s platforms, their goals and their voting history before making our final decisions.

Once we had finished voting, we began an arts and crafts project. We cut out the templates of our voting envelopes, which were then glued and taped to a normal envelope to ensure the ballots would be official. Just a few hours later, we had our ballots in the mail. It feels good knowing I did my civic duty and participated in the political process even from abroad! 

 #ivoted #2020election #votefromabroad #democracy #teachaboutus #getoutthevote

Chapter 1: Here, There, Everywhere -- Americans Report to the Ballot Box

by Mallory King -

My name is Mallory, I am an American who has been living in Germany for close to nine years. Since I moved to Germany, I have voted in two presidential elections. The first time was tricky and I almost didn’t vote. I couldn’t figure out how to get my ballot, but after some googling, I got some help from the website Vote from Abroad. I try to help others with the confusing process. 

I am now part of the non-partisan organization, Vote from Abroad, that I googled years ago. Like I said, I originally heard about it after I myself had difficulties voting in the 2012 presidential election. After finding the website and hearing about events near me, I got in contact with some volunteers and have been working on simplifying the process for others ever since. The website helps people from every state register to vote. You simply visit the website and can select your state and it provides step by step directions on how to register.   

In school, I studied political science and was very active in politics myself. I remember the first time I ever voted. I remember my dad taking me to watch Al Gore get off an airplane, stumbling across George W. Bush’s hotel room in high school, and going to a political rally in high school, where I saw Barack Obama speak in my home state. This was, of course, before he announced he would be running for president. 

My passion for politics started early. Which is why, when I heard that under 5% of Americans vote from abroad, I felt the need to do something. I recently read stateside Americans are over 13 times more likely to vote than expatriates (, a shockingly disappointing number. It is estimated that over 2.9 million U.S. citizens living abroad are eligible to vote, which is why it is so important that we reach out to those eligible voters and remind them of their right to participate in the democratic process. What is more, many Americans are confused about how their ballot counts when living abroad. Many believe their ballot doesn’t count in the election. However, absentee ballots are counted for every election and are always counted in the final totals. 

As part of my volunteer work with Vote from Abroad, this past Saturday, I was in downtown Hamburg on one of the main shopping street s looking for Americans to register to vote. I wasn’t alone, other Americans came out too, showing their passion for the democratic process. Candice, a 29-year-old from Maryland said, “I voted from abroad in every election thus far with the exception of one primary… I am here today because I think voting is one of the most important civic duties. I would like to help anyone who wants to vote.” 

One of the other volunteers, Kira, a 19-year-old female from Ohio said, “I was planning on taking a gap year to go to the States to canvas, the real door to door stuff, but with everything going on I decided to do something here.” (Canvasing, a common American political technique, is used to initiate direct contact with individuals to talk to them about a political party, issue, or candidate or to register voters. As Kira mentioned to me, she wanted to walk door to door knocking on voter’s front doors to talk to them.) 

Two volunteers for Vote from Abroad, trying to get the attention of Americans walking by, to assist them in registering to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Together we walked the streets of downtown Hamburg and handed out dozens of cards to anyone we heard speaking “American” English. At the Vote from Abroad table, we even registered three Americans who just happened to be walking by our table and noticed the American materials. 

Vinnie, a 31-year-old volunteer from New Jersey said, “We put up this table to inform U.S. citizens of their right to vote even if they live outside the U.S. A lot of Americans outside of the U.S. don’t know they have the right to vote and we try to help them navigate this process, to register and request their absentee ballot.” 

Our first walk-by was a dual citizen, with a father from Florida and a German mother. The process took him about fifteen minutes, but luckily, he was patient enough to wait, while we navigated through a few of the process’s hurdles. He said he would have never registered had he not seen our table, he doesn’t ever think about it, because he usually has ballots sent to him directly at home here in Germany. 

Our next walk-by was a woman from Florida who was on her way to work. She mentioned not even knowing she could vote. She has been living in Germany for nine years and had never known she could. She seemed excited and grabbed our card. We gave her our phone number to call in case she had questions about the process. Sure enough, she called, problems were solved, and just like that we had another registered voter. 

Coincidently two voters from Minnesota walked by. I had a good chat with them about the website and how to register in Minnesota. They were already registered and had even used the Vote from Abroad website. Jessica, a 20-year-old Minnesotan said, “The efficiency and the practicality of the Vote from Abroad website helped me feel prepared and sure in my ability to vote come November. I have never voted before, so I was completely lost.” 

It was a rewarding day for sure and of course it was also fun to meet other Americans here in Germany.

Breaking News: Students Become Scientists

by Mallory King -

Last school year was certainly different than most others, with the COVID-related school closures and the new experience of distance learning being new aspects many of us experienced for the very first time. But for some schools in Baden-Württemberg and their partner state of California, 2020 also brought about new opportunities for collaboration in spite of the pandemic. 

The “Going Green – Baden- Württemberg Meets California”, organized by the German American Institutes in Baden-Württemberg, sponsored by the Baden-Württemberg Staatsministerium and with support by Teach About U.S., set out to engage students in environmental and intercultural project work and those classes who bravely participated against all obstacles did exactly that – and let our Moodle platform work in their favor. 

Two 9th-grade English classes at Hans-Thoma Gymnasium in Lörrach participated in the project together with their teacher John Gärtig. One of the students, Philipp, lets us peek into their experience through his impressive news article, about how his class went about the project. If Philip’s projects sound familiar to you, that’s probably because his school’s efforts were recognized in a blog post earlier this year, when the winners of the final projects were announced. 

Going Green has been tried and tested by thousands of students and their teachers over the past years. The curriculum was originally designed for use in the classroom, but can be implemented fully online. It is a perfect way to start a sustainability club at your school, meet students across the globe and actively apply your knowledge to make positive change in your community. If you are interested in learning more about this project, take a look at the project website or information sheet.

The Students Who Became the Scientists 

By Philipp from Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium in Lörrach

Though the Covid-19 virus has caused all schools to shut down, throughout the past few months, students in the 9th grade of the “Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium” have worked on a project called “Going Green” online. 

Going Green at Hans Thoma Gymnasium Lörrach
The students at Hans Thoma Gymnasium are among the prize winners of the first round of Going Green - Baden-Württemberg Meets California. They won a sequoia seed planting kit and reusable water bottles.

In the past few centuries, the yearly average temperature has been rising due to climate change, while there are many things being done to stop climate change, some people still are uninformed regarding climate change. 

The “Going Green” project is a school project spread throughout Germany and the United States of America to, on one side, teach the students about sustainability, the importance of sustainability and how we can maintain a sustainable environment, and also to have students learn how other countries, in this case the U.S.A, contribute to a sustainable environment.

The “Going Green” project started with the students filling out questionnaires about what your attitude towards sustainability is, and what in your opinion sustainability is or means. The students would post their answers in forums where they could discuss their findings. Next, students read an article on environmental policies in the United States, which on one side improved their knowledge on how the U.S contribute to a sustainable environment, and also improved their reading comprehension skill. In the next session, the students learned what their ecological footprint is, and what the importance of an individual is when contributing to stop climate change. During the next session, the students went a bit off topic to create a “Corona Audio Diary” in which they talked about how their life in the times of corona looks like. 

In the next class, the students did a self-reflection on what they had learned during the past few days.

Next up, the students analyzed different cartoons which demonstrate different topics. For example Plastic and Recycling, or City and Transport etc. The students then selected one out of 4 topics, which they were interested in the most. For a warm up, people in the topic “City and Transport” had to discuss in forums how they imagine a green city. Some ideas that were come up with were for example the usage of only electric cars, smart energy usage and much more.

After this, the 6 different students were divided into 2 groups with each 3 students. The task was to create a poster or a presentation that would be presented to class. Group 1 focused on what makes a city green, and group 2 focused on whether Portland, Oregon is a sustainable city. Students were supposed to communicate with each other however they wanted to, and do their own part in this presentation.

In conclusion, the “Going Green” project helped a lot in understanding how the individual, but also the group can help create a sustainable environment. I recommend it to any other schools who want their students to be well educated concerning the topic sustainability.

2019/2020 Going Green Winners Annouced

by Mallory King -

When we started Going Green six years ago in 2014, we came up with a slogan that we never would have expected could be so accurate as it turned out this spring: When the going gets tough, the tough go green! And yet, faced with the unprecedented situation of a global pandemic, nationwide school closures, and this situation’s repercussions on our daily lives, this year’s project participants impressively demonstrated that building a better, greener future starts at our own doorsteps. 

As the sixth cycle of the Going Green project is coming to an end, we are incredibly proud of everyone who submitted something to our competition! We recognize how difficult it must have been given the current circumstances. It must have taken a lot of effort from every student and teacher’s end to “come together” for this year’s project.

So hats off to you and we thank you for your devotion to the environment and this project through this difficult time! We received a variety of creative submissions from a cookbook to a logo encouraging people to be greener.

Over seven hundred students and their teachers registered on Teach About U.S. for the 2019/2020 Going Green cycle, but many more engaged in the project ‘offline’ with overall 47 participating courses in almost all parts of Germany and some in the U.S. They spent many weeks learning about sustainable activities. Students focused on a variety of topics, from researching biodiversity and micro-plastics, to fair fashion options in their local community to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment. Learning about all the things you have been working on in the last several months was inspiring to us as well!

The Teach About U.S. team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2020 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the winning projects:

Going Green Award goes to: Small Steps- Big Impact 

by the biology and global citizenship courses at Schuldorf Bergstraße and East Bay German International School.


Schuldorf Bergstraße and East Bay German International School wrote a bilingual cookbook, and it is incredible. We are excited to try some of the recipes ourselves. The cookbook doesn’t just have great green recipes, but it touches on why the recipes are green. Some of the hardest parts of being green in the kitchen is not knowing where to begin. Each individual recipe has a comment explaining how it reduces our impact on the environment, which helps someone trying to be a greener cook get a better idea of what to look out for when shopping. The cookbook is a delicious collection of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas. I know I am going to start cooking some of these myself. 

Something that makes this project so special is what it must have taken to assemble. With over 20 recipes, each one including photos of the students cooking and   their finished cookbook, it really is a page turner. We really appreciated seeing each student being active not just in the classroom, but in the kitchen too. The students have initiated a project in which each of us can participate now that we have a green cookbook. 

The cookbook includes English and German recipes and even translates the calculations of measurement for each ingredient.

Going Green Award goes to: GoingGreenTogether: One Day Without Plastic

by the English course at Louise-Henriette Gymnasium and Odyssey Charter School.

Louise-Henriette Gymnasium and Odyssey Charter School produced a video that highlights not only problems for the environment, but also gives tips to help us be green in and out of the supermarket. And the best part for us is: the video also provides a review of a well known green product. Well done!

The video starts with a series of powerful photos reminding us just how destructive plastic is to the environment. It then provides several useful ways in which we could try to use less plastic in our daily lives.

After studying the harmful repercussions of our “Throw Away Society”, the students decided to take check out what it means to make plastic free purchases.

They showed how much plastic we passively buy, but also how much less plastic we purchase when we consciously look for an alternative. The visual depiction is impressive. 

One interesting find during their shopping trip led to a product review of a bamboo toothbrush. Students looked at the fine details of a green product and researched many aspects of the product: the material of the brush, the packaging, as well as the place of production. They even “brushed” on how a product we think of as a green alternative can have negative effects on the environment. At the same time, they considered the other side of the debate, the difficulty of creating a 100% green product.

It was also wonderful to read the comments in response to their video. They provide us with insight into their collaboration with their American partner school.

Two thumbs up for even responding to questions in the comment section of the video, which required further research to adequately answer.

Going Green Award goes to: Clothes Swap - Reused Fashion

by the English course at Schuldorf Bergstraße 


A clothing swap, what a wonderful idea! It is a great social activity and can help spread the word about the importance of thinking about the products we purchase. Everyone wins, just as the students pointed out, and it is an easy way to make change, while not having to give anything up… with the exception of your old clothes. 

This initiative is a great way to start important conversations regarding our consumer habits and how they affect the environment and our communities. Supporting the event with research on the production and shipping of our clothes was a great way to help all of us better understand where every individual can make a difference.  A map of where over a hundred pieces of clothing came from in addition to looking at what clothing material is used, is a great way to get to know your own buying trends. In addition, we appreciated and enjoyed reading about how much you grew together and learned throughout the project. The photos show how much fun you had during the event and of course how great you looked in your new clothes!

Going Green Award goes to: Sustainable Living in Future Lüneburg

By the English course at Herderschule Lüneburg 

Three very different projects in one collaboration show us how creative Herderschule looked at being green locally. One group designed a powerful logo for a campaign for better bike paths in the area and even included specific suggestions of how and where to put their plan into action. A second group engaged in extensive research on where to buy fair fashion. And lastly and perhaps most impressively a massive undertaking by a single student who turned the entire backyard lawn into a bountiful garden with a little help by the mother.

This student was not named in their submission; who, we believe, deserves an extra special shout out. We have never seen such a massive undertaking from a single student. It even came with an explanation on they turned a large overgrown backyard into a massive garden. The garden they planted included, but was not limited to: cucumbers, carrots, radishes, onions, turnips, leek, kale, potatoes, various spices, and berry plants as well as apple, cherry and plum trees. We find your efforts jaw dropping spectacular and wish you an extra bountiful harvest. 

We applaud your creativity and hope that Luneburg continues to “grow” greener in the near future with your efforts!

Going Green Award goes to: Can Facade Greening Reduce the Effects of Urban Heat Islands? by the E-Phase Biology course at Goethe Gymnasium

facade greening

This project is an insightful example of how students joined forces to produce an action plan despite the complications of the current school closures. The students at Goethe Gymnasium Frankfurt did in-depth research on the role of facade greening and how it impacts city climates. Along with their research report, the students of the bilingual biology course produced a video to communicate their idea. 

The video editing for this project was incredible! This must have been very challenging with the pandemic. In addition the amount of research you did to come up for this video is nothing less than impressive. You touched on many interesting ideas of how beneficial facade greening is. We particularly liked how you talked about the cooling effects of plants on buildings! You highlighted some very “cool” ways your local community could be greener. Don’t think it went unnoticed how almost every one of the students used a green background for their part in the video. Well done!

While these five projects stand out, others are close runner-ups and deserve our recognition for their creativity and hard work. 

Honorable Mention

What Makes a City Green 

by the English course at Hans-Thoma- Gymnasium


Your poster was well thought out. It was very visually appealing and we appreciated how many different aspects you considered. There are many ways to be a greener society and you really highlighted who can help and how we can work toward a greener society!

Honorable Mention

Corona Crisis Lessons for the Environment 

by the English course at LernZeitRäume

Focusing on an issue so current is always difficult. We applaud you for focusing on something so important today. It is difficult to see the positives in a pandemic and we appreciate your positive thinking during this difficult time! You reflected on some important areas that could be positively changed in response to the pandemic.  We hope to see some of the changes you mentioned. In addition the formats you used to show your project was slick, fun and modern. A combination of different formats including a Padlet, a fun alternative to Powerpoint as well as an Explain Video.

Honorable Mention

Portland as Role Model for Other Cities

By the Going Green course at Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium 

Looking at a city such as Portland, as a role model to others is a good way of learning more about the action we should be taking, the measures that work, the difficulties of keeping a city green and lastly knowing what the next steps are to help our city. The research you did was great and showed the city from a variety of perspectives!  Keep up the good work!

Thank you again to all those who participated. Stay safe and healthy!

 #Competition  #GoingGreen

Keep calm and follow the news (from the American Studies Blog)

by Joannis Kaliampos -

This week I was invited to contribute to the American Studies Blog's current series on digital learning tools and was happy to share some of my experiences from Teach About U.S.

As American studies and foreign language education scholars, we sometimes tend to overlook the vast demand for teachable online resources outside of academia. My work in the transatlantic blended-learning education initiative Teach About U.S. has helped me to establish long-standing relationships with high school teachers and educators in Germany and the United States. Amid the current global health crisis, these teachers are stepping up to support their students and find novel ways to engage them in educational activities while they struggle with ‘the new normal’ during the pandemic.

Keep calm and follow the news

As schools have been shut down for weeks, many of these colleagues have reached out to us, seeking advice on educational technology and its implementation. All too often, they are pushed to create makeshift solutions as their school servers are overwhelmed with the sudden spike in user demand. Many colleagues have shared their experience of setting up private chat and social media groups to share assignments and educational resources, unsure whether this may violate school and state rules.

With misinformation about the coronavirus on the rise, a historic presidential election campaign in the United States, and the press under attack from different sides, I would like to share some of my favorite student-friendly news media as well as resources on media literacy for primary and secondary school students.

» Read on in the American Studies Blog...

Celebrating Earth Day's 50th anniversary: The Profoundly Radical Message of Earth Day's First Organizer

by Mallory King -


With COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, it can be easy to forget about other issues or current events, or even what day it is. Today is Earth Day. Founded by Denis Hayes fifty years ago, Hayes continues to burn with passion for his message, protect the environment. He feels, “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day… This November 3, vote for the Earth.”

Working on the top floor of the world’s greenest building, he asks people to put political differences aside, to focus on our shared values and work together for the good of the earth. He has been spreading messages about global warming since January 1980, when he announced to the American Association for the Advancement of Science “the continued use of fossil fuels would lead to warming of the Earth’s atmosphere."

Although Hayes says “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year,” many have said social distancing has had positive effects for the environment including cleaner air in China and Europe. However these changes could be short lived. What is important is that together we work toward a more sustainable way of life not just for planet, but the people too. What can we learn from Mr. Hayes passion and commitment to the environment? 

Learn more and get inspired by reading about Mr. Hayes in the New York Times article, "The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer".

For more information about Earth Day, visit its official website:

Meet the Morgans’ Role Models

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This is the last blog post in our series #MeetTheMorgans. Throughout the last couple of weeks, they have given us insights into the American way of life and how an upper middle-class family tries to consider sustainable options in their everyday life. 

In this final interview, we talk about the biggest climate change problems they personally encounter* in the United States, how we could tackle them, and which role models still give them hope that we can save our planet. In addition, they revealed* their favorite green books and movies as an inspiration for our German readers (and listeners).

Lea: What do you think are the biggest problems that we’ll face in regard to climate change?

Carla (14): I feel like people not knowing. I feel like our generation is doing things, at least here, and our President doesn’t even believe that climate change is a real thing. But I feel like whenever it is our turn, our generation does come up.

Bane (42): This is the greatest void* – I think – that’s ever been in any grouping. So, at one point, it’d be women vote different than men, minorities vote different, okay? Now, generation forty and under vote 38 % differently than forty and over.1 It’s the greatest gap ever in American politics for voting. And it’s all based on… A lot of people think it’s based on sustainability, what’s happened environmentally… but isn’t that crazy? 

“The current voters’ disparity is caused by biased media coverage. Because news agencies in the U.S. no longer have to represent a neutral position.”

“In a throw-away economy it’s a non-thought to get things repaired.”

“The real problem lies in the ignorance of not recognizing climate change is a real thing. But also lack of education and the need for jobs blind people. Even tourism contributes to it. For example, in the Arctic, where they use the ice breakers to make room for oil drillings.” 

Lea: What would be the first tiny step towards change?

Carla: I think everyone doing solar panels. I think it is really a good thing because by that we’re gonna have 100 percent clean energy, which is really cool. And I feel like that is something everyone can do. 

Bane: I don’t even think that it’s on the radar that people think, “I need to be sustainable.”  So, the first thing will be to get people to think, “What can I do to lessen* my footprint?” 

Sheryl (48): Law. You would have to be required. 

»Right now, people buy gasoline cars because they are cheaper. If you made electric cars ten thousand dollars cheaper than gasoline cars, guess what everybody would buy.«

Bane: The cost and the savings. Right now, people buy gasoline cars because they are cheaper. If you made electric cars ten thousand dollars cheaper than gasoline cars, guess what everybody would buy. You would buy it. 

Sheryl: And if you said by 2025 every car has to be that. Oh well, then I would have to buy one.

Bane: That’s what everybody would do. 

Sheryl: But there is no law. My car is half. That was the best I could do. But they didn’t have it in electro. 


“We need western world leaders stating that climate change is real and making substantial commitments.”

Bane: And I think when people are out in the environment, then they appreciate* it more and they preserve it more. 

Lea: Do you have a green role model?

Carla: I think my dad is pretty green. He tries his hardest.

Bane: Elon Musk is a rock star. And he’s a rock star because he’s the guy, too, that started solar city. And he wants solar panels on every roof tile*. And he’s the guys who’s saying, “Hey, why, when you have a space program, why don’t you reuse all the rockets?” Why wouldn’t ya? And he does! I think those kind of guys … And internationally, I think, it’s cool right now to wear a NASA shirt. That’s cool! And now that people are saying, “Hey, what’s NASA doing? Wait a minute. They are GPS landing these rockets in the same place and reusing them? And who’s the guy who did that?” And I think kids could be like that. And the good thing about Elon Musk is, he’s first generation*. I mean, he’s the American dream! I would want all our kids to read his book and understand from there.

Sophie (41): In general, people in the spotlight inspiring our kids. They make saving the world trendy. It’s trendy to save the world, now. So, that’s what we’re going to do. 

Lea: Can you recommend a green book or a movie?

Carla: I don’t know if this counts but I am Malala

Julia (12): Or even – I know these are animated movies – but Ice Age is actually serious. 

Bane: The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendevouz with Destiny (William Strauss and Neil Howe) à It states his theory of recurring* generation cycles in America.

A walk in the woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Bill Bryson) à It is about a guy who walked on this trail from Georgia to Maine completely sustainably. 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ashlee Vance) à Elon Musk’s biography.

Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (Theodore Roosevelt) à It tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt starting the National Parks.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon (Kevin Fedarko) à They are going down the Colorado river and the back story is about how you can control rivers and the history of the middle west but it also deals with the green movement and fighting the dams.

This final interview concludes our mini-series about Bane and Sophie and their four kids – the Morgans, a family in western Pennsylvania. I hope that you have enjoyed learning about this family’s approach to a greener lifestyle and their everyday struggles to translate their ambitions into real-life actions. Perhaps it has taught you some new things about sustainability measures in the U.S. I myself am very grateful for all the insights the Morgans have given me into their American way of life and thinking. 

