Gretchen Bleiler to AASHE 2010 Student Attendees: “You All Have The Power To Create Green Change”

Gretchen Bleiler delivers AASHE 2010 Student Summit Keynote The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2010 Conference in Denver, Colorado has officially begun, and for the Student Summit portion of the conference, it started with Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler delivering the keynote address to the 500+ students in attendance.

Gretchen, who won the silver medal in Women’s Halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, is an active spokesperson in the fight against global warming, and works closely with to build awareness around climate change. She also has collaborated with Oakley apparel to develop an eco-friendly outerwear and ski accessory line and with K2 skis to create the sustainable EcoPop Snowboard. She is recognized globally as a role model and advocate both for her sport and for raising awareness around climate change issues.

In her talk, she told students how climate change had affected her personally, as she observed unseasonal weather in various parts of the globe as she “chased the snow.” Because of her need for snow year-round to practice her sport, Bleiler frequently travels to locations in regions from South America to Asia to take advantage of winter in different hemispheres. In Over the last 15+ years, she has observed how changing patterns have resulted in environmental problems in these places first hand.

As her concern about these developments intensified, Bleiler began realize that she could use her fame and media presence as a snowboarder to draw attention to the issue. She told the students gathered at the Summit that they could do the same, regardless of their own fields of expertise. In fact, she said, it is important that the message come from as many different voices and backgrounds as possible, to have the most effect.

Gretchen talks social media“Every single one of us has a unique opportunity to create awareness and inspire change,” she said, as she encouraged the use of social media and peer-to-peer mentoring.

Bleiler then told the crowd about her “21 Day Reusable Challenge,” which asks participants to pledge that beginning today, for the next 21 days they:

  • will not use plastic water bottles
  • will not accept shopping bags/grocery bags
  • will not use styrofoam food containers

Students were then encouraged to document their participation and post the photo or video to Bleiler’s Facebook Fan Page with the title “21 Days of Reusable Challenge” and tag @Gretchenbleiler and @alexbottle in their posts for the chance to win a prize that includes eco-friendly Oakley ski gear and a sustainable K2 snowboard.