Peter’s Take: Teens Promote Environmental Sustainability in Arlington

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

On April 6, the Global Co Lab Network partnered with filmmaker Miriam Gennari to screen her documentary StyrofoamMom.

The event also celebrated the new Teen Eco Action Network, a Global Co Lab Network partnership with the Smithsonian Conservation Commons to build a local and global network of teens to address eco action. Amazon landlord JBG Smith provided support.

The event also unveiled the video contest winners from Teens Dream– a Co Lab initiative. Highlights are here .

More than 170 people participated at the new National Landing headquarters in Crystal City. Twenty teen environmental clubs and environmental organizations presented their work. The Teen Network shared plans for addressing plastics, hunger, climate change and waste management. There was an exhibit on EV charging stations.

Building Maintenance Service, JBG Smith, Eco-Action Arlington and Gennari delivered a zero-waste event.

“We must have the courage to lead by example; the time for making excuses has passed,” Gennari said. “I think attendees are encouraged to know kids are interested in sustainability and want to support their efforts.” Sponsoring organizations included Alexandria Toyota, Radley Acura, Crystal City Business Improvement District, and Arlington Independent Media.

Teens point the way to a sustainable Arlington

Perseverance and resolve were messages that resonated most with these teens.

“The plight of a change maker is exhibited through encounters with policy makers and businesses that stood in Miriam Gennari’s way,” said Sydney Rico, an Oakton student of the Plastic Dream Hubs. “The triumphs of various establishments doing something about the issue are put forth creating a meaningful impact on viewers.”

County leaders’ welcoming remarks

“I am here for a couple reasons… it’s a great cause,” said Arlington County Board Member Matt de Ferranti. “This week four or five kids came to speak to the Arlington Board about their concern over plastic bags.”

“I have two children, 11 and 7, and I want to make sure they have a world in which they can prosper and be healthy,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said.

“The people in my generation and older don’t have the right to destroy things, so we actually have to start setting the tone for how we can make sure the world can live on in perpetuity without the disastrous effect of climate change wrecking it for everybody,” Dorsey said.

County leaders must walk the walk on sustainable policies

Two developments since April 6 underscore that County government must convert welcoming words to decisive actions.


Maine just enacted a law banning Styrofoam. Other states are poised to do so. County leaders should make this a top priority in Arlington’s legislative package for the 2020 Virginia legislative session.

Glass recycling

Arlington cancelled its glass recycling program strictly for economic reasons. Instead of just sitting back reacting, County leaders proactively should have:

  • pushed to make it a Virginia legislative priority to adopt a beverage container deposit law and/or
  • worked with regional partners to develop an environmentally sustainable regional solution.

The County immediately should reexamine its own procurement and purchasing practices to help remove waste from the system, and purchase products supporting material recycling and reuse.


“We are all about amplifying teen voices and giving them resources and networks to be change makers,” said Linda Staheli, founding executive director of the Global Co Lab.

“Action, participation and innovation are exactly what Arlington and the surrounding region is going to need to solve the complex problems attributed to a bustling metropolis and changing world,” said Gennari.

Kayla Peale, one of the founders of Yorktown High School’s Strawless Seas program, is taking the lead promoting another regional Global Co Lab event designed to increase Arlington’s student engagement regarding plastic pollution. Will the School Board and County Board act to support them or stymie their efforts?

“I am so excited to be part of this amazing experience,” said Peale, referring to her group’s participation in “Eco Teen Action Open House” at the National Zoo on May 18, from 1-4 p.m. in the brand-new Conservation Pavilion.

Linda Staheli invited all guests to join the Co Lab’s Teens Dream celebration October 5 when nine winners of the global video contest will be flown to our area. For more information, email [email protected].

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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