I interviewed this family, because I wanted to get an authentic insight into a real American middle-class family’s views on sustainability and whether they can represent general trends in society. My original questions focused on their actual behavior and consumer choices – their housing situation, travel, eating, and shopping habits. But I was also interested in how they view the bigger picture: How do they perceive climate change in the U.S., the problems and challenges it creates, and the most promising solutions that are available. The Morgans’ statements made me wonder more than once how “typical” of an American family they actually are and how much I personally would agree, or disagree, with their statements.

In the end, it was through their detailed answers, and Sheryl’s and Mary’s additional comments that I have learned so much more: choosing a sustainable lifestyle is not just a matter of your own personal commitment. You don’t just commit to a completely green life and it all just falls into place the next day. To go green, you often need to consider so many aspects: costs, infrastructure, laws, attitudes, geography, and the list goes on and on. What is more, not all of the considerations can be influenced by you. In fact, one thing I learned from the Morgans is that it can be pretty hard to live a greener lifestyle in some parts of the United States: In Gibsonia, for example, public transportation and bike lanes are far from being available everywhere. Solar energy and e-mobility seem to be the Morgans’ preferred solutions to global warming, but can everyone actually afford these technologies? Also, the electricity for e-cars has to come from somewhere, too. And then, Sophie and Bane made it clear that, in their view, the U.S. won’t go green without appropriate laws and environmentally sustainable business solutions. 

All in all, it seems that projects like Going Green are essential in learning from each other and sharing ideas and innovations across borders in order to move our society as a whole towards a greener future.

For statistics on voter demographics please go to

to encounter: to experience something, especially something unpleasant or difficult, while you are trying to do something else

void: a large empty space

to reveal: to make something known to somebody

to lessen: to become or make something become smaller, weaker, less important, etc.

to appreciate: to recognize the good qualities of somebody/something

roof tile: a flat, usually square, piece of baked clay, carpet or other material that is used in rows for covering the top of a building

first generation: people who have left their country to go and live in a new country; the children of these people

to recur: to happen again or a number of times

  1. Go online and check the facts about American voting behavior, oil drilling plans in the Arctic, and NASA’s SpaceX program stated in this interview. Keep in mind that the Morgans’ statements are not necessarily accurate but based upon their understanding.
  2. What drivers for sustainable development are mentioned in the interview? How do they differ?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


Meet the Morgans and their most ambitious climate change solutions

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

Sustainability is the buzzword right now. Everyone talks about it, and the news are full of Fridays-for-Future demonstrations – at least in Germany. Even though this movement has not received the same amount of attention in the States, I have been interviewing one American family about their aspirations to live greener for several weeks now.

The Morgans, a family of six from western Pennsylvania, opened up about their eating, shopping, and travel habits as well as the sustainable options they considered while building their house. But actions speak louder than words and so I wanted to know what are actual changes they have observed in the U.S. during the last years. For this interview, Bane’s sister Sheryl joined us again. Her job at a large American retail corporation offers another, different perspective about American ambitions to go green.

Lea: What are changes that you have seen over the last years that have happened here in the U.S. in order to go green?

Carla (14): There are a lot of social-media-based campaigns going on about saving the oceans and demonstrations.

Julia (12): It feels like people are trying to get the word out about it. 

Carla: I feel like there are some demonstrations in bigger cities, but it is mainly social-media-based. 

Bane (42): I think, for the first time, it’s a discussion. And for the first time, it’s looked at and thought about: What’s the sustainability of this? And I think, that never was a discussion. So, I think, that’s the first step in it, having the discussion.

And I think, something that Europe is way ahead of the United States on is recognizing everything from straws to all these things. They are just ahead of it. And simple things that I always think of when I come back from Europe like in the 90s you’d have a bag of milk that you would put in a multi-use plastic pitcher* and that’s how you’d use your milk. Now, when it’s gone, you have this little empty bag that would compress* down to nothing. Why doesn’t that happen in the States? I have no idea. The States have to have this big, thick plastic thing!

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Typical milk jug found in U.S. grocery stores (Risheehan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sophie (41): We used to get milk delivered in glass containers, and you had to set the glass container back out.

Bane: But that’s awesome, because they are taking them, washing them, and reusing them. 

Sheryl (48): You can still do that at Marburger*. 

Bane: So, I think you create change by making the globe smaller and having kids travel and see this!

Sophie: And then they’re like, “Let’s do this!” And they’ll do it.

»So, I think you create change by making the globe smaller and having kids travel and see this!«

Bane: I think the most recent* change in the last year is single-use plastics. Truly, within the last calendar year, it went from “they’re everywhere” to “you’re a bad person if you use them”. And really, I think within a year. Which is so cool. It’s straws, lids*, water bottles. You’re using, you know, corn-based forks. And this is recent, and everyone is on with it. This is super cool! 


Sheryl: At work, we have to do it. We have no choice. They removed all plastic from our building. Gone - one day – gone. They gave us all reusable coffee cups. Now, there is aluminum. So, if you forget, and you need to buy water, and you don’t have your cup, there’s aluminum bottles you can buy. But they made them super expensive. And then they turned all of our silverware and all of our to-go containers to the plant-based ones. So, don’t put it in the microwave! But it doesn’t taste bad. Then you don’t feel guilty taking your salad to go.

Sophie: If every company starts doing that… I feel like it’s just gonna happen. It’s gonna start changing. 

Sheryl: Yeah, we didn’t have an option. And refillable water stations… But that cost the company money. We put asignificant* investment in. Pretty soon, we’re gonna get rid of* all plastic bags. But what happens when you come in and you have four balls that you are buying and your hockey thing and this and that ,and you don’t have your bags? So that’s what we’re trying to figure out* right now. 

Bane: But I think the first step in that is: Less people, even in the last five years, will grab a bag. “Oh, I’m buying one thing, leave the bag. I don’t want it!” 

Sophie: I say that.

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Plastic ban legislation in the United States (green = ban; yellow = charge; purple = partial charge or ban on municipal or regional levels) (Delusion23/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

»Millennials won't work for companies that aren't good corporate citizens. So, it's your generation that's driving it.«

Sheryl: It’s starting with companies. Companies are starting to get there. And sustainability is really becoming a buzz with this election cycle. We weren’t quite there, yet. But corporate social responsibility* (CSR) as a whole… millennials* won’t work for companies that aren’t good corporate citizens. So, it is your generation that’s driving it. We are asked a lot about our CSR. We put out our first CSR report. And sustainability is just one pillar* of it. But that has really changed it a lot.

Bane: But a Fortune 500 company* that has a president that is strongly democratic is pushing that agenda. 

Sheryl: Oh yeah.

Bane: Now, in a small business people buy… we don’t do it. Right now, I guarantee if you try to find paper vs.styrofoam* coffee cups, styrofoam ones are so much cheaper. So, economics still drives it. Most people are gonna buy the cheap one. Picture the guy that is making 10 bucks* an hour trying to feed his kid. He’s gonna go into the gas station* to get his 99-cent coffee in whatever they put it in. And that is what he’s gonna take. And that is most of America. 

Sophie: And that doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s just hard.

Bane: No, he just came by*.

Lea: What climate change solutions are you most excited about?

Carla: Solar panels. That is the biggest one we are exposed to, at least.

Bane: Electric cars. ‘Cause I think it is a no-brainer. I think they’re there, and as soon as they get easier… My goal is for Clara to not drive gasoline*.

Lea: Do you know if the power you use is green?

Bane: No. But … and Elon Musk said this, too, You have to believe that a power plant* is more efficient than the power plant under your hood*. Cause all a combustion engine* is a small power plant. It has to be less efficient than what a company gets paid to produce. And if you can get green energy, even better. 

pitcher: jug

to compress: to press or squeeze something together or into a smaller space; to be pressed or squeezed in this way

Marburger: a dairy business in western Pennsylvania

recent: that happened or began only a short time ago

lid: a cover over a container that can be removed or opened by turning it or lifting it

significant: large or important enough to have an effect or to be noticed

to get rid of: to do something so as to no longer have or be affected or bothered by (something or someone that is unwanted)

to figure out: to think about somebody/something until you understand them/it

corporate social responsibility: the idea that a large company has a duty to treat people fairly and to play a positive part in society

millennial: generation of people who were born in the years right before 2000 and are now adults, over 21 years of age

pillar: a large round stone, metal or wooden post that is used to support a bridge, the roof of a building, etc., especially when it is also decorative

Fortune 500 company: annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years

styrofoam: used for an expanded rigid polystyrene plastic

buck: money

gas station: a retail station for servicing motor vehicles especially with gasoline and oil

to come by: to make a short visit to a place; to gain or obtain

gasoline: a volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture used as a fuel especially for internal combustion engines and usually blended from several products of natural gas and petroleum

power plant: a building or group of buildings where electricity is produced

hood: the movable metal covering over the engine of an automobile

combustion engine: a type of engine used in most cars that produces power by burning petrol/gas or other fuel inside

  1. The most recent change is cutting out single-use plastics. In your opinion, how far are we in avoiding the use of plastic in Europe?
  2. Keep a diary for a day, and note down how many single-use plastic products you use.
  3. Brainstorm with a partner. In your opinion, what are the most recent sustainability changes in Germany?
  4. What are some sustainability tricks you have learned from other countries (through travels, the news, friends)?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


Meet the Morgans - What does it mean to live a sustainable life for you?

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

During the last weeks, we have learned a lot about the reality of trying to live sustainably in America. Towards the end of our series, I now want to know whether the Morgans consider their own lifestyle sustainable and what that exactly means to them.

Apart from the Morgans, I also reached out to Bane’s older sister Sheryl (46) for an opinion. They stressed that in a country as big as the U.S. how much money you make and where you live heavily influences your options to truly live a green lifestyle. We also talked about how the younger and the older generation can contribute to stop global warming, and what message they want to send out to young people like you.

Lea: Would you consider your own lifestyle sustainable? 

Julia (12): I really try to be.

Clara (14): I think so, yeah. I feel like we try. 

Sophie (41): I would say we’re good at some things and bad at others. I don’t know.

Sheryl (46): No! Look at the cars you drive.

Sophie: Mathematically, the footprint of our cars is erased by our solar panels.

Bane (42): Yeah, we’re neutralizing it.

Bane: Our kids, they don’t like plastic, single-use plastics. As a family, we use metal straws, or we don’t use straws. I think those kinds of choices are the first step in having their generation realize that: “Wait a minute. This is not acceptable. This is no good.” Now… it’s not cheap to be sustainable. Especially, not in this country. 

Sophie: Yeah, it’s not the easy path.

»We are well-educated people that have the ability to be somewhat sustainable. If you're scraping to get by, it is the last thing you're thinking of.«

Bane: We are well-educated people that have the ability to be somewhat sustainable. If you’re scraping to get by*, it is the last thing you’re thinking of. When you’re worried about feeding the kids you’re gonna find the cheapest, easiest way to make that happen. Once you know that they’re gonna eat and they’re gonna be able to go to college, now, you’re like: “Okay, what else can we do to help?” We have the ability to have that discussion. And 90 % of the country or world don’t have that ability to have that discussion.

Sophie: Also, the kids recycle, all the time. It’s absurd if we don’t recycle. It’s absolutely a way of life for us.

Bane: With the changes in the Chinese economy… we would sell most of our recyclables to China. They don’t want it anymore.

Sheryl: They don’t recycle it, anymore.

Bane: They don’t want to take it. And now we have people that are recycling – or think they are – and everyone’s putting in the same thing and putting it in a landfill*. We’re thinking we are being sustainable but the global economy shifts it in such a way that it doesn’t matter.  

Sheryl: And also, there’s an excess* of what China had recycled, and what you can produce from it. So, China is like: “Well, we’re not going to recycle, anymore, until you use the by-products* of what we recycled. That’s another reason why they stopped. And it’s all sick… When we were growing up, we went to the store, and we used the paper bags. Then, they were saying, we were killing all the trees, so, we stopped using paper bags and switched to plastic. And now, we’re killing the oceans. So, we’re not using plastic bags, anymore. There’s always something, right? And the bags that they are using to make the reusable bags have oil in them. I think, it’s like Bane’s put it: You can try, and you have to do your best, but I don’t know that we are solving it here in America.

Out of sight, out of mind?

For three decades, rich counties like the U.S. and Germany shipped their plastic trash to poorer Asian countries, many of them developing nations lacking the capacity to manage such waste. China took the lion’s share—45 percent of the world’s plastic waste imports. Then at the start of last year, it refused to take more because of local environmental concerns. China’s move threw the recycling industry in western countries into turmoil as they scrambled to find new buyers and expand their own recycling programs. (adapted from National Geographic)

Take a listen to how the city of Nogales, Arizona, is struggling with recycling its trash:

Bane: Grandpa has no problem burning leaves. There’s nobody on earth… I shouldn’t say nobody… most people our generation would never burn leaves. And no one in their generation will. That’s good. 

Sophie: It’s coming!

Bane: So, people try, but economics still have to work with it, or they won’t do it. 

»Will it come? I think to some extent, but again it's gonna be finances.«

Lea: What does it mean to live a sustainable life for you? What are some examples?

Julia: Plastic straws are a big thing that I’m trying to cut out*. And especially energy, too. I leave my light on a lot. So, I’m really trying to work on that. 

Clara: Eating healthy, saving energy, and things like that. Things like shutting off your lights when you leave home. I feel like I don’t use that much energy personally. I definitely encourage* my dad to get solar panels. 

Sheryl: I think it’s more so the people that live in areas that are sunny and use the solar panels or can use the hydro-electric. I think, people that live off the grid* can tap into* those things. They’re on that path, but the general population doesn’t have that accessible to them. Like, if you’re gonna live in a cul-de-sac* and work in the city and commute*, that’s not gonna happen for you. But those how many percent that have figured it out, they do it like soup to nuts*. So, I think there is the extreme… do you know what I’m talking about?

Bane: I do. But the only thing I have problems with about the so-called off-the-gridders is that their sewage* system is terrible. They’re burning everything. If they can burn it, they’re gonna burn it. It’s off the grid, but I don’t think they do it as a sustainability thing. They do it because of the isolational thing. I don’t think they’re doing it because there is this grandiose idea that I’m gonna save the world. 

Sheryl: Yeah, they’re not the people in Arizona that use all solar… that’s different. 

Bane: What I think what’s been impressive is that the coasts… well, I should say the West Coast especially has been very much forward. We went to California last year, and every Uber we got in was an electric car. 

Sheryl: And there’s already no straws there. 

Bane: Yeah, they are way ahead of that stuff. And now, the East Coast. Well, face it: Americans in general are selfish. They are the country of excess. Now, the East Coast is ten times worse than here with self-centered selfishness. They don’t care. My friends in New Jersey, if it doesn’t help them today, they don’t care. So, you get to these different parts of the country where people care more. And my friend said when I told him, “Hey, we’re putting solar panels on.” He lives in L.A. He goes, “Dude, that is so West Coast!” But it’s real. They care more. They are the ones that have the e-bikes. You know, everything they are doing is trying to be that. So, it’s good. Will it come? I think to some extent*,but again it’s gonna be finances.

»And they knew so much more than I thought they did. But they can't do anything about it, yet.«

Lea: What is your generation in general doing?

Clara: Our grandparents won’t even understand it or want to think about it. Our parents know, but then our generation is doing things and demonstrating. There is a lot of change happening. 

Bane: I think the habits*, just like with everything, change slowly. Growing up, when we were going on a trip, there would never be a recycling garbage can.

Sheryl: I don’t even remember recycling at home. 

Bane: No, we didn’t.  It changes over time, but it does change. And I think that’s really important. And the kids see it, and it’s not uncool to do those things. Right now, sustainability-wise it’s cool to have a reusable water bottle. It’s not cool to use single-uses. And supporting and doing those kinds of things, I think, is big. And when I said to the kids, “Hey, guys what do you think about us getting solar panels?” They’re like, “That is awesome!” They were super excited to do it. And I said, “Well, why are you so excited?” And they knew so much more than I thought they did. But they can’t do anything about it, yet.

Lea: What message do you want to give to the young generation?

»Don't listen to everyone else. You know what's right. Do it.«

Bane: Don’t listen to everyone else. You know what’s right. Do it. All what the grown-ups are going to do is mess it up. So, don’t listen to them. You know what’s right. Don’t listen to us. And don’t accept it unless it’s what you think is right. Because, again, economics drives it all. If these guys say, “I’m never gonna buy gasoline!”… Guess what? It won’t happen, and oil will go away.

Julia: And our parents’ generation would say, “Oh, it’s just one person; who could do that much?” But the kids are saying:, “It’s one person that is willing to do this much.”

Clara: I want to push my parent’s generation to do more, and I want my kids to do more than my generation, because I feel like we have to get started. So, when big things happen, it takes people to get started, so I feel like that’s what our generation is doing, and they are starting this and they are talking about it. And I feel like our parents are supporting it, and they are behind it. 

to scrape by: to live with barely enough money

landfill: an area of land where large amounts of waste material are buried under the earth

excess: more than is necessary, reasonable or acceptable

by-product: a substance that is produced during the process of making or destroying something else

decomposition: the process of being destroyed gradually by natural chemical processes

debris: rubbish/garbage or pieces of material that are left somewhere and are not wanted

to cut out: to put an end to; to eliminate

to encourage: to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope

off the grid: not using the public supplies of electricity, gas, water, etc.

to tap into: to make a strong or advantageous connection with

cul-de-sac: a street or passage closed at one end

to commute: to travel back and forth regularly

soup to nuts: covering every detail or part of something

sewage: used water and waste substances that are produced by human bodies, that are carried away from houses and factories through special pipes

to ... extent: used to show how far something is true or how great an effect it has

habit: a thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing

  1. Can you set off (neutralize) your ecological footprint by installing solar panels?
  2. Go online and make up your own mind about off-the-grid living. Would you say it is more sustainable?
  3. What views does Bane express about people living in the east vs. west of the U.S.? Do you think these are truths or stereotypes?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


Meet the Morgans - Amazon vs. Sustainability

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

In times of consumerism*, most people purchase at least one new item per day. So naturally, I was curious to learn more about the shopping behavior of Americans.

From my interview with the Morgans and my own experiences, I see a lot of changes happening in this area currently. The family I stayed with received at least one Amazon packet a day even though they complained about some of their favorite stores having to close down due to big online competitors like Amazon. My interview with the Morgans helped me to understand their reasons for buying online. 


Lea: What are your average monthly purchases…?

Clara (14): We don’t shop for clothes that much. We only do like a big “back-to-school-shopping*" or when we need new clothes.

Julia (12): My mom, every Monday, goes out and runs errands*.

Clara: I’d say, probably Giant Eagle* and Target* are where we find everyday things. Well, obviously, food. But whenever we need mom’s make-up or batteries…

Bane (42): Amazon. 

Sophie (41): I buy something from Amazon, every day. Literally*. I went up to the bathroom; Bane had left his gel out so I could see it was empty. I scanned the barcode, and it’s on its way. Because I don’t have to pay for shipping I can order without thinking about that. It’s just that it’s out of my mind then.

Bane: I think, Amazon, it’s also made it worse sustainability-wise because…

Sophie: They killed the planet.

Bane: Yeah. Because, now, we have a guy drive to our house for everything that we want, delivered in separate boxes. And we are not going one time to the grocery store. 

»It's like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?« 

Sophie: And the packaging is one-time-use, and no one recycles it. They are trying to start an Amazon day. That was their way of saying, “Oh, we don’t ship every time to you. We only ship once a week.” But everyone wants it right now. I ordered something on Amazon, and it was at my house the next day. It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not? For example, Clara and I, we went shopping to buy a homecoming dress – we actually went shopping. And we bought a dress, but it is cut down in a way that she needs to wear a special bra. I could go to seven stores trying to find that bra, or in thirty seconds it’s on its way to my house. 

Bane: And most times I go to a store and they don’t have what I want. I think, “Why was I so dumb to even come here?” I could have ordered exactly what I wanted, and by the time I actually got there it would have been delivered to my house.

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Amazon fulfillment center, Spain. (Álvaro Ibáñez/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Sophie: Because of Amazon I go to Giant Eagle once a week, and I go to Target, once a week, sometimes twice a week. That’s it. If Giant Eagle and Target don’t sell it, and I can’t get it on Amazon, then we don’t own it. And only on special occasions*, like once a year, do I take the girls “back-to-school-clothes-shopping”.  We actually go to the outlets, and they try on stuff. At Christmas time, back-to-school, and rare occasions like when she wanted a homecoming dress and we went homecoming-dress-shopping. But other than that, we don’t shop. 

Bane: And you know, with Amazon Prime it’s 99 bucks* a year. So with that one-time price, they get to bring it to your house the next day. And I do that for the office. I bet I have a dozens of addresses that I ship stuff from our amazon account to. And they’ll deliver it anywhere. So, I can buy it right now, and I can send it to my office 50 miles from my house. 

Sophie: And another thing is… I know, we are like cheerleading for Amazon right now, and it’s not the best thing, but it’s so convenient. I said: “Julia, the birthday party next weekend; what do you want to get her?” Twenty minutes later she goes,” Mom, it’s all in your Amazon cart, what I want. Look at it to make sure it’s okay.” So, I look, I saw what she put in. I was like “click” and all the stuff came. They had wrapped it all up. 

Bane: I don’t have to carry it, I don’t have to put it together. 

Lea: Do you go grocery shopping or do you get that delivered, too?

Sophie: I order it online, I drive up, and they put it in the back of my car. They pick the food for me. You can elect to have a delivery, but I don’t, I drive to pick it up. 

Lea: And whenever you buy those things, do you look for organic food or fair trade or social labels?

Sophie: I don’t.  The farm-shared produce are not necessarily organic either but they’re local. 

Julia: No.

Clara: I think just kind of what’s there.

A short explanation of the so-called curbside express at Giant Eagle. (Giant Eagle on YouTube)

consumerism: the buying and using of goods and services; the belief that it is good for a society or an individual person to buy and use a large quantity of goods and services

back-to-school-shopping: period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and apparel for the upcoming school year

to run errands: a job that you do for somebody that involves going somewhere to take a message, to buy something, deliver goods, etc.

Giant Eagle: an American supermarket chain

Target: an American department store chain

literally: in a way that uses the ordinary or primary meaning of a term or expression; used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description; precisely

occasion: a favorable opportunity or circumstance

buck: money

  1. Sophie says, “It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?” What does she mean by that? Can you think of examples? Discuss.
  2. How often do you (or your family) shop online? What items do you typically buy online and why?
  3. Discuss with a partner or in a group the pros and cons of buying online or in person. Keep in mind that to go shopping in America almost always involves driving at least 20 minutes by car.

