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GM Protects Watersheds with Students for 25 Years


DETROIT--April 15, 2014: General Motors this year celebrates a milestone anniversary of its signature watershed education program, GM Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN). For the 25th year, company employees will wade into waterways across the U.S. and Canada this spring and fall with about 9,000 students.

Employees from 42 GM sites, including all of the company’s U.S. manufacturing plants, extend their environmental knowledge by mentoring youth on conservation, sparking interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects and encouraging civic engagement.

The program is a collaboration of partners, from the nonprofit Earth Force that facilitates the activities, to local schools and community conservation groups in 26 communities in which GM operates across North America.

“We can make a lot of environmental progress when we work together,” said Mike Robinson, vice president of GM Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “GM is committed to environmental protection beyond our own operations by sharing lessons, mentoring future leaders and inspiring community action to make a difference.”

Through the years, GM has matched 142,000 students with more than 3,000 employees to retrieve, test and analyze water samples. They then channel findings into a sustainable action plan addressing water quality issues in their communities. GREEN sharpens problem-solving skills, improves knowledge of science and the environment and encourages community involvement.

“This program gives teachers an interactive way to increase student interest in the environment, helps youth see real-life implications of studies, enables local environmental groups to expand their influence and provides GM employees a fulfilling voluntary mentoring experience,” said Lisa Bardwell, Earth Force president and CEO. “This type of mutually beneficial collaboration is a model for any organization seeking a sustainable, meaningful outreach program.”

The program began in 1984 when a group of concerned high school students wanted to investigate water quality in the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Mich., believed to be linked to an illness in the community.

Their teacher contacted Dr. William Stapp, a University of Michigan professor who helped plan the first Earth Day in 1970 and whom many consider the founder of environmental education. Together they developed GREEN. GM became a financial and volunteer contributor in 1989.

That initial spirit of inquiry and investigation continues. Last year, 231 GM mentors representing every GM manufacturing site in the United States volunteered in water monitoring events, classroom visits and student-driven watershed improvement projects.

GM is committed to conserving water throughout its operations. Between 2005 and 2010, the company reduced water use per vehicle produced by 32 percent and committed to another 15-percent reduction by 2020. Employee dedication to community outreach further makes an impact in protecting this critical resource.

“Bringing together students, teachers, environmental groups and our employees is what makes this program continue to grow each year. Everyone sees the value,” said Robinson.

For more information on GM’s environmental commitment, visit its sustainability report and environmental blog.

Earth Force is a national 501(c)3 organization with headquarters in Denver. Its mission is to engage young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. Through Earth Force and its network of partners, young people get hands-on, real-world opportunities to practice civic skills, acquire a deep understanding of the environment, and develop the skills and motivation to become lifelong leaders in addressing community issues. Visit Earth Force or follow @earthforce on Twitter to learn more.