New Canaan teen goes green
Published 3:31 pm, Wednesday, December 22, 2010
A resident of New Canaan has started an initiative to save our planet. An environmentally-conscious person, she has worked very hard to implement green driving tactics that could change the way Connecticut, and possibly even America, drives.
Not too shabby for a high school senior, right?
Katherine Shultz, an 18-year-old Greenwich Academy student, looks very unassuming for someone who has, almost single handedly, made sweeping changes on one of the most important environmental initiatives around.
Yet she remains, like many other high school seniors, typically excited for the next phase of her life.
"I got accepted to Colgate College through early action," she said with a smile. "I am really looking forward to it."
What does she hope to study? Well perhaps something environmentally-focused of course. Shultz said that she comes from a big outdoors family and credits them for her love of the environment. In fact it was a conversation with her father, Bob Shultz that peaked an interest in green driving.
"It was just a routine conversation that sparked something," she said. "My dad was asking me about drivers-ed and he asked me if there was any discussion about environmentally-responsible driving."
When Katherine realized that her course was doing nothing to address green driving, she pursued the topic herself and took it to the DMV.
"They challenged me," she said. "So I made a video highlighting ways to reduce your carbon footprint."
The video called "From Teen Driver to Green Driver" is now on the DMV website and has effectively changed policy. The video outlines various tips that can lead to less pollution and more money saving for those who choose to listen. Whether it is simply keeping the car engine tuned, the tires inflated, consolidating driving trips or keeping the car off while idle, everyone can do their part Katherine says.
"It starts with the individual," she said. "It will definitely make a positive impact."
Still, Katherine knew that the video alone would not be enough. She sought the help of New Canaan State Representative John Hetherington and the DMV to help her make the impact she needed.
"I didn't want it to just affect a few people," she said. "I wanted to make it a matter of policy."
Hetherington himself helped make sure Shultz's green driving guidelines were placed on the DMV website and manual as well, effectively requiring all new drivers to be aware of the initiative. Not only that, Hetherington believes that it is only a matter of time before all of it will make it to the written driving exams.
"They will probably put it in the test eventually and it has already made an impact by being online and in the manuals as well," Hetherington said. "Katherine has helped put us on the leading edge to change our driving habits for the good of the environment."
The significance of Katherine's efforts is not lost on Bill Seymour, DMV director of corporate and public relations, either.
"This video is important for any driver to see, but especially for teens, so that they learn early about the need for environmental awareness when driving," Seymour said. "This informative, hands-on approach reflects Katherine's hard work and dedication to raising awareness among teens."
While DMV Commissioner Robert Ward and various other state officials have commended Katherine for her efforts, she has also received some national attention as well through the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I got a letter from the EPA signed by the President," she said shyly.
Yes, by President, she means President Barack Obama.
While Shultz shied away from bragging about her letter from the Commander in Chief, the national attention is of huge significance. With a new more environmentally conscious generation coming out high school, led by the likes of Katherine, this first step in Connecticut could start a chain reaction around the country.
For now at least, Shultz is content saving the world one hybrid car at a time.