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


Meet the Morgans - The real American diet

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This week, I want to know about the Morgans’ diet. By living with Bane’s parents for three months, I have been able to observe their eating behavior, which is very different from my own.  

They eat out in a restaurant once or twice a day. They always order rather unhealthy meals like pancakes, ham with eggs, and baked beans, burgers, sandwiches, or mac-and-cheese, and drinks like iced tea or coke. But they never finish their ordered food and throw about half of it away. Either they don’t even take it home, or they do, but leave it in the fridge until it starts to mold*. I was puzzled to see that whenever they ate at home, they didn’t cook but only reheated take-away food from fast food drive-throughs and added a small pack of chips to it. Then, they ate in front of their TVs on so-called TV tables. At home they usually eat from paper plates even though the real plates are in the same cupboard. But they find it more convenient to throw the dirty plates away instead of cleaning them. They rarely go grocery shopping, and when they do, cashiers* use one plastic bag for every three items. (In many stores there is an extra employee just to pack up your groceries into plastic bags.) So, you end up leaving the store with a shopping cart full of plastic bags.

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Plastic bags in a shopping cart. (photo credit: Peteruetz/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The interesting thing is that Bane’s parents have a beautiful garden where they grow zucchinis, beans, cucumbers, and strawberries. They eat them occasionally, but most of it is given to neighbors or thrown away, because it is left in the fridge for too long. So, after these experiences, I am really curious to learn more about eating behaviors and choices in other American families.

Just as last week,  I've included audio snippets from some parts of the interview.

Lea: What does your family’s diet look like? What do you eat, usually?

Julia (12): All across the board, pretty much. We’ll have really healthy nights and then we…

Carla (14): Yeah, we’ll have a night, where we’ll have chicken salads, but then we’ll have fatty hamburgers, pasta, and stuff like that.

»Yeah, we'll have a night, where we'll have chicken salads  but then we'll have fatty hamburgers, pasta, and stuff like that.«

Sophie (41): Convenience*. We could be healthier, but we are not …

Bane (42): I’m impressed with the kids’ knowledge of dietary* things. Our kids will know if it’s a smart thing to eat or not. Doesn’t mean that they are not going to eat it. Fair enough, they will. We try to sit down as a family at least once or twice a week. And those meals will be completely balanced. Usually, with a white meat and then vegetables. We are eating out somewhere two or three times a week. 

Sophie: Depending upon what season we are in. During the throes* of baseball season, we eat out two or three times a week, because the game starts at six and we’re coming from here.

Bane: We are part of a farm share which we really like.1 April through November, we go to a farm, once a week, every other week, every other Monday, and we pick stuff there. That’s all locally grown. The really neat thing about that is: the kids love it. They’ll be like: “Oh man, farm shared carrots!” And they’ll crush them. And the fruit that comes off of there; that day it’s gone. But we shop almost exclusively at Giant Eagle*. And we do it for ease. But also, Giant Eagle prides itself on being local purchasers* of produce* when they can. So, we try to do that when we can. We’ve tried, in the past, things like buying a side of beef, but for a family it just didn’t work for us. 

Sophie: Nothing was in the right proportion for us. You would have four steaks and two pounds of ground meat*. I can’t do anything with that. I need six steaks and I need three pounds of ground meat in order to make a meal for us.

Lea: What about fast food?

Carla: No! That makes us sick. I mean, unless we have to eat fast food, we won’t eat it. We normally cook, if we can. We don’t eat a lot of junk food but not that healthy either. Something in the middle, probably. My lunch is always healthy, when I pack for school. And for breakfast, I have an apple.

Julia: I feel like that’s the same for me, too.

Bane: The kids really don’t like the fast food. So, we’ll be going to a sandwich place. 

Sophie: You know, Subway, Panera, those kinds of things. Or order pizza, and they just eat it in the car. 

Bane: Because they just don’t like fast food. And if one kid wants to go to a Wendy’s, the other one’s like: “Ugh!” They just don’t like it. So, that’s a good thing but there is still processed food*.

Bane’s aunt Mary (65) gave me another completely different perspective on the topic by explaining her eating and shopping habits in a single household. 

I find as a single person household (with my two parents eating with me 2-3 times a week) that it is much, much easier to eat healthy. I have my own insulated shopping bags, shop at farmers' markets, and about 10 years ago, I made a huge effort to eliminate wasting food. If I eat out at a restaurant, it is always to socialize, not to just buy food or a meal. I am not on any specialized diet, but I love vegetables and fruit, avoid starchy* foods and breads, and make homemade green smoothies for any snack and for one meal a day. The main snack that I indulge in buying and eating would be pretzels.” 

Mary Morgan 

1 Read the lexicon entry on community supported agriculture for further information.

mold: a fine soft green, grey or black substance like fur that grows on old food or on objects that are left in warm wet air

cashier: an employee in a store who handles monetary transactions

convenience: designed for quick and easy preparation or use

dietary: relating to food and drinks regularly consumed

throes of: a hard struggle

Giant Eagle: an American supermarket chain

to purchase: to buy

produce: agricultural products and especially fresh fruits and vegetables

ground meat: meat that has been finely chopped with a knife or a meat grinder

processed food: a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed in it to change or preserve it

starch: a white odorless tasteless granular or powdery complex carbohydrate (C6H10O5)x that is the chief storage form of carbohydrate in plants

  1. What aspects do you consider when buying food? (Convenience, price, taste, health …) Do you also think about sustainability?
  2. Bane and Sophie mention that his kids don’t like fast food: “So, we’ll be going to a sandwich place. You know, Subway, Panera, those kinds of things. Or order pizza, and they just eat it in the car.” What is their understanding of “fast food”? Do you agree? What would you consider “fast food” and why?
  3. Are their any CSR projects near your hometown? Do a web-research.

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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Meet the Morgans - The truth about traveling in the U.S.

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This week’s post is all about transportation. One of the first things I noticed during my stay in the U.S. was the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes. Around Bane’s parents’ house, where I stayed, the road consisted of nothing more than a strip of pavement just wide enough for two cars to pass each other.

For me, this meant a drastic change in my daily life. In Lüneburg, I am used to take my bike or walk, but in the States, I spent more time in cars, already within the first three weeks, than I did during the last 3 years back home. So, I asked the Morgan family how often they use a bike, car, train, or plane to get to places.

In order to understand their answers better, I should explain what the infrastructure around their neighborhood looks like. The Morgans live in a rather rural area of Gibsonia, a very small community in Richland Township, Allegheny County, with a population of 2,733. They live in a new housing plan with lots and lots of villas. There are sidewalks within their plan and a path to get to Carla’s school but there are neither bike lanes nor sidewalks outside of this small area. If they want to go shopping they have to drive 20 minutes by car to get to Cranberry. Here, you have to drive from one parking lot to the other because there are no sidewalks and even within one plaza you can’t always walk from store to store, safely. The only real public transportation available is the school bus system. Apart from that, there is only one bus station for travelling to Pittsburgh.

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A shopping plaza, in Cranberry, with different stores located around a vast parking lot. (photo credit: Google Maps)

This week, I've included audio snippets from some parts of the interview.

Lea: How often do you travel by bike?

Carla (14): Never. But as a family we’ll go on bike rides. But not as a transportation, though, more as a trip.

Julia (12): I don’t like bikes.

Sophie (41):  Never. It’s not conducive* where we live. You can’t get anywhere. We are too rural. We just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t get anywhere fast. 

Bane (42): When I was a resident* in Pittsburgh for dental school, we would bike every day. I lived near the University of Pittsburgh, and we’d bike two or three miles to school every day, eleven months out of the year. But where we live, it’s just not there.

Lea: … and by car?

Julia: Every time. 

Bane: 99+%.

Sophie: Nothing is more than 20 minutes, though. 

»Americans are so dependent upon cars, because they're so independent. You want to go exactly now, where you wanna go, when you wanna go.«

Bane: For me, my furthest drive is 53 miles (85 kilometers) from my house. I don’t have access to public transportation to do it. So, I have to drive to it. The only thing we use public transportation-wise is the school bus. The other options are just not available to us. And it’s something we would try to use, but the other part to it is: Americans are so dependent upon cars, because they’re so independent. You want to go exactly now, where you wanna go, when you wanna go. Public transportation just wouldn’t work as well. I don’t know that it’s right but… 

Lea: … and by train?

Julia: Never ever. 

Carla: We’ve been on a train in Europe. We’ve been on a train a couple times but just as a fun thing to do. Whenever we were in Europe, that was the only time we used it as transportation.

Sophie:  Never. When we were in college, I’d take the train to visit Bane, between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. But again, the train is definitely not convenient* or cost effective. 

Bane: Other places commute*, closer to major metropolitan areas and the Northeast Corridor and Northeast Direct. That is a really big train path that goes from DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston. In that area, it’s used a lot. 

Sophie: But, again, from where we are, it’s not useful for us.

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Passenger trains in North America. (photo credit: Jkan997/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Lea: … and by plane? 

Carla: When you are going somewhere far away. We probably use the plane two or three times a year. Maybe more. With a round trip*, that’d be six times. 

Sophie: Maybe six times a year. 

Bane: Because of the way the country is set up that isn’t direct. 

Sophie: No, I meant times we get on a plane to go somewhere. 

Bane: I know. We travel a lot; so, six round trips is probably true. But the crappy* thing about it is: you are using more fuel sustainability-wise because you’re not on a direct flight. You may fly from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and then continue to Denver. It’s not the best, but post-9-11* there isn’t an empty airplane, anymore. Pre-9-11 you’d get on airplanes, and sometimes there’d be 30 people on there. Now, every seat is full, because there are so many additional security costs, post-9-11.

Sophie: We never had all that security. 

Bane: I flew back from Paris, by myself, in 1996, after I spent an extra week with my German host brother and his family. When I flew back, they questioned me at machine guns at the Paris airport, because I was a single guy flying back by myself. That was the first time I had actually seen security at an airport. In Pittsburgh, you went through a metal detector and kept on walking. That was it.

conducive: tending to promote or assist

resident: a person who lives in a particular place or who has their home there

convenient: suited to personal comfort

to commute: to travel back and forth regularly

round trip: a trip to a place and back

crappy: lousy

9-11: the abbreviation for the date September 11, 2001, when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing thousands of people

Bike Culture: Europe vs America

Why US Public Transportation Is So Bad

9 Ways Security Has Changed Since 9/11

Biking in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis- Saint Paul

Wind, Hydrogen and Bio-Fuel Oh My! Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany in Public Transportation

Podcast with Elon Musk on The Future of Energy and Transportation

  1. How much do you travel by bike/car/train/plane?
  2. What do you consider when choosing a means of transportation? Do you think about its environmental impact?
  3. How convenient is travelling by train in the U.S. vs. Germany? Do a web-research, e.g. compare the networks of train lines, timetables, ticket prices, customer experiences etc. (Take a look at the website of the Deutsche Bahn & Amtrak.)

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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Meet the Morgans - How to build a sustainable home

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

In our current mini series, we get to meet the Morgans, a typical American family, who tell us about their life in the suburbia* of the United States. After last week’s introduction to the Morgans’ busy life, this week, we will talk about their living situation and their house. I wanted to know if the Morgans considered sustainable options when building their house in 2011.

Their mansion doesn’t look like the typical sustainable home, which I imagine would be built smaller and simpler in order to reduce its ecological footprint. But as Bane tells me, they did focus on eco-friendly elements like insulation, energy efficiency, and solar panels. Here is is part of my interview with the family about their house.

Lea: And tell me a little bit about your house.

Carla: So, I feel, we have a pretty big house. We each have our own bedroom, and there are two guest bedrooms. And we got a pool, which is nice.

Julia: And the entire basement is like an extra apartment.

Lea: Do you know if there is anything about your house that is sustainable or that your parents did specially to make the house more sustainable?

Julia: We are getting solar panels.

Carla: Yeah, we are getting solar panels, and we already use all clean power from wind mills. And we’re putting in a bee hive.

Bane: So, I think, the first thing that was really big when we built the home was thorough insulation. So, attic* insulation was huge. We have zippers* on all the attic accesses to keep that down. It’s a sprayed insulation, so it’s actually wider. And actually, the crazy thing is, with our home, it’s so energy efficient … There was a rating when we built the home, and it’s a rating based upon energy efficiency; our builder made sure it was the premium one, which is important to us. But with that energy rating, one of the things you notice, the snow will already have been off the grass and it’s still on our roof. That’s really interesting, because that shows me, we don’t lose any heat through the roof.

»There was a rating when we built the home, and it’s a rating based upon energy efficiency; our builder made sure it was the premium one, which is important to us.«

Sophie: One year, we came home from Nana*’s house, and there was a power line down. There had been an accident, and all the electricity was out for the whole night, and it was freezing. In our old house, when the electricity would go out in the winter, it was terrible. I remember we were in our blankets, and I ran around getting all our stuff. We got into the car and went to my mom’s home, because it was so cold we couldn’t be in our house. So, this time, I thought: “Oh my god Bane, what are we going to do?” It was like 1:30 a.m. We had just arrived at home. There was no electricity. Bane was like: “Well, let’s just put everyone in blankets. We’ll go to sleep, and it’ll be fine.” And we woke up the next day and our house was still warm. We thought: “Oh my gosh, we didn’t do anything.” I mean, it wasn’t super cozy, but we were definitely not hightailing* to anyone’s house. The power came back on 24 hours later, and we didn’t leave because of the snow.

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The pilot light in a gas fireplace. (photo credit: George Shuklin/ Wikimedia Commons)

Bane: And obviously we have double pane* windows and that kind of stuff. One thing that I jumped all over, this year, is: We have three different gas fireplaces. And we use them a lot for heat, in the wintertime. We like the ambience* of it, but we also use it to heat. We have chosen fireplaces that are furnace* capable. So, they actually can heat the home if we need to. And there is a pilot light*that burns on the gas stove, all the time. And even the people that come to maintain the fireplace, they’re like: “Oh, leave that on, all the time.” I was like: “No.” They’re like: “Well, you should do that. It keeps the dust and spiders down, inside.” But I’m like: “No, I’m not doing it.” To me, it’s not acceptable to burn that and have the gas constantly running.And the final one for us would be the solar panels. Our solar panels are going to cover 61% of our output. It won’t be a 100% but 61%. And what we are not using will actually be sold back to the grid*. So, all the people in that grid will use that power if we’re not using it. It is never wasted that way. We also do a thing right now called Green Mountain Energy. We pay – I think – 20 % more for our power and it only comes from wind or solar, right now.1 And we’ve chosen to do that as a way to help eliminate the fossil fuels. And then my electric car. It’s a hybrid, but we still try to decrease that output.

1 This is surprisingly more expensive than in Germany! Read this newspaper article from the “Welt” for further information: “Grüner Strom ist kaum teurer als herkömmlicher”.

suburbia: an area where people live that is outside the centre of a city

attic: a room or a space immediately below the roof of a building

zipper: a thing that you use to fasten clothes, bags, etc.

Nana: grandmother

to hightail: to move at full speed

pane: a framed sheet of glass in a window or door

ambience: atmosphere

furnace: an enclosed structure in which heat is produced (as for heating a house)

pilot light: a small permanent flame used to ignite gas at a burner

grid: a network of conductors for distribution of electric power

  1. Would you consider the Morgans a middle-class family? Why or why not?
  2. What positive/negative aspects do you see in installing solar panels? Does that reduce your environmental footprint? What aspects must be considered?
  3. Discuss with a partner what other options the Morgans could have considered to make their house even greener?
  4. What steps are you and your family taking to make your house or apartment greener?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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Meet the Morgans—How one American family is going green

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

It’s a busy morning at the Morgans’ house. Sophie has been up since 6 a.m. waking up her four kids Clara, Julia, Ben, and Tom. Her husband Bane has already left for work. It gets a little hectic at times, but that's not unusual, explains Sophie:

Everyone is getting ready, in the morning, at different stages. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I start waking up the kids. It is a 3-hour process. By the time Tom gets onto the bus, it’s 9 a.m. because their schools start at different times. And then they’re at school all day and Bane’s at work and I am either home or not home depending upon what’s going happening. Then the whole crazy routing starts again. At 2:30 p.m., the girls come home. At 3:30 p.m., Ben comes home. And then at 4:15 p.m., Tom comes home. And then activities … we go in a million different directions; no two days are the same. So, from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. is insanely busy. It’s all their activities, deciding where we’re going - like dance, drum lessons, guitar lessons, lacrosse games, and baseball games.” 

Sophie Morgan 

This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring sustainable choices and everyday green habits of a modern American family, the Morgans. Bane Morgan is my former host brother and during my recent stay in the States, I visited him and his family for quite some time during which we talked a lot about sustainability. Sophie and Bane as well as their oldest daughters Carla and Julia told me a lot about how they try to incorporate green choices into their lives. Throughout the next five blog posts, I will give an account of what they revealed to me in regard to topics like housing, transportation, food, shopping, and sustainable lifestyle, in general. 

But before the series starts, you should get to know the family and their living situation. So, let me introduce them to you: meet the Morgans. There are seven of them in total: Sophie (41) and Bane (42), their four children:  Carla (14), Julia (12), Ben (11), and Tom (9), and their dog Bella. They live in the small community of Gibsonia, Allegheny County, in western Pennsylvania. They are a rather typical upper middle-class family who owns a spacious mansion in a suburban neighborhood. Bane is an oral surgeon* and owns his own company. Sophie stays at home and cares for the kids and the dog. Their schedules are extremely busy with school, dance, cheerleading, fencing, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. 

The Morgans' house in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania

The Morgans' house in Gibsonia in western Pennsylvania. (photo credit: Lea Meimerstorf)

oral surgeon: a doctor or dentist who is trained to deal with diseases and problems of the mouth, jaw, face, and neck

Average American vs. Average European A purely statistics-based comparison between both countries. Remember that this average person only exists in theory. 

  1. Does the Morgans' morning routine differ from yours? How?
  2. What is the family's socio-economic status? What indicators does the text mention?
  3. Based on what you learn about the family in this first blog post, what do you think are the Morgans doing, or not doing, to 'go green'?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


Greta Thunberg arrives in the United States

by Lea Meimerstorf -
Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament building in 2018

Greta Thunberg protesting in front of the Swedish parliament building in 2018. (photo credit: Anders Hellberg/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who started the worldwide youth climate demonstrations known as “Fridays for Future”, just arrived in the USA to participate in the upcoming Climate Summit in New York on the 23rdof September 2019.

In August 2018, 15-year-old Greta was so disappointed with her government not acting upon the pressing climate threats visible in increasing global emissions, rising sea levels, biodiversity loss, global warming, air pollution and a countless amount of natural catastrophes that she decided to skip school and demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament. Other students joined her, starting an international movement organizing worldwide school strikes, every Friday, ever since Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2018. Even in the US, where many people haven’t heard of neither Great Thunberg nor her “Fridays for Future” movement, school strikes were held in over 500 places, last Friday alone. The young generation demands actions instead of hopeful words. As Greta Thunberg said in her recent TEDx talk in Stockholm: “Everything needs to change and it has to start today!”. 

U.S. House Representative Kathy Castor talks with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in the Congress

U.S. House Representative Kathy Castor talks with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in the Congress (Photo credit: Rep. Kathy Castor on Twitter, public domain)

In order to participate in the upcoming United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York as well as the COP 25 climate change conference in Santiago de Chile, later this year, Greta sailed all the way over the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, UK. The 60 ft racing yacht “The Malizia II” allowed her an emission-free journey due to solar panels and underwater turbines. Greta and the crew set off on August the 14thand arrived in New York City on the 28th. The 16-year-old Greta has used her time since the arrival well and spoke in front of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis as well as the Congress, met with former President Barack Obama, received an Amnesty International’s award, and lead a major climate change demonstration in New York City on Friday the 20thof September. 1.1 million students were excused to join the strike by the city’s public schools. (To see other locations that participated in this strike as well as find cities near you where you can join the demonstrations visit the Global Climate Strikes website.)

On Monday, when the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit is being held, Greta Thunberg will be striking again. She and the countless other young strikers demand for immediate actions and concrete plans to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. On Saturday, September 21st, before the summit, the UN Youth Climate Summit enables young leaders and activists to discuss their concerns and solutions and present them to international politicians and world leaders. Following the summit, a second worldwide “Fridays for Future” strike is planned for the 27thof September. 

For further information, please visit: 

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


We proudly present the Going Green School Competition Winners of 2018/19

by Lea Meimerstorf -

The fifth cycle of the Going Green project is coming to an end and we are proud to present the winners of our annual student competition. We received very thoughtful project outcomes dealing with a variety of topics linked to sustainability. All in all, 18 courses from four Bundesländer and one U.S. state registered on our platform. Over three hundred students and their teachers spent many weeks learning about sustainable activities as well as challenges in Germany and the U.S., finding out about sustainability topics such as waste, food, transport, and fashion. They analyzed how their own behavior impacts the sensitive system of our planet and developed different projects to go greener.

The Teach About U.S. team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2019 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the six winning projects:


Best Educational Video:

Save the Coral Reefs! An Educational Video about the Effect of Climate Change on the Ecosystem

by the English course (grade 10) at Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium in Montabaur, with teacher Nina Allgaier.


Best Student Entrepreneurship Project:

Sustainable Cooking – How Does that Work?!

by the course Geography /CAS IB (grade 11) at Leonardo da Vinci Campus in Nauen, with teacher Bärbel Baatz.


Best Social media Engagement Campaign:


by the English course 11 GK at Martin-Luther-Gymnasium in Frankenberg, with teacher Lisa Müller.


Most Creative Video: 

“Climate Change is here: act now”

by the English courses 10 GK and 11 GK & LK at Marie Curie Gymnasium in Bönen, with teacher Karsten Brill


Best Research:

Our Biodiversity Gets Lost

by the course 11BG-G at Saalburgschule in Usingen, with teacher Gisela Wildermuth.


Most Thought-provoking Video:

Our Sustainable Shared Flat

by the English course LK 12 at Friderico-Francisceum in Bad Doberan, with teacher Daniela Weihs.


The runner-ups include: 

Environmental Pollution by the English course grade 11 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner

Dream Big, Dream Green by the English course grade 12 at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösener

Action Plan 2019 by the English course 11G at max-Beckmann-Schule with teacher Therese Hartmann

Cross-Atlantic Workshop / Seminarkurs - Environmental Justice and urban Sustainability by grade 11 students at Kepler Gymnasium Freiburg and Lincoln High School in Portland, OR and teachers Jörg Dopfer and Tim Swinehart

Going Green Blog by the English courses grades 10, 11, and 12 at Marie-Curie-Gymnasium Bönen with teacher Karsten Brill

Easy Regional Cooking - Local, Fast and Healthy by the English course grade 12 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner

The Power of the Sun by the English course grade 10 at Gymnasium Lüneburger Heide with teacher Sol Velasquez

Take a look at the 60+ action plans from previous years showcased on Teach About U.S. Read more...


Congratulations to all participants and competition winners! 


In lieu of a final student conference, we invite all project participants, regardless if you upload a final product or not, to join us for the Sommerfest at Humboldt Universität Berlin on August 29, 2019, 14-15:30h. During the event, student groups will have the opportunity to report about their experiences with the project in a casual atmosphere and discuss their action plans with peers and experts on sustainability. Prof. Marcel Robischon, Humboldt University, will moderate the session, and Prof. Torben Schmidt, Leuphana University, a member of the Teach About U.S. team, will give a brief introduction. 


'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in BerlinLeuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 60 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

» More information on Going Green

» Database of green action plans since 2014

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts

 #Competition  #GoingGreen 

And the winners are... Going Green Awards 2018

by Joannis Kaliampos -

Bild1.pngWith the student competition, our fourth installment of the Going Green project comes to a conclusion. Overall, 43 courses from nine Bundesländer and four U.S. states registered on our platform. Over five hundred students and their teachers spent many weeks exploring sustainable activities Germany and the U.S., discovering how their behavior can impact the environment, and figuring out innovative ways to create positive change in their communities.

The Teach About US team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2018 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the nine winning projects:

Going Green Together – A German-American Sustainability School Project

by the Project Week Course (grades 7-12) at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösener, and the Social Studies course at Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington, Del., with teacher Melissa Tracy.


Life for Skins

by the English course (grade 12) at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in Neubrandenburg, with teacher Petra Wittner.


BK Halle Goes Green

by the course Gesellschaftslehre mit Geschichte bilingual at Berufskolleg in Halle (Westf.), with teacher Carla Merschhaus.


Leinwig's Lasting Lead – the Road to Sustainability

by the English course (grade 12) at Gymnasium Essen-Werden, with teacher Karsten Brill.


Our Sustainability Zone

by the English course 17/5 at Oberstufenzentrum Landkreis Teltow-Fläming in Ludwigsfelde, with teacher Patrick Emmelmann.


MTG Goes Green – Introducing the Green Break

by the English course (grade 9) at Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium in Montabaur, with teacher Nina Allgaier.


Small Steps for a Big Change

by the English course Q1 at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises in Sprockhövel, with teacher Martina Westermann, and the current events course at Berrien Springs High School in Berrien Springs, Mich., with teacher John Vitek.


Blackout – Wake Up and See the Truth

by the English course 10B at Humboldt-Gymnasium in Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.


We Make the Environment Great Again!

by the English course 11 BG-W at Saalburgschule in Usingen, with teacher Gisela Wildermuth.


The first of these awards were presented on April 19, 2018 at the concluding event in Düsseldorf organized by our friends at the U.S. Consulate and the Nordrhein-Westfalen Education Ministry . Representatives of the five participating schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen were invited to present their project ideas to the public at the Education Ministry. Vice-Consul General Benjamin Chapman and Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer emphasized the creativity and the sense of individual responsibility reflected by all projects and congratulated the students on their success in the competition.

Going Green Winners 2018 in Düsseldorf with Education Minister Gebauer and Vice Consul Chapman

NRW School Minister Yvonne Gebauer and U.S. Vice-Consul Benjamin B. Chapman presented the Going Green 2018 awards to participants from North Rhine-Westphalia: Berufskolleg Halle (Westf.), Friedrich-Bährens-Gymnasium, Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule, Schule am See Sekundarschule Wetter, and Gymnasium Essen-Werden.

Participants from Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen, and Baden-Württemberg met on Monday, April 22, 2018 at the invitation of the U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt, the German Earth Day Committee, and IHK Frankfurt. Participants from Berlin and Brandenburg will either be invited to a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin or an Embassy representative will visit them at their school. Dr. Martina Kohl will contact award recipients shortly to set dates before the summer break.

 Going Green winners 2018 from Montabaur

Participants from Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium Montabaur with their teacher Nina Allgaier receive their award at the Earth Day Celebration in Frankfurt.

Going Green winners 2018 from Usingen

Participants from Saalburgschule in Usingen with their teacher Gisela Wildermuth receive their award at the Earth Day Celebration in Frankfurt.

Congratulations to all participants and competition winners!


Joannis Kaliampos is the educational project manager for the U.S. Embassy's Teach About US platform. He is a research assistant at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and holds a Staatsexamen degree in teaching English and History at the Gymnasium from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. Joannis has developed teaching materials and has been leading teacher workshops for the U.S. Embassy's school projects since 2012.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

 #Competition  #GoingGreen

Going Green Awards 2017: And the awards go to...

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngThe third cycle of the Going Green project concluded in June 2017. After an intensive election season and a school election project that was just as exciting, we anticipated a smaller but not less dedicated group of participants this spring for Going Green. And yet, 23 courses from Germany and the U.S. registered their own Moodle courses and some more participated with our offline materials collection.

The Going Green jury met in early June 2017 to review the student competition entries and awards prizes to seven green action plans in four categories. We are grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for supporting these student projects once again with monetary prizes intended to kickstart and continue these green projects. These projects all propose unique approaches to promoting sustainability, but they also highlight individual agency and the contributions that each and every one of us can make to combat climate change. In so doing, these students embrace the concept of environmental stewardship aimed at making changes in their communities.


Here are the award winning projects from 2017:



QR-Code-Ralley: LHG Goes Green

Class 12 English at Luise Henriette Gymnasium Oranienburg, Brandenburg, with their teacher Jens Rösener.



We created an app which includes 10 stations with QR-Codes, which all deal with sustainability at our school. Our class tried to identify how 'green' our school actually is. We set the priority to raise students' awareness of green issues and wanted to create something that future generations of students could benefit from. Therefore, we developed a QR-Code Rallye that students from class 8 have already put into practice. From the next school year onwards, new students in class 7 will get the chance to use our app as well.



Hands-on: Saalburgschule goes Green

Class 11 BG-W at Saalburschule Usingen, Hessen, with their teacher Gisela Wildermuth.



The focus of our school’s “Going Green” project was to reduce our community’s environmental footprint through hands-on activities:
  • We raised awareness of the detriments of using plastic in and around our school and took the responsibility of advising and teaching about recycling points in our buildings.
  • Another activity to going green was planting bee-friendly flowers around the school. We created posters to inform other students about the purpose of our activity.
  • We researched and came up with solutions on how our school could save money and reduce the waste of natural resources by slightly modernizing the school’s heating system.
  • We looked at the impact that transportation has on the local environment and pointed out strategies to reduce air pollution.
Through all these activities and supplemental reading, we developed a better understanding of the impact our own behavior has on the environment, and took action to reduce our ecological footprints.


Reusable Bottles at our School

Class FOSP1B at Berufskolleg Höxter, Nordrhein-Westfalen, with their teacher Dagmar Knies.



We set up a container to collect one-way deposit and refilling containers and designed a poster with relevant information.
Problem. At our school, many students simply leave their drink containers in classrooms or even throw them into the bins for general garbage. This means that the deposit for these containers is lost and that they cannot be reused or recycled, which means environmental harm.
Solution. We put up a container for reusable and recyclable drink containers at a central point in the building. We designed a poster showing how to dispose of bottles and cans. It also describes the German deposit system and environmental effects. We also designed a short informational text for other students to raise additional awareness and explain our idea. If this container is a success, we plan to put up more containers in central areas.
Practice. We need to raise awareness and acceptance. People shouldn't throw their garbage into our container, for example. We also need to talk to the cleaning staff, because they are the ones who collect all the drink containers from all over the building.



Owls and Pillows, Reusing Old Plastic Bottles & It’s going on: Sustainability Ambassadors

Classes 5c, 8a, 8b, and 9a at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen, Baden-Württemberg, with their teachers Eva Gold, Sarah Garman, Sabine Kroiss, Sonja Sachs, Bettina Schönherr, Stefanie Schulze, and Michael Widinger.

This year marked the third time that students from Schubart-Gymnasium in Aalen participated in our Going Green competition. Four courses developed three different action plans to ‘go green.’ All of them are integrated into a school-wide curriculum focusing on education for sustainable development that is currently being developed by teachers representing different school subjects as well as external partners like Aalen Technical University. The jury applauds this integrative approach and decided to award these groups a joint prize for their collective efforts.

Project 1: Students of classes 8a and 5c joined forces for their upcycling project. They collected old clothes at their school and used these materials to create ‘owl pillows’ that they are planning to present and sell at their upcoming school festival. Grade 8 students also visited their younger partners during class and gave presentations on climate change.



Project 2: Class 8b focused on the issue of recycling plastic and reached out to their art teacher to create sculptures made from plastic trash. They identified plastic bottles as one major type of trash on their school campus and created a poster campaign to educate their fellow students about the consequences of plastic pollution – and ways to combat this development.



Project 3: Class 9a, like their fellow students, realized that change for sustainability requires creative and educational approaches. Participating in our competition for the third time, the students have developed a program to train student sustainability ambassadors. One component of this ambassador program is that older students reach out to local primary schools and educate them about green issues.



Certificate of appreciation

Green Transport Rap

Class 10c at Humboldt Gymnasium Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.


It´s a rap-song about why you should use your bike or public transport instead of your car.
We divided our class in four groups, every group worked on one of the four Going Green Projects. The group that treated transportation was chosen as the best group, so their final result was uploaded here.
The problem that the group identified was that many young people are too lazy to go by bike or public transport, so they let their parents drive them by car. That is a big problem, because it causes much air pollution. And often the distance could easily be driven by bike or public transit.
To approach this, the group wrote a song. Many young people like rap music and also the beat of the song is a instrumental version of a really popular rap-song. Our intention was that many people would remember the song's melody. With the lyrcis of the song, the group wants to motivate teenagers to go by bike or use public transport. It´s necessary that this song gets popular, so that many people hear it and think about the meaning of its lyrics. (The music of the song is the instrumental version of "Palmen aus Plastik" made by "Bonez MC" and "RAF Camora".)

Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

The students of class FOSP1B, together with their teacher Dagmar Knies, were invited to the Northrhine-Westphalia Landtag where they received their prize money of EUR 500 from U.S. Consul General Keller and member of parliament Matthias Goeken MdL.


Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Congratulations to the students at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen on their 1st prize in this year's Going Green school competition. U.S. Consul General Herman handed the award of EUR 1,000 to the students and held a town hall meeting with over 200 students about German-American relations.


The Teach About US team and our partners congratulate all participants and competition winners!


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Here are the winners of the Going Green Awards 2016

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngIn 2016, we were able to award 13 first prizes for student projects that exhibited outstanding creativity and innovative thinking, applicability in local communities, and a high quality of presentation – all done in the students' foreign language English.

The Teach About US team and our partners want to thank everyone who participated and helped make this contest a success. Congratulations to all students and teachers!


Video: Going Green project finale at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin, April 2016.

The award-winning Going Green action plans are:


Best Video

Going Green video ideas

by course  5e at Gymnasium Essen-Werden with teacher Karsten Brill.


Best Bulletin Board

Our food – local, healthy, sustainable

by the Biology bilingual course (grade 10) at Städtisches Gymnasium Gevelsberg with teacher Birgit Klöber.


Best Website

How much water do we eat?

by the project group English at Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.


Community Engagement Award

Act locally: Our Bike Day, our Donation to the Peace Village in Oberhausen and Teaching Refugees

by the course Q1 and Schülervertretung at Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.


Transatlantic Reward

SG Goes Green

by the course 8a at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen, with teachers Bettina Schönherr and Ilona Ackermann.


Most Comprehensive Award to Save the Environment

Small Steps for a Big Change

by the English course Q1 at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises and Berrien Springs High School, with teachers Martina Westermann and John Vitek.


Most Artistic Project

Plastic is everywhere!

by the course 7e at Goethe Gymnasium Frankfurt am Main with teacher Anne von Rekowski.


Best Powerpoint Presentation

Einstein Goes Green!

by the grade 11 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Maintal, with teacher Jil Behr.


Most Innovative Product Idea (Print)

Green World - all about plastic!

by the grade 10a at Humboldt-Gymnasium Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.


Best Presentation

Life Cycle of Clothes

by the grade 10a at Gymnasium Hittfeld Seevetal, with teacher Philipp Schmidt.


Most Innovative Product Idea

Slow Down Fast Fashion

by the English course grade 11 at BIP-Kreativitätsgymnasium Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.


Most Creative Contribution

Greenefying Our Scholl School

by grade 11 at Geschwister-Scholl-Schule Zossen, with teacher Patrick Emmelmann.


As you all know, for such projects to succeed, it takes more than a learning platform and the prospect of presenting your idea to a large audience. In fact, what all of these student projects have in common is a teacher who sparked enthusiasm and inspired creativity among their students. This is why we decided to make this engagement visible by creating the Most Engaged Teacher Award. Four teachers share this award:


  • Anissa Schiffer (Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf)
  • Chiara Catalano (Georg-Herwegh-Gymnasium Berlin)
  • Bettina Schönherr and Ilona Ackermann (Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen)


They all impressed us with their meticulous work on the Moodle plattform and the fact that they all succeeded in truly engaging their students in community outreach activities. They helped build partnerships with elected officials, local businesses, or institutions of higher education as part of their Going Green participation. With this award, we want to honor the commitment of these colleagues and shine a light on outstanding teacher engagement – which all too often is not being recognized the way it should be.

Our competition winners were invited to present their action plans to fellow project participants at concluding events in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Düsseldorf. If you couldn't make it to these events or want to relive the experience, here are some impressions from these

 Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Going Green Award Winners at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin.


Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Going Green 2016 Final Event in Frankfurt.

Here are some more impressions from the final event in Berlin at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung:

Once again, the entire Teach About US team and our partners would like to congratulate all students and teachers who participated in Going Green and made this project such a  sustainable success!


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Election Project 2016 - The award winning student contributions

by Marilena Peters -

On November 7, 160 students representing 34 schools from Berlin (18), Brandenburg (9), Saxony (4), Saxony Anhalt (1) Niedersachsen (1), and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (1) declared their election forecasts for the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Ambassador Emerson discussed the students' results together with Bill Chandler at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin.

At the same time, another group of participants from North Rhine-Westphalia met at the NRW Schulministerium in Düsseldorf together with Consul General Michael R. Keller and Schulministerin Sylvia Löhrmann.

This is the project outcome produced by our participants:

Project Prediction

Created with the CNN Electoral College Map Maker.

This year, our participants' prediction did not turn out correct. Here are the actual election results from November 8, 2016. Republican candidate Donald Trump won with 279 to 228 electoral college votes over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Screenshot from The New York Times.


As part of the U.S. Election Project, participants submitted learner products in a competition for creative project outcomes. Below are the winning student contributions. Awards were given in ten categories plus five transatlantic cooperation awards for outstanding efforts to facilitate transatlantic cooperation within the project.


Best Campaign Video:

Washington State Goes Blue

Sebastian-Münster-Gymnasium Ingelheim (Rhl.-Pf.)


Best Newspaper:

The Salem General in Oregon

BSZ Schwarzenberg (Sachsen)


Best Collage:

Hillary vs. Donald – Who will strengthen the American economy?

Humboldtschule Bad Homburg (Hessen)


Best Creative Video:


Max-Planck-Gymnasium Gelsenkirchen (Nordrhein-Westfalen)



Best Poster:

8 Reasons Why Wyoming Will Vote Republican

Herder-Gymnasium Berlin


Best Creative Song:

Rhode Island Rap

Katholische Schule Salvator Berlin



Best Website:

Presidential Election in Missouri

Friderico-Francisceum Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)


Best Educational Video:

U.S. Embassy School Election Project: Washington

Mataré-Gymnasium Meerbusch (Nordrhein-Westfalen)



Best Blog:

My Life in Pennsylvania

Mons-Tabor Gymnasium Montabaur (Rheinland-Pfalz)


Most Creative Contribution:

Get Votes – The Game

Friderico-Francisceum Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)


Transatlantic Award

It is with great pride and pleasure that the Teach About US team awards a transatlantic cooperation prize to five of our German-American tandems, who share the fact that students and teachers alike have done a tremendous job making the election project a truly binational encounter.

The Teach About US team would like to recognize for their achievements for transatlantic understanding:

  • Oranienburg/Washington, MO: Jens Rösener with his class at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium, Oranienburg, and Allison Graves and her students at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri;
  • Gransee/Clemmons, NC: Heike Grützmacher and students at Strittmatter-Gymnasium in Gransee together with Amber Alford and students at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina;
  • Berlin/Fayetteville, AR: Christina Kurzmann and her class at Goethe Gymnasium Lichterfelde in Berlin, together with Amber Pinter at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville Arkansas, who have been maintaining their school partnership for 30 years now;
  • Soest/Bloomington, MN: Dr. Markus Schröder with his class at Hubertus-Schwartz-Berufskolleg in Soest, and their U.S. partner Brian Trusinsky and his class at Thomas Jefferson Senior High School in Bloomington, Minnesota;
  • Sprockhövel/Oronoko Township, MI: Martina Westermann and her students at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises in Sprockhövel, who collaborated with John Vitek and his class at Berrien Springs High School in Oronoko Township, Michigan.


Congratulations again to all winners!


Take a look at some impressions from the concluding events that took place a day before the elections in Berlin and Düsseldorf:

Berlin, Nov. 7, 2016 at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung


 Düsseldorf, Nov. 7, 2016 at the Schulministerium NRW


Summary of Press and media coverage

The project was also featured in a number of regional and national media reports. 


ZDF 02.11.2016

US-Wahl als Schulprojekt: Schüler lernen über Swing States und das amerikanische Wahlsystem


Lüneburger Landeszeitung 03.11.2016

Schüler sagen Ergebnis der US-Wahl voraus


Berliner Zeitung 07.11.2016

Schulprojekt: Hillary siegt mit großem Vorsprung


Leuphana Universität Lüneburg 07.11.2016

Trump oder Clinton - Können deutsche Schüler wirklich das Ergebnis der US-Wahl vorhersagen?


Der Tagesspiegel 07.11.2016

Schülerprognose zur US-Wahl: Clinton gewinnt

Siegerland Kurier 08.11.2016

Clinton oder Trump - Gymnasium Stift Keppel Hilchenbach nahm am „U.S. Election Project“ teil


WAZ 08.11.2016

US-Wahl: Stift Keppel tippt auf Clinton

Märkische Online Zeitung 08.11.2016

Schüler würden Clinton wählen


Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung 09.11.2016

Gymnasiasten zur US-Wahlnacht im ZDF-Studio


Soester Anzeiger 09.11.2016

"Jetzt geht die Welt unter"


Münster Journal 10.11.2016

„Annette-Gymnasium“ stellt Analyse der „US-Wahl“ in Düsseldorf vor

Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.


The US Embassy School Election project attracted over 1,500 participants 2012 and more than 3,000 participants in 2016, including students in over 40 courses in the U.S. German students adopted one U.S. state and became its virtual citizens, reviewed local and social media critically and evaluated the political debates in the weeks leading to the presidential elections. Many German students reached out to their U.S. partners to learn first-hand how the election campaign was perceived by U.S. citizens in urbans centers and rural regions alike. They predicted the election outcome in their state. In 2012, these students' predictions were more accurate than many nationally broadcast polls. Four years later, as most pundits and pollsters failed to predict the stunning electoral college win by the Republican party's candidate Donald J. Trump, our German students didn't have a crystal-ball either.

The U.S. Embassy School Election Project was awarded the renowned Hans-Eberhard-Piepho Prize for Ideas in Communicative Language Teaching in 2013.

>>More information on the U.S. Embassy School Election Project

>>Demo course (log-in required)

#Competition #Election2016

Going Green Awards 2014 – The winning projects

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngOver 900 participants in 58 online courses registered for the Going Green 2014 school projects. We received many motivating news from different parts of the country – students who organized a flash mob, others who designed a mobile app, individuals and groups who reached out to local businesses, scholars, and policy makers, and an entire course that interviewed NGO representatives on Skype.

The Teach About US team and our partners want to thank everyone who participated and helped make this contest a success. Congratulations to all students and teachers!

Video: Going Green 2014 finale at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin with project participants and U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson.


These are the winning projects of the Going Green 2014 Awards:



First Prize: Plastic and Trash

by the English Course (grade 12) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Schwerin with teacher Susanne Herbrand-Escher.


1st Runner-up: Humboldt Goes Green

by the English Course (grade 11) at Humboldt-Gymnasium in Potsdam with teachers Patrick Emmelmann and Carola Gnadt.


2nd Runner-up: If you save the world, you can save yourself

by the English Course (grade 8a) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn with teacher Melanie Shriner.


2nd Runner-up: Get going, go green!

by the English Course (grade 12) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Schwerin with teacher Susanne Herbrand-Escher.


First Prize: Alsdorf goes Green

by the bilingual project course (grade 12) with American exchange students at Dalton-Gymnasium in Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.


1st Runner-up: Think Globally, Act Locally

by the English Course (grade 11) at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösner.



First Prize: Wake up! Go green!

by the English course (grade 9b) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn, with teacher Melanie Shriner.


1st Runner-up: Philantrophs are going green!

by the English Course (grade 12d) at Gymnasium Philanthropinum in Potsdam with teacher Heike Piornak-Sommerweiß.


2nd Runner-up: More culture and nature instead of smartphone failure

by the English Course (grade 8b) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn with teacher Melanie Shriner.


Most innovative product

First Prize: Superstainable – The Board Game to go Green

by the bilingual Biology course (grade Q1) at Schuldorf Bergstraße in Seeheim-Jugenheim, with teacher Kerstin Oldenburg.


1st Runner-up: Sustainable Cosmetics

by the English Course (grade 12) at Albert-Einstein Gymnasium in Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner.


2nd Runner-up: Bag to the roots

by the English course (grade 11) at BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium in Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.


Most creative contribution

First Prize: Greenate – A blog, campaign, and an app

by the bilingual Biology course (grade 10) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Frankfurt, with teacher Anne Schröter


1st Runner-up: Regional Food

by the bilingual Biology Course (grade 6a) at Schubert-Gymnasium in Aalen with teacher Bettina Schönherr.


Community Engagement Award

First Prize: Going Green – A Campaign, Workshops, and an Art Festival

by the Key Club at Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut in Nürnberg, with program coordinator Kathleen Röber.

Going Green Action Plan Nuremberg from DAI Nuernberg on Vimeo.


1st Runner-up: Aska Awareness Day

by the English Course (grade 11) at Askanisches Gymnasium in Berlin with teacher Matthias Klaudius.


2nd Runner-up: Food for Thought

by the English course (grade 11) at Strittmatter-Gymnasium in Gransee, with teacher Heike Grützmacher.


Transatlantic Award

Goethe goes green

by the LK English 1st term at Goethe Oberschule in Berlin, with teacher Christina Kurzmann, and the Green Team at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


Most Popular Award

Bag to the roots

by the English course (grade 11) at BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium in Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.


We concluded the Going Green project and student competition with events in Düsseldorf (December 4) and Berlin (December 5). In Düsseldorf, participating courses and teachers were welcomed at the Nordrhein-Westfalen Schulministerium. Our Going Green participants presented their green action plans and discussed their ideas with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte. Consul General, Steve Hubler, and Staatssekretär Ludwig Hecke congratulated the students on their commitment to German-American cooperation and awarded prizes for some of their outstanding green action plans.

Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Our friends at the U.S. Consulate General Duesseldorf and Schulministerium NRW hosted a meeting with students from Nicolaus Cusanus Gymnasium Bonn, Gymnasium Alsdorf, and Gymnasium Essen-Werden in Düsseldorf.


In Berlin, U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson and the Going Green team welcomed students from eight Bundesländer at our national concluding event that was generously hosted by our friends at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Prof. Goldfield joined us again for this event and discussed the green action plans with the students. Ambassador Emerson awarded prizes for excellent student contributions and underlined the importance of civic engagement for sustainable development.


Congratulations to all participants and competition winners!


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Hope for Life in the Great Lakes (guest post by Elizabeth LaPensée)

by Marilena Peters -
16128737644_e7970bf2e7_m.jpgAnishinaabeg (Anishinaabe people) understand that we are all connected. Impact on one eco-system echoes to another. As climate change creates shifts in our communities in Gichigamiin (the Great Lakes), we offer good thoughts for the healing of those most affected recently, including nibi (water), wiigwaas (birch bark), mooz (moose), namegos (trout), and manoomin (wild rice).
Photo caption: Elizabeth LaPensée speaking at the #1ReasonToBe Conference in March 2015 (photo credit: Official GDC on Flickr)

Wiigwaas (birch bark) is fused with water in the landscape. Wiigwaasaatigoog (birch trees) grow in many ways across many eco-systems. Birch is used for many things including makakoon (baskets), jiimaanan (canoes), and mashkiki (medicine). Wiigwaasaatigoog are disappearing so fast that some jiimaanan need to be made from wiigwaas (birch bark) from other territories (even as far as other countries). Properly gathering wiigwaas so as to not kill wiigwaasaatigoog and planting wiigwaasaatigoog in places that still have deep winters can help.

The ones who seek healing

Nenda-noojimojig - The Ones Who Seek Healing. Elizabeth LaPensée, Anishaabe & Métis. Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, 2016.

Made of wiigwaas is a flower with five petals, the floral representing women, sitting within Nookomis Giizis (Grandmother Moon). We are grateful for our Anishinaabekweg (Anishinaabe women) who walk and sing for the water. Sharing water teachings and songs is vital for us all. Nookomis Giizis influences the movements of the waters, which rise each day from melting land ice and expanding sea water. In turn, all movements on and around Nookomis Giizis can change the direction and motion of the waters.

»Anishinaabeg (Anishinaabe people) understand that we are all connected. Impact on one eco-system echoes to another.«

In the stars beside Nookomis Giizis is the Mooz (moose) constellation, who returns in the fall and watches over the ones who walk, swim, crawl, and fly below. Mooz represents ongoing survival. Yet, mooz on the land are disappearing rapidly due to climate change. We hope for mooz to continue on with endurance.

Mooz looks down at namegos (trout), who swims and leaps. Namegos has long provided nourishment to our people and for this we honor them today through restoration efforts and climate change research. Namegos thrive best in cool/cold water.

»Namegos has long provided nourishment to our people and for this we honor them today through restoration efforts and climate change research.«

Namegos swims towards shallower water where manoomin (wild rice) grows. Manoomin is essential as food and medicine for our people. We are here at these waters thanks to this sacred nourishment. We respect manoomin by caring for the waters, removing invasive plants to allow the stalks to grow, and being gentle when we knock the stalks for rice.

While there is change, there is also hope for healing.

Nenda-noojimojig. The ones who seek healing.

Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. ( is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe from Baawaating with relations at Bay Mills Indian Community and Métis. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University.


Germany and U.S. Climate and Energy Policies at the Local Level: Common Puzzles

by Marilena Peters -

Participating in the U.S. Embassy’s Speakers’ Program, Nilda Mesa travelled to different cities in Germany to talk about the status quo concerning the climate and energy policies in the U.S. and Germany at the local and federal government levels. In her article she is providing insights into climate and energy policymaking in both countries and introduces initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Since in Germany the authorities of the Länder (states) are deduced from the federal government, unlike in the U.S. where the Constitution grants a significant extent of authority directly to states, Mesa's German colleagues were surprised at how decentralized the policymaking in the U.S. can be:


As their system is so centralized, they assumed ours is much the same, which led them to believe that the pronouncements coming from our federal government meant that all states and cities had no choice or flexibility to create their own policies on climate and energy."

– Nilda Mesa

So what does this mean in times of retrenchment from Washington and the U.S.’ federal governments' withdrawal from the Paris climate goals?


Little news reaches them through their media about U.S. local and state climate and energy policy, and thus they had the impression that Washington pulling out of the Paris climate agreement prohibited states and local entities as well as the private sector from following their own course."

– Nilda Mesa


Since this is not the case, the article shows that there are innovative initiatives under way such as “We’re Still In” (check out our recent blog post about the UN climate conference) and that U.S. states like New York are moving forward to meet the Paris climate goals:


New York’s policy levers to meet 80x50 greenhouse gas emissions targets, such as REV and OneNYC (…) ."

– Nilda Mesa


If you are interested in learning more about the U.S. and Germany’s climate and energy policies, click on this link to read the rest of Nilda Mesa’s blog post for the Sallan foundation.


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.


All Politics Is Local: Localities and Regions at the COP 23 in Bonn

by Joannis Kaliampos -
From the very beginning, our Going Green project curriculum has been focusing on environmental action driven by the state and local level. How this works when these non-federal actors come together is currently on display at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany. 20 U.S. states, 110 U.S. cities, and over 1,400 businesses have adopted quantified emissions reduction targets. Not only do they represent USD $25 trillion in market capitalization and nearly 1.0 gigatons of GHG emissions per year. Their economy would be the third largest in the world. “In America’s federal system and market economy, these subnational leaders are critically important. Businesses, cities and US states not only drive regional economies, they are powering our national transformation to a zero-carbon economy,” responded Lou Leonard, World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) senior vice president of climate change and energy. COP 23 under the Fiji Presidency hosts diplomats, politicians and representatives of civil society from all over the world in Bonn.
Here is more information on this initiative: "We are still in"

Teach About US invites teachers and students interested in up-to-date teaching content about U.S. culture to participate in two award-winning projects. Check out “Going Green – Education for Sustainability”: The project will start its fourth year in the school year 2017/18. In addition, every four years, the U.S. Embassy School Election Projects calls German students to predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. In 2016, the “U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016" attracted over 3,000 participants.  The platform is primarily geared towards the English as a foreign language and CLIL classrooms, but we also encourage social science teachers to use our materials on both sides of the Atlantic.  Invite your U.S. or Germany based partner school to participate in a 'transatlantic tandem' or start a partnership via our platform!


Visions for more Water Sustainability in the State of 10,000 Lakes

by Deleted user -

In Minnesota water has always played a central role not only for recreation but also industry. Not only is Minnesota home to more than 11,800 lakes but also huge rivers like the Mississippi, the Minnesota River and the Saint Croix River. This allows Minnesota to be the fifth largest producer of agricultural goods in the United States. But this part of the economy also accounts for a significant share of the water used in Minnesota. In total, 34 percent (87.9 billion gallons in absolute numbers) of the state´s water is just used for irrigation purposes. This is unsustainable!


Relying too much on groundwater

Since the end of World War II, Minnesota has shifted its water supply from surface water sources like the Mississippi River to groundwater pumping. Especially over the last 25 years, there has been a steep increase of 35 percent in the usage of groundwater. Although not solely responsible for this increase (an increasing population as well), farming is regarded as one of the key areas to tackle an unsustainable use of water, groundwater in particular. According to Professor Deb Swackhamer, former director of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center, groundwater can be compared to a saving´s account for times of droughts. In contrast to surface water, which can be refilled through rain, groundwater, is replenished on a geological time scale that might take up to 10,000 years. Thus, it is clearly not sustainable to mostly rely on groundwater. If the groundwater reservoirs decline, it might take generations until they can be used again. In parts of South-West and Central-Minnesota, people have already witnessed a lowering of the groundwater level, which can cause serious water supply problems for communities, industries, and wildlife. Low groundwater in Little Rock Creek in Central-Minnesota has led to decreasing oxygen and increasing water temperatures that harm the brown trout population there. Though a regional issue, the Little Rock Creek case amplifies the importance of a more sustainable use of groundwater.


Cleaning up surface water sources

But why is it not possible to just switch back to surface water sources, which were used in the past? Today, more than 40 percent (more than 4100) lakes and streams in the state of Minnesota do not meet the federal quality standards for water, often caused by the side-effects of agriculture like nitrate and phosphorous contamination from fertilizers and animal manure. By infiltrating the ground or running into rivers, streams and lakes, these substances can negatively impact the overall water quality and foster the growth of toxic blue-green algae. Hence, it is not possible to use the contaminated water for irrigation or even drinking. Drinking contaminated water can cause serious illnesses such as the Blue Baby Syndrome, which is a blood disorder that can even be even be fatal in infants. 


Proximity to pollution sources can negatively impact the quality of water.


Thus the state, companies, as well as advocacy groups have taken steps to tackle the problems of future groundwater shortages and water contamination in the state. To reduce water consumption in industries and agriculture (together accounting for about 42 percent of the freshwater used in Minnesota), businesses are encouraged to use more conservation-based processes and equipment. A common problem in this context are leaky water pipes and other related equipment. Even a very small leak of one drop of water per minute accounts for more than 10 gallons of lost water per year. Multiplied with the remaining leaks from a farm or plant this already accounts for significant amount of water loss. In fact, both companies and nature can benefit from simple steps like fixing leaking pipes since people save money and nature suffers less from an unsustainable usage of its precious natural resource.


Leaky water pipes account for a significant amount of water loss.


Modernizing water supply and treatment

Modern efficient irrigation technology in agriculture also saves water such as low-pressure irrigation. In general, extracting water from streams, lakes or the ground is a highly energy intensive process. Today, still most irrigation systems rely on high-pressure impact sprinklers that release a large amount of water at high pressure to water fields. Thus, these systems require pumps that push large amounts of water through pipes at a very high velocity. But low-pressure systems reduce the pumping demands significantly since pumps extract less water to create the pressure necessary to supply the sprinklers. Moreover, these systems also save water by using larger droplets that are more resistant to wind and evaporation. In contrast, high-pressure rely on small fine droplets, which can spread and be carried away by wind or evaporate in dry atmospheric conditions. Consequently, these systems have to run longer every day in order to achieve the same level of irrigation as the low-pressure systems. Moreover, the short intervals of “light rain” by the low-pressure system are also not disruptive to the soil and help to maintain its infiltration capabilities.



Low pressure irrigation system


How do we tackle not only water waste but water pollution caused by industries and farming? An effective way to diminish the effect of runoff water is the creation of a living cover around ditches, rivers, streams and lakes. This living barrier holds water on the landscape, filters contaminants like nitrate, and allows water to reach aquifers while simultaneously reducing runoff. Living cover can consist off perennial crops, cover crops, prairie and grasses, wetlands as well as forests. The plants´ root systems hold the soil in place, build organic matter and keep the water clean. In 2015, Minnesota enacted a buffer law which designated about 110,000 acres of land to living cover along its rivers, streams and ditches. From now on, the law requires perennial vegetation of up to 50 feet along public waters and 16.5 feet along public ditches.

All in all these ideas area just small steps. But with the help of such efforts to reduce water consumption and enhance the quality of water, people can protect the world´s most precious resource.


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Lessons not Learned

by Janina Schmidt -

There is a wonderful spot west of the city of Frankfurt in Germany. It’s in an area well known for its excellent white wine, its charming hilly landscape, and its welcoming people. It’s called The Rheingau.

Photo caption: The city of Rüdesheim is located by the river Rhine (photo credit: JeLuF on Wikimedia)

Once you make your way up a hill from Rüdesheim, maybe comfortably using the cable car, a fantastic view over the river Rhine opens up. From there, the Niederwald landscape park, you can see for miles to the West, overlooking the tranquil Rhine valley and even have the illusion that you actually see France.

"Germania", Markus Ziener

“Germania” | photo credit: Markus Ziener

When I was there not long ago my daughter asked me about the statue named Germania that is hovering over the platform where people are gathering for the view. The 34-foot figure is called Germania. In her right hand the lady holds the emperor’s recovered crown; in her other she displays the Imperial Sword. I explained that the monument’s message was not a peaceful one. Only a few years before the inauguration of the statue in 1883, Prussia had just fought another war with France, uniting the German principals for the first time into a single nation state. The Germania was nothing else but a warning to the French: Stay where you are, don’t even think about coming here. This is ours.

My daughter was bewildered. War with France? Of all countries? War with our best neighbor, friend, and closest ally in the European Union? I had to smile – and thought that maybe those historians are wrong who believe that nations always fall into the same trap. After so many bloody wars between Germany and France, both countries finally did the right thing after the carnage of the Second World War. They learned from history – thanks to the prevailing of reason and thanks to Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer. The French President and the German Chancellor turned from arch enemies into friends. This seems to have worked so well that even a 17-year old today could not believe that a little more than 70 years ago things were just the opposite.

Nations time and again reach certain milestones, and their leaders have to make far-reaching decisions. Luckily, they are not always about war and peace. Mostly making choices whether to turn left or right at a historic junction are much more profane – or at least they look profane. Nonetheless they often have a lasting impact, and it takes some wisdom to do the right thing.

»He  (Donald Trump) follows the pattern après moi, le déluge’In other words: I don’t care what happens once I am gone.«

Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord is such an example. The U.S. under its President Donald J. Trump has decided to make a turn, to exit the road the nation was on. Trump probably truly thinks that this decision is good for business, for employment, for his job approval, for his re-election. He thinks of the short-term benefits this move may produce – for him, his administration, and his electoral base. He does not bother about what one or two generations ahead a 17-year old may think of it. He follows the pattern après moi, le déluge’. In other words: I don’t care what happens once I am gone.

Trump, of course, is not the only politician to act that selfishly. Our democratic systems with elections every four or five years makes it difficult for political leaders to withstand the temptations of reaping the low hanging fruits. Although in this case, the decision is particularly hard to comprehend. Committing to stop global warming is a win-win situation – even if you think that climate change is a hoax. Why? If climate change were man-made, reducing CO2 emissions obviously is the right thing. And if global warming, in fact, is the fate of the earth no matter what, then we all might find out too late to reverse course.

Two of my favorite books are Why Nations Fail and Collapse, written by Daron Acemoglu/James A. Robinson and Jared Diamond respectively. The authors collected examples of historical crossroads at which leaders took the wrong turn eventually brought about catastrophes even though they knew better. One case study is the demise of the Easter Islands in the South Pacific. According to Diamond, the tree-covered island was destroyed by Polynesian colonists. They cut down the trees to worship their religious cult by putting up massive statues. As deforestation worsened, the islanders tried to appease their gods by erecting even more statues. In the end, the vicious cycle of human stupidity led to catastrophe.

Jared Diamond finally writes: “I have often asked myself, ‘What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?” Like modern loggers, did he shout “Jobs, not trees!”? Or: “Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we’ll find a substitute for wood”?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Markus Ziener //  02 July 2017 //

Markus Ziener is an author and professor of journalism at the University for Media, Communications and Economics (HMKW) in Berlin. Prior to that he was the head of the op-ed section of Handelsblatt, Germany’s leading business daily. From 2006 to 2012, he served as head of the Washington bureau of Handelsblatt.

We'd like to give a shout-out to our colleagues at the American Studies Blog who featured this story on June 21, 2017. We repost Markus Ziener's text with permission by the author and blog editors.


Environment and Education: “Going Green” expert Shari Wilson on environmental education

by Janina Schmidt -

Shari WilsonEducation for sustainable development one of the core goals of Going Green, but what does this mean? And what factors are involved in the process? During the 2014 “Going Green” project, our expert Shari Wilson gave us an overview of what environmental education can be.Shari is an ecologist and environmental educator as well as owner and principal of Project Central, LLC, a consulting firm that works with schools, neighborhood organizations, government agencies, and others on projects related to education, the environment, and healthy communities. Here's our interview with her:



Apart from the interview at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Going Green participants had further questions for Shari Wilson: 


What do you think is one of the best ways to start sustainability projects at the local level? 

Shari Wilson:

In my experience, the best way to begin is to start small and involve as many people as possible. Persistence is also important. For example, if you see that a park has a lot of litter in it, a campaign to get people to throw away their trash instead of leaving it on the ground might be a good idea. I worked with a school in Armenia on this sort of project. The students did a one-day event at the park where they handed out fliers about littering. Many people said they agreed with the students, that littering was not a good thing to do. The students were disappointed, however, when they found many of their fliers on the ground, and no real improvement in littering in the weeks after their event. After they talked with their city government and asked for more trash and recycling containers, and signs reminding people not to litter, they noticed an improvement. The students also returned to the park frequently and talked to people about littering. When people saw that the students cared about the park enough to keep coming back, their attitudes began to change.

With sustainability projects, we are essentially asking people to change their behavior, often for reasons that are not easily seen and for results that may be abstract. All of the trash on the ground goes somewhere, right? Either someone picks it up or somehow it goes away. What difference does it make whether my trash goes into the water system or is properly recycled or taken to a landfill? Those are questions you have to keep trying to answer, while making it easy for people to change their behavior by locating plenty of trash cans and recycling container nearby, in our littering example."


How did your 14 years of NGO experience change your ideas about community or grassroots initiatives? Did your experience re-shape the way you view grassroots organizing?

Again, Shari Wilson: 

"Probably the biggest lesson I learned was that partnerships make the difference between successful projects and unsuccessful ones. Developing relationships and listening to what others think takes time and patience. Finding agreement on how to approach a problem is not always easy, but it is important to get as many people and organizations involved as possible, even those that are not in agreement with how you think a project should proceed.

One example I recall is when I was leading an effort to develop a park in my community. The land was owned by the city, but there were many competing views regarding how the property should be used. I had heard a lot of rumors about how difficult the park opponents were to work with, but they were keeping the project from moving forward so I had to meet with them. I learned that some of them had concerns about security and others wanted the area used for a boat ramp so they could fish on the river. Once they were invited to join the group, we were able to work out their issues and accommodate everyone. To alleviate the security concerns, park rules do not allow camping overnight. And we were able to find room for a boat ramp that now receives a tremendous amount of use."


What is one of the best examples you have seen of sustainability projects in the schools?

Shari Wilson's answer to this:

"Schools that have the most successful projects are those where sustainability is part of the school culture, meaning that following sustainable practices is part of the normal way the school always works. I have often seen successful recycling or gardening projects begin at schools, only to disappear when an enthusiastic teacher or parent leaves or loses interest.

Starside Elementary School in De Soto, Kansas is a great example of a school that started small, with a recycling program, and has now incorporated sustainability into its character education program. Starside has a school culture that promotes consideration of the environment and provides students with opportunities to learn how to take care of plants, animals, and the earth. Besides recycling, Starside now has lunchroom waste recycling, compostable lunch trays, landscape composting, worm composting, a small solar turbine, gardens (both vegetable and wildlife habitat), and school policies stating that these programs will continue and are part of the school’s curriculum. The policies ensure that the programs will outlive the administrators and teachers that began them."


You mentioned in your interview with 'Going Green' that you encourage students to 'dig deeper' and be more skeptical. Where and how does that begin?

Shari Wilson:

“Anyone who has been around young children knows they are full of questions and curiosity about the world around them. Somehow that ability to question and desire to learn more disappears once they progress in school. The United States is returning to a more inquiry-based method of teaching through the implementation of new education standards. This means students will direct more of their learning, and teachers will serve more as facilitators than lecturers and experts. This is a big change for most teachers and all students, but it will provide in-depth learning that is more relevant for the students. The way most teachers begin the process is to ask an “essential question” that the students will answer. The answer will require research by the students, and often they will come up with different answers to the same question.”

Our former blogger, Alex Magaard, asked:

My younger sister is interested in potentially starting a community garden in our hometown of Wayzata, Minnesota. Do you have any advice for her with where/how to implement her project?

Shari Wilson responded:

“That’s wonderful news! Gardens are a great way to get different community members together, and to teach younger people how to grow their own vegetables. The skills you learn through gardening are like those you learn to ride a bike: once you’ve done it, you always remember how, no matter how much time passes between experiences. Gardening, like bike riding, is empowering; you can grow a vegetable plant anywhere, as long as you have a pot and some sun.

I see from the City of Wayzata’s website that they already have a Gardens Initiative, where volunteers help take care of the city’s gardens. Why not contact the people in charge of that project, and ask if they would help start a community vegetable garden? The City may even have some land that it would be willing to contribute for the garden. I also noticed on the website that Wayzata has curbside leaf pick-up, so there is probably a composting site somewhere.{77D44144-7C45-4FA1-9E5C-78ED6C891387}

Another great group to get involved with gardening is the Master Gardeners organization. These are volunteers who have taken a considerable amount of training and offer help and advice to people with gardening questions. Often they are older people who have a lot of experience gardening and love to help others, especially kids, learn to garden. Why not see if there is a Master Gardeners program or something similar in Wayzata?

A local school may also be interested in starting a gardening program. In my experience, school gardens almost always turn into community gardens because people in the community want to help. A wonderful book on how to start a school garden is “How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers” by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle. It has all kinds of examples and guides for starting a garden. Even if you don’t involve a school, this book would probably be helpful to anyone starting a community garden. Another good resource is the Kansas Garden Gate website,

Good luck—let me know how it goes!


We are very grateful to Shari Wilson for her willingness to participate as an expert in the "Going Green" project and her detailed answers and explanations to our students' questions!

Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.

#GoingGreen #Experts

Pursuing a “green” agenda – Interview with the former State Senator of Kansas Chris Steineger

by Janina Schmidt -

Chris SteinegerWhat is the role of local and state governments in combating climate change in the U.S.? And what does a “green” agenda of a State Senator look like? Tricky questions, but we were able to reach out to Chris Steineger, a former State Senator in Kansas, to give us some first-hand impressions on these issues. His involvement with the green movement in the U.S. goes all the way back to his university days when he first discovered photovoltaic cells and solar energy and also recycling. While serving the 6th Senate District as State Senator in Wyandotte County, Kansas, for 13 years, Chris Steineger pursued a “green” agenda – not an easy feat in a conservative state. Chris’s public policy focuses included apart from early childhood education, health care, efficient local government especially sustainable energy resources. In 2013, when Chris was teaching students at Humboldt Universität in Berlin, Germany, about the American government and contemporary politics, we got the change to interview him and get to know more about his personal insights in environmental politics in the U.S. Watch the whole interview here: 



During the 2014 "Going Green" project, students took the chance and addressed further questions to our expert Chris Steineger, which he kindly answered in great detail. 


You recently taught at Humboldt Uni in Berlin. Was there anything you saw or experienced in Germany concerning environmentalism that you would like to take back to the U.S.?

On the other hand, were you missing anything from the U.S.? Is there something you would like to see being introduced in Germany? 

Here is Chris Steineger's take on this:

Germans are more committed at the individual level to a more sustainable Earth. Germans, Scandinavians, and a few others truly "walk the talk." As individuals, they live a life with a smaller environmental "footprint". Smaller homes, cars, food portions, less energy consumption. Germans also practice trash separation & recycling very thoroughly. My own country has millions of very committed environmentalists as well, but the vast majority of Americans really don't practice living sustainably; reducing material possessions; eating less, driving smaller fuel efficient cars; living in smaller homes, etc. Most Americans "talk the talk" but don't live it.

I would like for Americans to adopt the German people's commitment at the individual level to living with less stuff."


What does sustainability mean to you? 

Again, Chris Steineger: 

"I use a very broad and liberal definition for sustainability which includes economics, not just environment. Similarly, the phrase; “living within ones means” includes environment, not just economics. For me, they are one and the same. Certainly the human race as a whole is consuming the Earth’s resources faster than they can be naturally replenished. Air, water, organics, then soil are the most important. The human population is growing to 8 billion soon, yet the amount of air, water, and good soil remains the same. You can gain early insight about what will someday come by looking at today’s events in parts of North Africa. Water and food shortages. The trees have all been cut. Even the jungle animals being hunted to extinction. Some parts of the Earth which are quite dry, are already over-populated and so the people there must emigrate. Some make it across the Mediterranean or come through the east to Europe.

Sustainability includes economics. You can “borrow & spend” only so much money. This is true of an individual; a country; and a generation. The Economic bust of 2007-9 is a direct result of too much borrowing in the previous decade. The older generation gets to enjoy the spending and consumption. The future generations must pay off the debt!"


The plastic bag ban in L.A. and other Californian towns in one of the case studies in Going Green. Is there something comparable in Kansas? Any other interesting or curious examples of local policies for green development? 

Chris Steineger's answer to this:

"Different regions of the US are better and faster at different things. For environmental issues, the leaders are often found in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. The people that live in areas with much natural beauty always want to keep it that way. Kansas and the Midwest States generally lag behind in environmental commitment, and the southern States typically are the most behind on environmental issues. Kansas does very well with wind energy production. We are blessed with high, average wind speeds, which is what's needed to power any wind farm. Also, the Land Institute in Salina, KS has been doing advanced pioneering development for 40 years of "perennial" wheat which would never need to be replanted, fertilized, or artificially watered. They have now a few test fields of this wheat. WHEN it proves commercially viable, it will make wheat production 50% more economical!"


Complete the following sentence: Eco-tourists in the state of Kansas definitely should… 

Chris Steineger:

“…enjoy great beef and pork barbeque while they admire the scenic Flint Hills, are inspired by the Land Institute, and enjoy canoeing on the Kansas River.”


Thank you, State Senator Chris Steineger for engaging in our project and sharing your experience with us!

Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.

#GoingGreen #Experts

Christianna Stavroudis on Political Cartoons - Interview Part II

by Janina Schmidt -

David GoldfieldA couple of days ago we posted a Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis discussing sustainability. This week in part 2, we dive deeper into how environmentalism is portrayed in political cartoons. Her special expertise and research on that topic in Germany and the U.S. makes Christianna Stavroudis a distinguished interview partner on the issue. Read more about her takes on that in the following.


"What do you think are some of the biggest differences between political cartoons in Germany and the United States?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

German and American cartoons actually have more in common than not: they generally follow a one-panel format (that means the image is not cut up into several panels, like in a comic strip), are often featured on the opinion pages (“Meinungsseiten”), and employ similar metaphorical tools and symbols to communicate their messages. There are a few noteworthy differences, however:


1. German cartoons are less focused on the “nation” (both the physical country and the people who inhabit it) than American cartoons are. Just think of how often you see Uncle Sam in cartoons vs. the Deutscher Michel in German cartoons. In the cartoon below, the US stands as a microcosm for the world. I’ve yet to see a German-centric cartoon when it comes to the environment:



2. American cartoons exploit far more pop cultural references than German cartoons do. The caption to this cartoon below refers to a popular children’s TV science show from the 1990’s, Bill Nye: The Science Guy:



3. In my experience, German cartoons depict more individual politicians than American cartoons do. This is particularly apparent in environmental cartoons as Germany has a minister for the environment who plays a public role in the debate whereas the US secretary of energy does not make many televised appearances and is not a household name:



4. German cartoons on the environment are often tongue-in-cheek. Germany has a relatively good reputation worldwide for its environmental policy, so it can “afford” to be tongue-in-cheek about it. The environmental debate in the States is a much heated one and therefore the tone is much more serious in the cartoons. 



"How, do you believe, environmental political cartoons differ from other types of political cartoons -- is there a significant difference?"

Christianna Stavroudis: 

"Political cartoons that cover specific topics will often have conventions, references, metaphors and symbols that recur (e.g. sports are often referenced/visualized in election cartoons as the candidates are considered to be participating in a kind of “race”). So in this respect, environmental cartoons are just a thematic subset of political cartoons in general. The issue of the environment, however, is a perennial one, meaning that it shows up year after year. Elements of and foci in the debate will change, but the main problem of “saving our environment” remains. This makes the subset of environmental cartoons unique, as I can’t think of another issue that has had the same longevity and scale. This of course presents a challenge to cartoonists as well in terms of presenting a new take or perspective on this much-covered issue."


"What is personally one of your favorite political cartoons and why?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

"I am writing my dissertation on idioms, so I like cartoons that successfully visually embed idioms into the image. I really like how this Austrian cartoonist plays with the expression “alles nur heiße Luft”:



"What are some of the best ways that you recommend for a student to begin environmental activism at the community or aggregate level?"

Christianna Stavroudis responded:

"I think the best way to enact any kind of change is to start with very small, doable goals. Perhaps this can begin at school by putting up posters to encourage fellow students to put their plastics in recycling bins for plastics instead of throwing them into general bins (such posters would be a great showcase for cartoons, by the way!). Or, if the school doesn’t have recycling for plastics, putting pressure on the school board to place these throughout the school. If your favorite Imbiss serves everything on and in Styrofoam, you might talk to the owner about switching to paper. Good environmental practice also relies on the individual taking an audit of his/her habits and seeking to be more respectful with his/her resources every day. And it certainly never hurts to get in touch with local representatives to express to them just how important environmental issues are for you and your community. Remember: you put these guys in power!"


Thanks you, Christianna, for sharing your expertise with us and the Going Green community!

Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.
#GoingGreen #Experts

Green Ink: Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis on cartoons and the environment

by Janina Schmidt -

Christianna Stavroudis

Sustainability can mean different things to different people. One interesting medium that shapes our views and attitudes towards sustainability are political cartoons. To learn more about this, we reached out to Christianna Stavroudis, who teaches linguistics at the University of Bonn. She has supported Going Green since its start in 2014 and her article on this topic appeared in the American Studies Journal. (Also, check out part 1 and part 2 of our interview with her during the U.S. Embassy School Election Project.) Christianna was so kind as to answer some of our students' questions during the 2014 Going Green project. 


Our participant Marc Bernhard submitted the following three questions:

"Is a completely sustainable world possible?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

"I believe that a more sustainable world is possible, but not a completely sustainable one. The use of resources and the increase in standard of living implies an unavoidable unsustainability. Through unsustainable development (past and present) there is damage and abuse that we have inflicted on the environment that is irreversible. 
What I think is necessary is for citizens (not just politicians at big conferences) to take this problem seriously and discuss solutions together that will enhance quality of life for them and for their future generations. Take the example of the travel industry. With cheap flights and decreasing wages in this sector, more people have 
been able to travel than ever before. This is a good thing, on the one hand, because it opens travel up to more people. "Seeing the world" is not just a middle class luxury anymore. However, the very natural 
wonders and cultures that we leave our homes to see are at risk through our reckless environmental practices, both on a small and large scale. We need to remember that we are the ones who both put 
politicians into office through our votes and make business run though our purchasing power. Only through putting pressure on both of these sectors can we affect change."


"How does a completely sustainable world look to you?"

Christianna Stavroudis: 

“A sustainable world for me would be one that would exploit globalization for the purposes of making the world more sustainable on a micro level. This would include the ability for citizens to connect with one another (both nationally and internationally) to exchange knowledge and resources. Internet infrastructures such as forums and skyping can play a big role in this. One of the greatest problems I see with our societies is that they are divided by class. The rich and the poor are growing further and further apart but sustainability is a great equalizer. If we are true to our democratic ideals, we should be able to agree that everyone has the right to a healthy environ. So I would hope that global politics would make the following a priority: instituting policies that lend themselves to more egalitarian socio-economic structures as well as ones that prioritize access to 

literacy, education, mobility, and connectivity.”


How is it that the American government is so slow in acting towards sustainability?

Christianna Stavroudis:

"As I am no expert on public policy, I can only answer this question as an American citizen. I believe the main problem here is a lack of political will. The US has a binary political system: you can basically pick either the Republicans or the Democrats. (On the municipal and, sometimes, state level there are more parties (such as 
the libertarians or greens), but on the federal level it is basically either/or. I admire the diversity of parties that you have in the German Bundestag.) So it's no surprise that these two parties are 
often at loggerheads with each other concerning a multitude of issues, one of the most exemplary being that of environmental policy. This is particularly problematic in these times of recession and the global economic crisis as the discussion of sustainability subsequently takes a back seat to the government creating jobs (or at least the discussion thereof). 
There are two other points that might contribute to a less environmentally-aware populace (we would of course need numbers on this, but my subjective experience of living in both the US and Germany is that being "environmentally friendly" plays a bigger role in my daily life in Germany than it did in the States): 
1) Americans are individualistic. "Freedom" for some people means that no one is going to tell them what to do. This can lead unfortunately to people being reckless with their resources. There are often no immediate consequences to unsustainable practices: there is neither punishment nor does one see the immediate effects of one's behavior. This is a big problem for making policies that encourage people on the micro and macro levels to practice sustainability. I recycle and I want others to, too, but do I really want to live in a society in which we're all checking each other's trash and pointing fingers? That would creep me out. 
2) The States is geographically huge, is rich in natural resources, and has only two neighbors. This contributes to its view of being "exceptional," viewing itself as singular, and, subsequently, sometimes not cooperating with global protocol. The States is still the strongest economy in the world and much of the 
world's economic success depends on that of the States. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) challenges for the 21st century will be making sustainability and economic development/success compatible. (Think of rising middle classes in developing countries like India, China, and Brazil.)"


Could you give me some tips for the cartoon?

Svetlana Ginter from Alsdorf (near Aachen) wanted to know: "I am working on a project about sustainability and my topic is traffic. Now I have to draft a cartoon which has to draw attention on the emissions on the way to school. My question to you is: Could you give me some tips for the cartoon and how can I represent the emission problem well?" 

Christianna Stavroudis responded:

"Traffic cartoon: It is a little bit difficult for me to help you draft this cartoon as I don't understand what the concrete issue is that you'd like to draw attention to. But all cartoonists first make a point of making their issue very clear visually. Your reader must be able to within seconds recognize what issue about emissions you're referring to (is it traffic jams, lack of bicycle paths?). The humor component then comes in when you insert something like a pun, play on words, witty/ironic remark, or idiom into the image. Perhaps school 
children are sitting on a school bus and commenting about the bottlenecked traffic scene they see outside the windows. Perhaps a child is being seen off to school by his/her parent and the child asks the parent a question that the parent can't answer about the environmental issue you wish to critique. Or perhaps you present the reader with a dramatic scene with a compelling caption. Spend some time brainstorming these "ingredients" and see how you can synthesize them together to create an effective one-panel image. Have a look at other cartoons on the web to get inspiration. Break them down into their component parts to see what makes them "work" (or what doesn't). 
UN climate summit cartoon: this is my favorite, top of the page

(Photo credit: Joel Pett / USA Today, 12/07/2009. All rights reserved.)


Thanks again to Christianna Stavroudis for the time to answer all our students' questions. We appreciate your willingness to participate as an expert in the "Going Green" project!

Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.

Friday Mail: David Goldfield answered important questions

by Janina Schmidt -

David Goldfield

Discussing environmentalism can be a tricky thing to do, especially in an intercultural project like Going Green. Over the last years, we've had several experts help us understand some of the difficult questions surrounding the field of sustainable development. Experts like David Goldfield, who was invited to Germany by the U.S. Embassy to give lectures and teach workshops on sustainable development in the U.S. He is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Some of our participants from previous Going Green cycles reached out to Professor Goldfield with their questions, inquiring about the Republican/Democrat divide regarding climate change, the rise of pollution in the past, and the significance of bike cities:


Is there still a considerable difference in attitude toward climate change between Democrats and Republicans?

Mr. Ulrich Kempkens and his students at Bettina-von-Arnim-Schule in Berlin asked:

“Is there still a considerable difference in attitude toward climate change between Democrats and Republicans?”

Here is Dr. Goldfield’s take on this:

“Hi, Uli. Good to hear from you. The answer is yes and no (helpful, right?). Actually, a number of Republican senators and congressmen believe climate change, particularly human-induced climate change, is a scientific fact and not one theory out of many theories. Some evangelical Protestant ministers also believe in climate change, and they are traditional supporters of the Republican Party. The problem is that the Republican base, particularly the very active Tea Party, and major donors such as the Koch Brothers, believe, at best, that the jury is still out on climate change, and that scientific evidence of human-induced climate change is dubious at best. The practical political result of these views is that Republicans running for office can rarely divulge their true views on climate change (a great example of this was the unanimous denial of the Republican candidates for president during their 2012 debates). Also, this makes legislation addressing climate change very difficult to achieve at the federal level, which is why many of the current innovations occur at the state level. It is another example of the growing divide between the Democratic and Republican Parties in the U.S.


Do you think it's possible that the world could ever change in a positive way?

We received further questions from a class of 10th graders at the Goethe Gymnasium in Frankfurt. They were wondering about these aspects:

1. “Do you think it's possible that the world could ever change in a positive way?”

2. “How can people, for instance in Germany or Australia etc. (in countries where people consume a lot) do something for our ecological footprint without cutting down their spending?”

Again, David Goldfield: 

“Dear Victor, Moritz, and Valeriia,

Thanks for your questions. I am basically an optimist, so I think we can solve these environmental problems, hopefully, before it’s too late. My optimism is based on what has happened here in the U.S. over the past 50 years. In many cities, including mine (Charlotte, North Carolina), the air is cleaner, the rivers and streams are more supportive of life, and there has been growth in the use of renewable energy. But, your question asks about the “world,” not about developed economies such as Germany and the U.S. The efforts to create a world-wide pact or agreement on the environment have been disappointing. Developing nations complain that the developed nations attained their status by polluting the environment, and now they want to impose restraints on poorer nations. We need to do a better job demonstrating to poorer nations that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive

Which brings me to your second question. We have a saying in the U.S.: “You can pay now, or pay a lot more later.” As climate change begins, increasingly, to have a monetary impact on the U.S. (and on other countries as well), particularly with respect to disappearing shorelines, increased flooding, and serious weather events, as time goes buy the expense for addressing these issues will increase dramatically. But, politicians rarely think in the long-term, even, say, next month, particularly at the national level in the U.S. Fortunately, many of our states have been pro-active. They have demonstrated that alternative energy sources, pollution control, and recycling will result in monetary savings for both consumers and governments. The costs of alternative energy such as wind power and solar power are continuing to come down and are increasingly competitive with conventional energy sources.”


How do you evaluate the development of pollution (caused by humans) in the past 50 years or so?

Natalie from Leipzig, Germany raised the following issues:

“Based your background in history, how do you evaluate the development of pollution (caused by humans) in the past 50 years or so? Is there any chance that we can lower the negative impact effectively?”

David Goldfields answer to this:

“Hi, Natalie. I have wonderful memories of Leipzig, particularly its heritage as a center for great classical music. It proves that humans can create things of great beauty. Which brings me to your question. Here in the U.S., we have made significant strides in attacking air and water pollution over the past 50 years. A major reason for this is that many more people in the U.S. are aware of pollution and the problems caused by pollution. Let me give you a specific example. In 1952, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire because of all the chemical pollutants in the water. The event scarcely made the news. In 1969, the river caught fire again and there was national outrage and concern. What happened in the meantime was that we were made aware of polluting industries and the health and environmental havoc they were visiting upon humans and the natural environment. Soon after, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Act and subsequently established the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result of federal and state policies over the past 50 years, our water and air are cleaner and we are developing (slowly, to be sure) alternative energy sources.

We still have a long way to go. The major problem is not technology; it’s the political will. The momentum has slowed in the U.S. over the past 15 years. Hopefully, we will not have to wait for another disaster to move federal policy forward.”


How is it that cities like Portland encourage people to leave their cars at home and ride their bikes instead – and thereby even create revenues of many million dollars?

A final question came from Jacques, BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium Leipzig. He wanted to know:

“While we worked on the topic City/Transport (Portland, Oregon - A sustainable city?), a question came into our mind. People pay taxes on cars and gas, which can create profits for communities. But how is it that cities like Portland encourage people to leave their cars at home and ride their bikes instead – and thereby even create revenues of many million dollars? In my opinion this is impossible, because the car holder should have to pay taxes for the car and insurance. So, wouldn’t the city lose money if there were no people paying these taxes?”

Here is David Goldfield's response:

“Good question, Jacques. If everyone rode bikes in Portland, the city would benefit tremendously. First, most of those taxes are state and federal taxes, so the city of Portland benefits little from those revenues except in the maintenance and building of roads, which only encourages more automobiles. Second, the savings in road maintenance, parking spaces, and the health benefits derived from cleaner air would more than make up for any lost revenues as a result of the diminished presence of the automobile. This is why cities across the U.S., including my own (Charlotte, NC) are pushing to extend public transportation – we are extending our light rail (trolley) system here in Charlotte and extending our network of bike paths. We believe that these policies are all part of making cities more “livable,” and, therefore, attracting bright, energetic, and well-educated young people to make our cities interesting and economically vital.”


Once again we would like to thank the students for sending in these interesting questions and also David Goldfield for sharing his expertise with us. Remember, it is you who make Going Green a bi-national project, so keep the good work going!


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.
#Experts #GoingGreen 

Green Roofs in Minneapolis

by Deleted user -
Green roofs are not only an aesthetic benefit for the city of Minneapolis but they help to reduce the city’s ecological footprint.

“Green isn´t just a concept in Minneapolis; it´s a lifestyle.”[1] This slogan by the city of Minneapolis (MN) summarizes the spirit of many people here perfectly. In general, Minneapolis always aims at being a forerunner when it comes to the issues of environmental-friendliness and sustainability. But the development is not only limited to significant investments in a bike friendly infrastructure or the provision of an environmentally-friendly public transportation network. Over the last couple of years Minneapolis has also introduced a number of green initiatives that are meant to improve the lives of the city´s residents. Many different local actors take part in these community activities making the city even greener. One such example is  the “Green Roofs” initiative of the city of Minneapolis in cooperation with other local actors.


Structure of a Green Roof


The “Green Roofs” initiative is exactly what it sounds like: replacing the traditional roof with living plants. Thereby, buildings become more environmentally-friendly by adopting many advantages of the natural landscape like plants’ ability to absorb large quantities of stormwater. In contrast to green roofs, normal roofs often have the disadvantage of accumulating heat and pollution. On rainy days, this can have severe effects on the water quality of rivers and lakes in Minneapolis. As rain pours down on ordinary roofs, the water washes out dust and pollution and transports it into rivers and lakes. But green roofs feature the ability to hold on much more rain water through the vegetation as well as the growing media and hence play an important part in the efforts to reduce water pollution. This also reduces the needs and costs for any additional expensive stormwater treatment infrastructure in the Twin Cities. The durability of green roofs is another important advantage. The waterproof membrane is below a green layer, which protects the roof from damaging outside factors such as heat, UV radiation or thermal swings. As a result, green roofs can last three times longer than the majority of normal roofs. But green roofs also serve as natural habitats for many different flowers and animals in cities. With the help of these roofs many birds as well as beneficial insects find better living conditions in the urban jungle, which allows their populations to prosper. In general, the overall living conditions for any animal and human being further improves since flowers ensure a better air quality through photosynthesis, which transforms carbon dioxides into fresh oxygen. Finally, those green roofs have positive aesthetic side-effect by beautifying Minneapolis neighborhoods as well.


Rooftop of the Target Center with the skyline of Minneapolis in the background



Different case studies around Minneapolis have demonstrated the positive effects of green roofs. Minneapolis’ basketball and event arena, the Target Center, is a stunning example of the green roof initiative. The Target Center has 2.5 acres (113,000 square feet) of greens on its roof and was the first sports arena in North America to install such a roof surface in 2009. Since its construction, the  roof has created a number of unique advantages for the city’s climate. The green roof can absorb 0.9 inches of rainfall per foot without any runoff of polluted water. Thereby, 1,000,000 gallons of stormwater are prevented from flowing into the Mississippi River each year. Furthermore, the roof’s waterproofing membrane is expected to last for 40 years. Another advantage of the Target Center´s green roof is its ability to absorb heat in the summer and hence reduce energy costs because it alleviates the consequences of the ‘urban heat island’ effect in downtown Minneapolis. This heat island effect leads to higher temperatures in cities and is caused by dark surfaces like roads or conventional buildings, which are highly concentrated in urban environments and absorb more solar radiation than natural landscapes. But with the help of green roofs cities cannot only become greener in their appearance but also in their way of tackling many of the man-made ecological problems.      


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

American Universities Turning – "Green"!

by Deleted user -

Across many university campuses in the United States students have begun to rely less on the government for action on climate change. Instead, they seek to work on a smaller scale to influence what they can control, their own neighborhoods and campuses, to achieve plausible and realistic change. (For example, in 2015 we reported about student activism at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where the ‘Georgetown Environmental Leaders’ gives student activists a more powerful voice and where university students petitioned their university administration to divest from fossil fuels.)

Photo caption: Exciting activities for sustainable development are emerging on college campuses across the U.S. One such example is Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where our blogger Edgar Barrios lives and studies. The photo shows a green space near Landis and Gilchrist residence halls, on the FSU main campus. These oak trees were planted by students in 1932. (Photo credit: Sirberus/Wikimedia)

In Florida we experience, first hand, the effects of climate change. With record breaking levels of heat and rising tides, students statewide have directed their efforts to making their universities sustainable. At Florida State University, my own university, and within our Student Government Association we have a bureau (a subsection of the government) called “The Office of Student Sustainability”. The office works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. Resulting sustainable projects on campus have overall been successful and of much utility. Let me give you a few examples.

At Florida State University, the Office of Student Sustainability works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. The Seminole Organic Garden and the Re-Cycle Bike Program are two such examples of sustainable student action. (Photo credit: Florida State University, Office of Student Sustainability)

The “Seminole Organic Garden” project allows students to adopt garden beds and grow what they please (usually fruits and vegetables). Gardening tools as well as seeds for an initial bed are provided by the Office of Student Sustainability. Another popular project is the “Re-Cycle bike program”, where bikes are rented out to students for either a semester or a year for a fairly low price. The bikes even come with a helmet, lock and chain. Both programs encourage students to change their everyday routine and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

In working with the student government and the state government, the Office of Student Sustainability has secured a $50,000 “Green Fund” for sustainable student lead projects.

The Office of Student Sustainability engages Florida State University students in sustainable campus and community development. (Photo credit: Edgar Barrios)

Initiatives like these have been popping up all over the state. For example, Florida Gulf Coast University has installed 2-megawatt solar panels in a 16-acre field with the intention of making the university reliable on clean energy. The University of Florida created a compost collecting pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste for their compost from the university’s two dining halls. At Florida Atlantic University they have installed 5-minutes timers within the showers to urge to conservation of water.

The Office of Student Sustainability here at FSU also works with the Office of Governmental Affairs (another Student Government Association bureau) to lobbying the state government on further climate change and sustainability legislation. With the state capital within less than two miles from the university, they have been successful in that endeavor. Other than creating sustainable organizations in the United States, especially in Florida, universities are looking for long term solutions to the problem of climate change. They have since created courses and degree majors to qualify students for an increasing job market in sustainability. At Florida State students can pursue a degree in Environmental Sciences and at the University of Florida students can major in Sustainability studies. This is not happening just in the State of Florida, but rather all across the U.S. Universities such as Yale and U.C. Berkley are taking inventories of how much carbon they emit.

It seems that this generation of students has taken action into their own hands, in terms of climate change. They are initiating change in the realms they can control.  It was only last week that the Florida State University Student Senate (which I am apart of) passed a resolution calling upon the university and the state government to commit to further action in combating climate change and making the university more reliable on renewable resources.

Edgar Barrios Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics, as well as other things.


Strong Independent Cities

by Deleted user -

How would you feel if you were riding a bus powered by the leftover scraps you threw away from dinner last night? If the heating in your house was produced within the house itself? If you didn’t have to pay an electric bill because your city is creating your electricity? Maybe you feel like none of that would be possible? Think again because renewable initiatives such as these are taking place in cities across Europe.

»How would you feel if you were riding a bus powered by the leftover scraps you threw away from dinner last night?«

Växjö, Sweden (the potato peel city, as I like to call it) has been a frontrunner in sustaining itself since the 1990s. Motivated by the pollution in their lakes caused by fossil fuel emitting industrial complexes, local Swedish government officials decided it was time to make a change.  They chose to abandon fossil fuels and half their carbon emissions. Today carbon emissions are historically low at 2.7 tons per person (nothing compared to the 19.78 tons emitted by Americans, or the 6.36 Swedish national average!).

Global Carbon Footprint  

Total carbon emissions by nation and region. The image of a footprint is composed of circles sized relative to the carbon emissions of each nation and color coded according to region. (Photo credit: Stanford Kay)

Växjö governs its own energy policy and resources independently. They manage their own biomass plants, produce electricity heating and cooling. The source of their heating? Leftovers from the forest industry such as twigs, leaves, and branches.  The plant supplies energy to 90% of the city’s 60,000 inhabitants. The plant also supplies 40% of the electricity needs. Recycling in Växjö has reached high levels as compost and organic waste is not only separated by the residents but is taken and re-used to make bio-gas that fuels public transport. Sewage is also used to power the green bio-gas busses.

Ann-Arbor_Emily.pngCities in Germany are also making progress independently, and decentralizing the energy sector. Heidelberg, Germany, a city renowned for Science and the acclaimed Universität Heidelberg, boasts numerous scientific institutions. It’s no surprise that 56 Nobel Prize winners have worked and lived in this research hub. The city at large has its own energy company, as many other German towns and communities do, and manages its gas, heating, water and sewage systems.  By 2050 they aspire to be free of fossil fuels motivating their fast switch over to renewable energy.

Heidelberg’s largest step towards reducing emissions is their 116 hector Bahnstadt district.  Originally a freight train terminal, this plot of land has truly been transformed. The district is 100% free of CO2 emissions and is entirely constructed of passive houses. These structures are anything but passive when it comes to saving energy. They allow for heating and cooling and use less than 1.5 liters of heating oil per square meter per year. The heating comes from internal sources such as solar heat or body heat and the ventilation system is what allows for the transmission of energy throughout the building. Surprisingly affordable the passive houses’ higher quality is mitigated by eliminating expensive heating and cooling systems.

Science of the Passive House

Passive houses harness the energy of the sun light and the enrvironment to drastically reduce the energy consumption of home owners.(Photo credit: primex)

(This database lists over 4,000 passive houses around the world.)

Vertical garden buildings are set to open in Bahnstadt this year, an architectural product of eco-friendly Wolfgang Frey. Based on his ‘five finger principle’ buildings must be ecological, affordable, innovative, integrative and profitable.  These garden structures create oxygen in the atmosphere and have facades covered in solar modules to generate energy. Frey has also established vertical gardens in Freiburg. In countries like the US and China vertical farm buildings are popping up as well!

Feldheim, Germany, located in the province of Brandenburg provides its own power 100%. Creating their own bio-gas from corn, manure and rye produced by the city they power the electricity and water systems. Heating comes from the woodchip plant, electricity is produced by the wind park, and an energy storage plant stores what is produced extra in times of low power supply.

Feldheim, Germany, (pop. 660) is an “Energieautarker Ortsteil,” or an energy self-sufficient district. In 2010, Feldheim became one of the first villages in Germany to supply all of its own electricity and heat. (Photo credit: Andrew Dey/snapshotsofberlin)

Although Feldheim is small, with a population of 660, their initiative has inspired people from many different countries and their ability to provide entirely for themselves based on what they already produce shows how little it takes to be sustainable. Although decentralization of large sectors in the economy is difficult these cities show it is possible and efficient on many levels. Moving towards solar panels and using recyclable material instead of fossil fuels, cities could power the electric grid, reduce emissions, and decrease costs to large electric companies. In America especially, I believe local initiatives could be implemented faster and more effectively than federal initiatives.


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and  has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

Where Is Solar Energy Headed?

by Deleted user -

On January 26, 2017 the German Solar Association released its estimates that global installed photovoltaic capacity has reached 300 gigawatts. The Association celebrated this announcement, heralding solar energy as a promising form of renewable energy. In fact, CEO of the German Solar Association Carsten Körnig remarked that “The utilization of solar power has really picked up momentum in many countries around the world. As the global thirst for energy increases, more and more governments and investors are committing to clean forms of energy.”

Photo caption: Germany is committing to extending the renewable energy sector. Yet, solar power plants like the power plant Leipziger Land in Espenhain, Germany, are also prone to seasonal variation in their energy production capacity. (Photo credit: GEOSOL Gesellschaft für Solaranergie mbH / Wikimedia)

Yet, according to a study by Agora Energiewende (a German think tank focused on energy policy), much of Germany’s electricity supply still comes from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, especially during the winter months when there is minimal sunlight coupled with increased electricity demand as families heat their homes. In fact, nonrenewable energy sources provided for roughly 90% of Germany’s national electricity use on January 24, 2017 -- just two days before the German Solar Association published its optimistic press release!

So where exactly does the potential of solar energy stand, in Germany, the United States, and worldwide? On the one hand, we have a report from the German Solar Association proclaiming that solar energy is our energy source of the future. On the other hand, seasonal variation seems to be a real obstacle to the viability of solar energy in Germany -- barring innovations that allow long-term storage of energy in photovoltaic panels. With all of this in mind, how much hope for solar energy is there?

This post is a follow up to my article on the solar industry from March 2016. Check it out here!

In my opinion, there are a number of promising developments that point to a great deal of potential in solar energy.

First is an awesome invention out of Albuquerque, New Mexico called Dragon SCALEs. When you think of solar panels today, you probably imagine a bunch of huge panels somewhere in the middle of a desert.

Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is developing flexible, miniature solar cells that could present a portable and versatile solution for different applications. (Photo credit: National Nuclear Security Administration via Flickr)

However, Sandia National Laboratories (pictured above) and mPower Technology Inc. have teamed up to create flexible, miniature solar cells so portable and versatile that they can be used by consumers for camping and emergency response equipment, in addition to deployment on spacecraft and vehicles. The product has been nicknamed ‘solar glitter,’ possibly an homage to its sleek and trendy design. While the partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and mPower Technology Inc. is still in early stages and the product has not yet been brought to market, mPower Technology Inc. has invested $1 million in the project. It will be particularly exciting to see how Dragon SCALEs, if successfully developed, might straddle consumer and utility uses.»I like pizza. I really do.«

»The product has been nicknamed 'solar glitter,' possibly an homage to its sleek and trendy design.«

A second exciting innovation comes from Elon Musk, renowned technology entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. In November 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity; shortly thereafter, Musk announced the invention of a new solar roof product -- photovoltaic panels constructed of textured glass that he says will eventually replace traditional roof shingles. While Tesla estimated that its new panels currently cost 20 times as much as inexpensive asphalt shingles, Musk has stated that lower shipping and logistics costs for his invention will quickly make them affordable at mass scale. Like the Dragon SCALEs product out of New Mexico, Tesla’s solar shingles seem promising in that they can break into the household/individual consumer market, hopefully bringing awareness to the value of green power and solar energy.

Ultimately, it’s important to realize that the deployment of any time of renewable energy relies on a number of factors: governmental support, reliable and continuous financing, invention and ingenuity, and public optimism. Over the past decade or so, solar energy has evolved to be a prominent component of the global energy pie, yet there is still more work to be done. Hopefully, future technological innovations by bright young minds devoted to making widespread solar energy a reality will allow this progress to continue!

Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the former editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

Biking in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis - Saint Paul

by Deleted user -

When people from outside the U.S. think about mobility in the United States, they often just have the picture of big cars in mind. The reality looks so much more different, especially in urban areas. Over the last twenty years, new environmentally friendly mobility trends such as biking or public transportation networks have become more and more popular in many cities across the U.S. Both of these trends can be observed in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MN) where I am spending a year abroad at the University of Minnesota. I will focus on the bike friendly infrastructure of the Twin Cities, which encourages people to change their mobility behavior.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the second largest urban area in the Midwest of the United States after Chicago. According to the census of 2010, Minneapolis (382,587) and Saint Paul (285,068) have a combined population of 667,655 people. By including the surrounding suburbs the population of the Twin Cities´ metropolitan area increases to more than 3.1 million. What makes this area so special in comparison to many other American cities, particularly here in the Midwest, is its well-designed bike infrastructure. Minneapolis is especially regarded as one of the most bike friendly cities in the country alongside Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. But what factors have contributed to this development?

Bike Map of Minneapolis (see here).

In the past Minneapolis was a center of the American milling industry. Therefore, the city was connected to an extensive railway network in order to transport goods all over the country. The decline of the industrial sector over the course of time lead to the fact that large parts of the network were abandoned. But in the 1990s and early 2000s the city council of Minneapolis made a couple of landmark decisions which were supposed to promote biking as an alternative, environmentally friendly, form of mobility. Back then the city´s government decided to transform old abandoned railways into a large network of off-street bike paths. Additionally, Minneapolis was chosen as one of four US cities to receive $25 million from a federal government's pilot project to improve pedestrian and bike infrastructures within cities. Today, Minneapolis has 118 miles of on-street bike lanes and 92 miles of off-street bike paths (as of 2014). The city´s goal is to further improve the existing system until 2020 in order to make sure that every resident lives within 1 mile of off-street and ½ mile of on-street bike lanes. Due to this development, the city already has one of the highest rates of urban cycling in the entire country since nearly 5 percent of commuters use their bike every day to go to work.


On-Street Bike Lane on N Washington Ave; North Loop, Minneapolis. © Tobias Luthe

Minneapolis has an incredibly vibrant bike culture. Many biking exhibitions and festivals happen throughout the year and introduce people to the advantages of biking mobility. All over the Twin Cities, bike sharing stations (Nice Ride MN) give people the chance to rent a bike for a small amount of money. On campus, the University of Minnesota even actively promotes biking. The university´s recreation and wellness center (Rec Center) gives students the chance to rent bikes for little money. Furthermore, on-campus bike stores as well the Rec Center offer students technical support and advice with all bike related issues. Generally, bikes are not only very popular but also extremely useful because they allow students and professors to easily navigate around campus. In many on-campus areas cars are prohibited because streets are reserved for bikes and the Twin Cities´ Metro Transit (bus and light rail service). Even during the cold and snowy winter days bikes are a frequently used means of transportation. By constantly clearing the bike lanes of mud and snow the city ensures that bikers do not have to fear the winter. The Metro Transit´s buses and light rails are also equipped with bicycle racks, which allows people to take their bike with them no matter where they want to go within the limits of the Twin Cities. Due to these fantastic opportunities, I have also become one of the many bike commuters here.

Bike Path on SE Washington Ave; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Minneapolis. © Tobias Luthe

Minneapolis' positive experiences with biking have also inspired the city of Saint Paul to further improve their existing bikeway network. In the next couple of years, the city wants to add more than 190 miles of new bikeways, which would more than double the existing network. Thereby, the city would create another incentive for people to switch from rather environmentally unfriendly cars to environmentally friendly bikes. This could help Saint Paul  achieve its goal of increasing the bicycle mode share from 2 percent to 5 percent until 2025. Studies conducted by the city show that four out of five Millennials are interested in having more alternatives when it comes to mobility. Therefore, Saint Paul is eager to catch up with its Twin City and provide its residents with a modern bike-friendly infrastructure.

The significance of biking culture in the Twin Cities is a small but insightful example showing how many environmental initiatives in the U.S. are rather 'bottom-up' than 'top-down' in the sense that not only the States are considered 'laboratories of change' but that these developments very often rely on civic engagement by activist groups (like the "critical mass" movement), local institutions (the University of Minnesota), and the initiative of communities and their mayors.

Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.


Wind, Hydrogen and Bio-Fuel Oh My! Lessons from The Netherlands and Germany in Public Transportation

by Deleted user -

I opened Facebook on my computer last week expecting to find more news articles regarding changes in government over the past few months, and videos claiming their opinions as fact. I ended up watching a strange and amusing video of a man strapped to a windmill, riding it in amusement park fashion. Who was this guy riding a windmill and why?

It was easy to tell that the video was from the Netherlands, as it was in Dutch and shared by my former neighbor living in Limburg. I learned that the man riding the windmill, Roger van Boxtel, is well known in the Netherlands for his career as a Parliamentarian. These days however, Roger van Boxtel is the interim president of the Dutch Railways and this past month he has been celebrating that all the Dutch electric passenger trains are 100% wind-powered!


The Dutch case  is a particularly interesting one in regards to the role of transportation, and much of it has to do with the country's geography. The Netherlands is a comparatively small and flat country. Consider this: It is less than twice the size of the state of New Jersey and only about 50% of its land exceeds one meter above sea level; you will only find some hilly areas in the south, with the highest elevation of only 321 meters.

The Netherlands

Photo caption: Only about 50% of the Netherlands exceeds one meter above sea level, making the country predestined for an effective mass transportation system. (c) AHN,

At the same time, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with a population of almost 17 million. In addition, the country is located in central Europe, sharing land borders with Belgium and Germany, and maritime borders with the UK. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe.  It seems that the country is predestined for a close meshed and highly efficient system of public transportation due to the absence of natural barriers, its dense population, and the high demand for transport of goods. This is evident in their early history.
The Netherlands has set the standard for public transportation since the 17th century, beginning with their establishment of a network of waterways. In more recent decades the NL became the first country with a symmetric rail service in 1970, and in 1980 the first country with a ticket system for transport. In 1991 they developed a system to provide cheaper transport for students, and in 1992 were the first European public transportation system to create a national telephone number to receive travel information. Although there is efficiency, comfort, and ease of access afforded by public transportation, 25% of the Dutch population travel by cycling. Depending on the region, as many as 50% of the journeys made in the Netherlands are made by transport or bicycles. Dutch Railway systems are organized entirely by the government authorities in their region and (NS) or Dutch Railways is the largest passenger carrier in the country, linking out internationally as far as Belgium, France and Germany. The policy goal of the NS is to shift movement from cars to public transportation. As the costs of owning cars continue to rise, the railways plan on phasing away from fossil fuels through the implementation of environmental zones where there would be restrictions on driving cars. The movement to natural gas and biofuels has gained momentum in public transportation and as such will continue to play an influence in increasing the number of stations that would fuel electric or bio powered cars.

Electric Locomotive from 1992 from Railway

Two current Dutch Railways InterCity trains: a refurbished ICM train in the foreground, and the front of a VIRM double decker behind it, at Rotterdam Central Station. © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

The NS set a goal in 2015 to switch over entirely to wind power, expecting to realize it in 2018. Due to the addition of more wind farms off coast, inland, and in Denmark they were able to make the switch a year early. Partnering with the energy company Enesco the NS can cater to 600,000 passengers daily, using wind turbines to generate electricity. One windmill running for an hour can power a train for 200 km, or 120 miles. Although trains (even without wind power) seem like they are energy efficient, the Dutch fleet alone consumes 1.2 billion kWh of wind energy a year (equivalent to all the electricity powering the houses in Amsterdam for a year) and 20% of CO2 emissions are caused by modes of transport, whether it be train, car, or bus. Wind energy also contributes to the electricity supplied approximately 473,000 households in the Netherlands. The use of wind for energy isn’t unique to the Netherlands.

How a Hydrogen Powered Train Works from

Alstom's 'Coradia iLint' train is the world’s first zero-emissions hydrogen train. It is using fuel cells which produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen to water and is set to go into service in northern Germany in December 2017. © Alstom

Countries like Denmark receive 42% of their electricity from wind power. Germany produced more electricity from wind turbines than from power plants for the first time ever in 2015, producing 11.98 Terawatt hours of electricity (a terawatt is millions of megawatts). In recent months German Railways has begun experimentation with hydrogen powered trains. In December of 2017 the country plans on launching the first ever passenger rail service powered by hydrogen. The motor will gain power from the hydrogen tank, and the hydrogen energy will be converted with a fuel cell that could move the train at speeds up to 87 mph. The only by-product of the hydrogen train would be steam and the source for the hydrogen is the waste product of various chemical industries (which is normally burned anyway). A supporter of this initiative is Energiewende, a German government sponsored program seeking to transform the energy system and phase out nuclear power and fossil fuel.

Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

Welcome Back to Going Green!

by Deleted user -

Following a great conclusion to our Elections 2016 blog series, we are very excited to announce the relaunch of our Going Green blog!

For the next few months, Teach About Us will pivot away from US politics and instead towards issues of sustainability, environmentalism, and green living. This semester, our intern-bloggers are attending universities all across the United States, meaning that we will focus on Going Green at a local and state level! Each week, we plan to share with you uniquely German and American perspectives, highlighting the ways we ‘go green’ in our daily lives and how we can all seize innovative opportunities to support and protect our planet. With a great team of bloggers and experts assembled, we look forward to publishing pieces on a variety of topics, including sustainable agriculture, clean transportation, renewable energy policy, and college-campus activism.

It is our hope that the Going Green blog will serve as an engaging complement to the curriculum you all will be exploring in class over the next semester. As you learn about fashion, plastic waste, transportation, and urban living, please look to our blog for some real-life examples of how Germans and Americans are learning as you are while making a positive impact on their world.

As always, please feel free to reach out to anyone on the Teach About Us Going Green team with your feedback and questions. We’re all looking forward to a great semester together!

Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the former editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

And So It Ends: Reflections on the 2016 Presidential Election

by Deleted user -

Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States after a lengthy, historic, and momentous contest with Hillary Clinton that culminated on Tuesday, November 8. One week after the election and the conclusion of a campaign season which occupied much of the collective American consciousness over the past two years, many Americans are still processing the election’s results. Millions appear reinvigorated by the prospect of a Trump presidency, yet just as many are visibly dejected and emotionally drained by Clinton’s loss. And after a campaign season ripe with fiery rhetoric and plenty of controversy, I can also confidently say that many of Americans are thankful that this particular election is over.

Of course, the objective of any political election is to select a new government, and now begins the process of preparing the Trump administration to assume the White House after the presidential inauguration on Friday, January 20. What is interesting about this process is that, while the United States Constitution requires no particular procedure to be followed, there are a series of norms and expectations that will guide how the Obama administration welcomes the Trump administration into the White House.

What exactly does a smooth presidential transition process entail? Check out this useful Fact Sheet from the White House!

This process began in the early morning hours of November 9 when Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election and congratulate him as the winner. Shortly thereafter, Trump delivered an acceptance speech to his supporters in New York City. Clinton addressed the nation with a concession speech on November 9, midday. The notion that two opposing candidates speak to one another and only then diplomatically convey election results to the nation highlights an important tenet of the democratic process in the United States. Elections are won and lost with grace, dignity, and an eye towards uniting the country going forward.

  While many of Clinton’s most passionate supporters have lambasted the election’s results and openly protested on city streets over the past few days, Clinton herself conceded the election to Trump and implored liberals to channel their political activism into public service. Many Americans, especially young women, reacted quite strongly to Clinton’s address -- both thanking her for an admirable endeavor to shatter the glass ceiling and bemoaning her inability to do so. Reactions to Trump’s acceptance speech were similarly passionate, as many Americans expressed excitement about the prospect for a return to conservative values and Washington-outsider politics.

  The next phase of the transition process occurred on Thursday, November 10 as President Obama and President-elect Trump met at the White House. According to press reports, the two discussed a variety of topics ranging from presidential demeanor to foreign policy to installing a capable staff in the West Wing. This tradition, of the outgoing president meeting with his incoming successor, has a rich history in the United States. In explaining his willingness to meet with Trump, Obama has frequently cited the decorum and grace which former President George W. Bush displayed when he assumed office in January 2009. The spirit of cooperation which defines these meetings - often between leaders of opposing political parties and occasionally between former campaign opponents (though not in this instance) - is hallmark of American democracy and one of the critical facets of the peaceful transition of power.

»The transition of power is not a calm period between two storms -- it is a multimillion dollar endeavor, a highly complex and intensive phase of government art. The biggest and most powerful government of our time is changing direction in full speed, and in the process, changes its entire crew; many, many more posts are redistributed than in Germany. Every remotely important position is now being filled with new personnel. 4,000 members of staff must be selected, mustered (according to the Trump administration's policies), and trained within only a few weeks. This includes policy experts for all parts of the world. In all governmental departments, entire wings have been cleared, making room for preliminary offices for incoming staffers to learn from the more experienced members of staff of the Obama administration
Claus Kleber, moderator of the German TV news journal "heute journal" on ZDF

Over the past couple of days, Donald Trump has been assembling his Cabinet and speaking with domestic and world leaders as he seeks to foster relationships that will allow the successful implementation of his policy objectives over the coming years. In this respect, the peaceful transition of power is grounded in United States domestic politics, but its use extends beyond our national borders and influences the deployment of US foreign policy worldwide. In some respects, it seems as though our presidential transition process in the United States is being played out not only here at home, but also on a global stage as world leaders comment on the prospects of a Trump presidency.

To be sure, this peaceful transition of power is characteristic of many democratic political systems across the world, Germany included. Yet, after what has been an admittedly divisive and contentious campaign season, that Americans can rely on a peaceful power transition is all the more welcome today.

This post concludes our blog series for the Elections 2016 project. We hope you all have enjoyed learning about the United States’ political system, and we look forward to resuming our work with the Going Green project in January 2017!

Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

U.S. Election Expert Matt Riley on the Election in North Carolina

by Janina Schmidt -

Matt Riley

North Carolina was for many years a Republican stronghold, but Barack Obama won the state by a slim margin in 2008. It is said that his success can partly be attributed to the demographic changes the state has seen in recent decades. But how do the state's demographics influence the voter's behavior in North Carolina? Only one out of a wide range of tricky questions on the election outcome.

group of students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee, Germany, are currently focusing on the election in the state of North Carolina and came up with some interesting questions. Who else if not our U.S. election expert Matt Riley could help us out here? Matt if a former intern with the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, a student in Public Policy, German and Policy Journalism at Duke University in North Carolina, and currently on an exchange semester in Berlin. At Duke, Matt writes as a journalist and investigative reporter at The Chronicle, the university's student paper, and has covered political stories ranging from Virginia congressional campaigns, North Carolina state politics, and a profile of lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear negotiations.

This is what the students from Gransee wanted to know from Matt:


How is North Carolina most likely going to vote and what influences do media have in this case?

“Hi Matt, we are students from the Strittmatter-Gymnasium-Gransee in Germany. We are working on the project "US Election". Every school got one state. We got North Carolina, so you are the best expert for us. We have to decide whether North Carolina will vote for Trump or Clinton, but it is very difficult for us. First we thought Trump would win but now, after reading the opinions of some North Carolina students we aren’t sure any longer if our first opinion was right. There are some questions we would like to ask you.

  • How do you think are the TV debates going to influence the people's attitudes and (social) media?
  • And how do you think the media influences the people?
  • Most importantly, what's your prediction for the North Carolina vote? And why?


We look forward to your answer. Thanks for helping us.

Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, Carolin”


Here is Matt what replied to them:

“Dear Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, and Carolin, recent polling by fivethirtyeight suggests that Clinton is ahead of trump by 2 to 6 percent in the traditionally red state. These numbers are close, but still disappointing for Trump as North Carolina (despite its balanced electorate) went Republican in three of the last four presidential elections. 


Trump may be holding out for a late comeback, Nate Silver writes, but because of the way North Carolinians vote, the picture is a bit more complicated. North Carolina is unique because it has high rates of early and absentee voting. While most of these early voters are dedicated partisan voters and not swing voters, this still means that many voters have already cast their ballots in favor of Clinton.


North Carolina is vital for a second reason Silver notes. He writes that, "because of the state's demographics, it acts as a hedge for Clinton in the event of a collapse in her support among white voters without college degrees, especially in the Midwest." Silver rates North Carolina as the fourth most important state in the election, ahead of traditionally prominent states like Ohio and Colorado, because of these two factors. 


On the media/campaign/debate: 


North Carolina is the only state with the elections for Governor, U.S. Senate, and President rated as a "toss-up" by the Cook report. This gives it political importance beyond that of the presidential election, as any increased investment in TV ads and more traditionally door-to-door campaigns could tip the scales in these three important elections one way. 


Presidential debates are often deemed more important than they actually are. They rarely act as a polling turning point as many people think. But they do move the polls a few points. The last presidential debate, however, had an important impact on the polling for Clinton, who experienced a 5.5 percent bump, as noted in the News and Observer. These are impressive numbers for Clinton, especially because the effect of the debate is more muted in North Carolina due to high early voting participation."


Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to address our students' questions on the state of North Carolina. I would also like to thank the students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee for your interest in the exchange with our U.S. election experts and for your interesting questions. 


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

Bernie Sanders at the University of Minnesota

by Deleted user -

Recently, Hillary Clinton´s “Stronger Together” campaign trail stopped by at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis which gave me the chance to attend my first rally in the U.S. Clinton herself was not present during that event and campaigned elsewhere in the country. Instead Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who was her biggest challenger during the Democratic primaries, campaigned for her and was highly anticipated by students.

Although the event took place on a Tuesday afternoon in our beautiful auditorium, the event location was sold out. It seems that all politically interested students found some time in their schedules to see that candidate who had captivated the enthusiasm of young voters like no other candidate during the long primary season and who has inspired political engagement and participation with his grassroots campaign.

In addition to Senator Sanders, politicians of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) ‒ the branch of the Democratic Party here in Minnesota – gave speeches to promote their races for the Minnesota State House. This year's State House election in Minnesota, which also takes place on November 8, 2016, is even regarded as one of 20 battleground chambers in the country with the Republican Party currently holding a majority of 73 to 61 seats in the State House of Representatives. The Democrats control the State Senate instead. Thus, the DFL aims at winning the majority in the House of Representatives which would give the party the control over both branches of government since Governor Mark Dayton is also a Democrat.

The most fascinating speaker of that day was Ilhan Omar, an American woman born in Somalia, who runs for district 60B in the Minnesota House of Representatives, which includes the University of Minnesota and some neighborhoods around campus.


Ilhan Omar, a Somali American politician (DFL) from Minnesota. If elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in November, she could become the first Somali-American legislator in the United States and the first Muslim woman to hold office in her state. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Omar and her family fled the country’s devastating civil war at the beginning of the 1990s and immigrated like many other Somalis to Minnesota. Today, around 25,000 Somalis live in the Twin Cities’ metro-area. After Omar’s victory over the long-serving representative Phyllis Kahn in the extremely competitive DFL primary for the seat in the State House, she now has the historic chance to become the first Somali legislator in the U.S. Especially, the support among students in the neighborhoods around campus have given her the decisive advantage over her opponents to win the nomination and possibly the race. Omar’s Republican opponent in the General Election Abdimalik Askar, who was born in Somalia as well, just announced that he is suspending his campaign, which gives Omar a huge advantage. Nonetheless, he will remain on the ballot since the Republican base in my electoral district is rather small and has not been able to find an alternate candidate. Although the race is more or less already decided, both candidates have had an important impact in energizing the large Somali community of the Twin Cities, especially in district 60B, where many of them live. Omar´s campaign reported that 5,868 people casted their vote in the primary, which is an increase of 37 percent compared to 2014.

However, the speech most students anticipated was given by Senator Bernie Sanders. Since the primaries of the Democratic Party for the presidential nomination, Sanders has become an idol for many young Americans. Therefore, I was really looking forward to seeing him in order to get an idea why my fellow students were so passionately supporting him.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to young voters in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign at the University of Minnesota on October 4, 2016.


When Sanders entered the stage, he received an incredibly warm welcome from the students. He delivered an energetic speech about social issues like debt-free college, a fairer distribution of the tax burden among U.S. citizens, and an expansion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), which has given millions of Americans access to health care. The audience did not stop applauding and cheering  for Sanders. It was impressive to see how he inspired just about everybody in the room. Thus, this rally confirmed my assumption that social questions are highly important for young Americans and cannot be ignored by any party with ambitions for the highest office in the United States. In order to benefit from Sanders’ strong support among millennials, Hillary Clinton has already adopted many of his points and included him in her election team. But despite their cooperation, Clinton remains unpopular among Sanders’ young supporters. Clinton, it seems, has been unable to inspire the same excitement and passion among this growing and increasingly important voter group. While young voters are 'fired up' for politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), their relationship to Clinton is 'lukewarm', at best.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if Sanders is able to convince his supporters to cast their vote for Clinton and not another third-party candidate like Gary Johnson (Presidential Nominee of the Libertarian Party) on Election Day.


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#Election2016 #GoingGreen 

Presidential Debates Influence on The Polls

by Deleted user -

Last week the third and final presidential debate between Secretary Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump took place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was also viewed on the screens of millions of homes across the country. Citizens awaited the final words of the two candidates in a debate that continues to make waves in a sea of predictable responses.

You missed the debate? Watch the most talked-about moments in this 3-minute summary.

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace moderated, and according to viewers has arguably done the best in upholding unbiased (or at least equal) dialogue with the two candidates. The debate focused on issues like debt, entitlement reform, immigration, economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and fitness to be president. Differences in opinion on issues such as abortion came through as Trump claimed “I am pro life, I am going to defend pro life” while Clinton stated that she would defend Roe v. Wade, supported a woman’s right to an abortion and Planned Parenthood.  Other topics of dissidence consisted of the US’s relationship with Russia and how that would be affected by a presidency by either candidate. Although the effects were arbitrary, Clinton noted Trumps affiliation with a toxic and ruthless Putin (to her) as Trump proclaimed that an allegiance with Russia would contribute to the defeat of ISIS.


At my university, the University of Michigan, students gathered in Angell Hall and attended different watch parties hosted by College Democrats, College Republicans and Students for Hillary.  The College Republican party hosted republican candidate for state representative in Michigan’s 52nd district Randy Clark who encouraged students to vote. “Everybody wants to run and hide under a rock because they can’t stand this mess that’s going on, but you really have to get involved, you have to make a difference,” he explained.

As for making a difference, the effect of presidential debates on voter opinion is a debatable point, depending on where you get your information. The Washington Monthly for example, asserts that presidential debates are game changers in the opinions of strategists. According to Political Scientists researching data on electoral changes after the debates however, presidential debates have “rarely if ever, mattered”.  The Washington Monthly goes on to say that in very close elections, new information is not likely to change the minds of voters.  Because debates do occur late in the campaign of the candidates, decisions are usually reached by a majority of voters before the debates occur. The demographic of debate watchers typically consists of those who have an interest in politics and/or already have loyalties to a party.  Rather than focusing on how the debate will affect whom they vote for, it atypically aligns voters more closely with the candidate they believe won (and usually that is the member of their party).

Due to the improbability of the election and indecision of voters however, this election year could be different in regards to the influence of debates on voter opinion; especially in the face of Trump’s allegations entailing the corruption of the polls.

According to a poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, one third of Clinton’s and Trump’s supporters were undecided as to whether they were definitely voting for their candidate. Clinton’s evident rise in percentage points, going from three in the first debate to ten in the last week, show how the debate can have a polarizing effect. An argument for this is that Clinton has also not been in the spotlight of mass media for the past few weeks. Due to scandals involving Trump and his mistreatment of women, Clinton’s scandalous emails have moved away from the limelight, allowing for more media outlets to call Trump’s character into question (especially as women come forth and attest to his alleged abuse). Trump's decline in the polls can also be attributed to his perceived performance in the debates.

In a poll by ABC News, Clinton was found to have reached her highest percentage of support while Trump had sunk to his lowest the day after the debate. Other interesting voting trends show Trump’s popularity among white voters, men, non-whites, and women, declining. Clinton on the other hand has reached her highest percentage of male voters ever.  The poll also found that the number of registered republicans likely to vote has dropped in response to Trump’s campaign against the media.

SurveyMonkey's chief research officer Jon Cohen contributed his thoughts on the efficacy of polls and surveys such as those that are conducted by his company. While explaining the difficulty in predicting an election across fifty states, Cohen affirmed that the polls have stayed relatively stable within the past five weeks and that according to their predictions and data, there is more than a ninety percent chance that Clinton will take the election. He supports his argument by referring to the 307 electoral votes Clinton has already ‘locked up’.

Real Clear Politics show Clinton leading by eleven percentage points in Michigan, but voters supporting Trump strongly believe in his victory and continue to point to his “understanding of how trade deals affect Michigan’s economy negatively and his fight against voter fraud”. Whether the 90% chance likelihood will come to fruition is not clear, as many voters remain undecided. In less than fourteen days we will find out if Cohen was right.


Useful resources

If you missed the third and last debate, you can watch the entire video below:

Now, one question that remains is how much of what both candidates said on stage last week was actually true and factual. Several media outlets focused on this and produced 'fact checks' on both candidates' performances. One interesting example comes from the staff at National Public Radio who annotated the entire script of the debate.

Finally, how much did the debate impact on voters? USA Today undertook an interesting experiment and interviewed students across swing states on their perception of the debate.

USA Today: What college students in 5 swing states thought of the 3rd debate


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

Laughter and satire - friend or foe? Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis

by Janina Schmidt -

Christianna StavroudisIs there a 'satire paradox' in political cartoons? Are laughter and social protest friends or foes? When a politician is being satirized, does this make the audience more critical of the politician because his or her shortcomings and weaknesses are being exposed and ridiculed publicly? Or does satire unintentionally 'whitewash' such criticism: When you laugh about something or someone, it can't be that bad, right?!

This week, we had a chance to ask our expert on political cartoons, Christianna Stavroudis, a native of Baltimore and lecturer in English linguistics at the University of Bonn. She's been an avid supporter of Teach About US right from its start and has instructed several seminars to teachers all over Germany on using political cartoons in the classroom.

I explained to Christianna that I recently had listened to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast 'Revisionist History' and in one recent episode he talks about political satire. He introduces it with this 2008 piece from Saturday Night Live starring Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, who was then running as vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket:

Gladwell says that in newspapers and magazines (he is a staff writer for The New Yorker), you have to write in somber, reasonable tones; but in satire, you're allowed to say almost anything: "When you sugar-coat a bitter truth with humor," he says, "it makes the medicine go down." Yet, Gladwell also says that in SNL, the parody of Palin was "toothless", that is "comedy without any courage at all". Why? Because Tina Fey was too busy being funny. This eventually became evident when Sarah Palin herself appeared next to Fey in one episode – she was let in on the joke. Gladwell argues that "nothing of consequence gets accomplished without courage."

A catchier example from this year's campaign is Jimmy Fallon's interview with Donald Trump, which Fallon ended by messing up Trump's hair. It sure was entertaining and made viewers laugh. But does it also challenge the audience's political views?

So, I guess you could ask whether this could also be applied to the genre of political cartoons: Should cartoons rather entertain or challenge the reader? Do you have an example or two?

I think it's important to define satire and distinguish it from political entertainment. True satire involves an element of ridicule (not to be confused with teasing, not synonymous with caricature). Unfortunately, this is not evident in a lot of the U.S. political entertainment this election season, including the examples you cited and many cartoons as well. The fact that presidential candidates and even the president appear on talk shows and in comedy sketches already shows that this platform has morphed from an outsider domain (in which there was a clear division between artist and ruling elite) to a hybrid one in which politicians can prove that they can take a joke at their own expense. As it appears, this is a requirement to be successful with a U.S. audience today.


A very interesting example of this is the Funny or Die "Between Two Ferns" interview between Zach Galifianakis and Barack Obama:


Obama went onto this platform in order to reach out to young people to get them registered for healthcare, but Galifianakis maintained the tone of his "insulting" talk show even in this context. When Obama gives the phone number that people can call to get signed up for healthcare, Galifianakis says, "Oh, I don't have a phone; I'm off the grid. I don't want you people, like, looking at my texts, if you know what I mean." To this Obama replies, "First of all, Zach, nobody's interested in your texts."


This is an example of "cooperative ridicule," and it's becoming the norm in shows in which the politicians and candidates can participate by interacting (and even performing) with the artists.


Coming back to your question, this is where political cartoons differ in that they generally derive from one cartoonist alone (minus editorial input from the publisher of the cartoon) and therefore don't allow for input by politicians. But they, too, can range from innocuous (Cartoon 1) to harsh (Cartoon 2).


The satire created by political cartoons can range from innocuous...
(Photo credit: 'Hillary Rattled', by Nate Beeler / The Columbus Dispatch, 09/28/2016. All rights reserved.) harsh. This cartoon by Mr. Fish was published on Memorial Day 2009. In the U.S., Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces.

(Photo credit: 'Real One', by Mr. Fish (Dwayne Booth), 5/24/2009. All rights reserved.)

The courage factor rests on both the artist and the audience if real change is to take place. (If that is even desired! Let's not forget that some people just like to complain, that the job of the satirist is to criticize, and that the title "satirist" does not a good person make. There is also a fine line between a satirist and a bully.)


Cartoons and video clips of these shows are passively and ever-more privately consumed, which in turn can have the effect of lulling audiences into feeling that they have "done something" merely because they have consumed what they perceive is satire. (Which do think sounds more sophisticated: "I'm watching a comedy show." vs. "I'm watching political satire.") Thus, labelling things satire that are in fact political entertainment can be a brilliant tool for manipulation for the politician clever enough to see it as something at his/her disposal and amiable enough to be watched by audiences. Satire in a U.S. context is often one of the first examples named in support of the First Amendment (Freedom of the Press; Free Speech). But the problem is: When you can say anything, you risk not saying anything at all.


True satire involves putting something on the line (reputation, status, etc.) and is therefore by definition something that does not easily fit into the mainstream. Just as a test, try to find a satirist who is willing to attack his audience as much as "the elite". Satirists who simply pander to their audience, lulling them into an "us vs. them/we're the little guy" mood are not taking many risks at all.


This is also not to say that artists can never commune with the subjects of their attacks (although it does make things easier). The interviews between Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart, for example, are quite revealing as are the roundtable discussions between Democrats and Republicans on Bill Maher's Real Talk program. Note also the criticism that both Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon have received (esp. from minority groups) as a result of their cooperations with Trump. A desire for consistency in politics and political media is being voiced in this campaign season (see Bernie Sanders supporters) as well as diversity of views and representation (#OscarsSoWhite and its effect on the industry; the role of #BlackLivesMatter in the election; the introduction of new political satire shows hosted by non-Americans like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and the new host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah).


It remains to be seen whether these trends will result in new approaches to satire, but, as always, the courage is a two-way street.

Thank you so much, Christianna.

We will be posting more from our U.S. election experts, our 'explainers-in-chief' soon on the blog, so stay tuned!


Joannis Kaliampos is the educational project manager for the U.S. Embassy's Teach About US platform. He is a research assistant at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and holds a Staatsexamen degree in teaching English and History at the Gymnasium from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. Joannis has developed teaching materials and has been leading teacher workshops for the U.S. Embassy's school projects since 2012.
#Election2016 #Experts

Monday Mail: Christina Sickinger Explains the Election in Florida

by Janina Schmidt -

Christina SickingerAs you might remember from my last blog post, I just completed my teaching practicum at the Berufsbildungszentrum in Schleswig in northern Germany. During this practicum my group of 12th graders in our English course researched the importance of archetypal swing states for this year’s election and what campaign issues could possibly influence people’s voting behavior in these states (among other things).

The group focusing on Florida came up with some general questions about the state, but what they were really interested in was to get a personal evaluation of the situation in Florida from someone who is familiar with that context. This was the perfect occasion to connect them with our U.S. election expert for the state of Florida, Christina Sickinger, who kindly agreed to give our students an insight into the campaign in her state. As a native of Tallahassee, Florida, Christina interned in Florida with Congresswoman Gwen Graham as well as with her county government this last summer, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about both federal and local government. The students wanted to know from her:

What makes Florida the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992?

"Dear Christina," they asked, "what political issues influence the state of Florida the most and make it the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992? How does political campaigning differ in Florida compared to other swing states?”


Here is Christina’s take on this:

“The main reason that Florida is the most important swing state to watch is pretty simple: With 29 electoral votes, Florida has more electoral votes at stake than any of the other states that are typically considered “swing states.” Although the state has about 4.8 million registered Republicans and 4.5 registered Democrats, it also has around 3 million independent voters who could go to either party, according to the Florida Department of State. These independent voters can decide who wins the state, so influencing their opinions is an important goal for both candidates.
Florida also includes two important populations: it has a reputation as the home for many retirees, but the state is also home to many Hispanic voters, who tend to be younger. Florida is a fairly large state with a population of almost 20 million, and I think that the variety of different demographic groups in different areas of Florida makes it difficult to predict how the state will vote as a whole.    
Florida’s history in presidential elections also makes it unique. Florida voted for the election winner in almost all presidential elections since WWII, with the notable exception of the 1992 election. The state went to the Democratic candidate (Barack Obama) in 2012 and 2008, but to the Republican candidate (George W. Bush) in 2004 and 2000. In 2000, the vote in Florida between candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush