Greenkeepers is an international, non-profit, and non-governmental service organization founded in 2009. Headquartered in Beijing, China, Greenkeepers is devoted to inspiring environmental awareness through local impacts within communities across the globe, including but not limited to its offices in Beijing, San Jose, and Jakarta. Greenkeepers aspires to fundamentally change the way people see environmental work, and is renowned within local communities for its approach of leading by example - not only transforming the environment or promoting environmental awareness, but also redesigning societies' consumptions of limited resources.
Greenkeepers was established in August 2009 by students Kevin Xiao, Vivian Xiao, Olivia Tan, Jeffrey Yu, Philipa Yu, and Laura Du. Since its inception the organization has remained completely student-run and has received generous support from parents and teachers, and members of both local and international communities alike. Although originally composed of only the founders, in the span of five years Greenkeepers has burgeoned into a multi-national organization stretching across three continents, with over 300 total members in its lifetime. The organization's growth is a testament to its principle tenet that "everything big, was originally small."
In its lifetime, Greenkeepers has initiated various projects in local, regional, and global scales. Notable accomplishments and on-going projects include the Dragon Path River Cleanup, the Sichuan Book Drive, and the Beijing Tree Planting Initiative.
Greenkeepers was founded in August 2009 in Beijing, China by Kevin Xiao, Vivian Xiao, Olivia Tan, Jeffrey Yu, Philipa Yu, and Laura Du. The idea for Greenkeepers arose during a trash pick-up event organized by the Beijing Student Press Association, of which each founder was a part of. According to the Greenkeepers website, an elderly woman approached then 9th grade Jeffery Yu with an empty bottle, encouraging him to sell it and buy himself a snack on the way home. Though an initially humorous experience, the founding members realized the story was indicative of a larger underlying problem within the Beijing local community; namely that in China, no one recognized the merits of environmental conservation. As co-founder Philipa Yu recounts, “Locals picked up recyclable material for the sole purpose of later selling it and earning a little extra pocket money. Otherwise, trash was left unattended to.”
Based on the need to shift society's views on the environment, Greenkeepers was born. Its goal since then has been to foster a sense of respect for the environment and to encourage the local community to be aware of the effects of their actions.
In its early stages, Greenkeepers meetings were largely informal - carried out on couches in libraries and in various people's houses. It remained as a 6-member group and did very little in terms of quantifiable actions; instead, time was spent clearing procedural hurdles involved in establishing an organization within the students' school.
The largest problem Greenkeepers faced at this time was on deciding the exact nature of the group - what it would do and focus on. After much deliberation, the founders agreed that Greenkeepers would be heavily action oriented and thus, it became vital that the group remained small. Today, one of Greenkeepers' core values is that a small group of dedicated individuals is more beneficial than a large organization with only a few members who truly believe in the cause.
Greenkeepers attempted to impact the greater Beijing community by cleaning up a section of the Long Dao River in a nearby community. Students from the International School of Beijing and Kong Gang Elementary school gathered together and cleaned up miscellaneous trash along the river bed.
Over 7000 books were donated to the Huili County Experiment Middle School, Huili County Second Primary School, and Zhaojue County Middle School in the Sichuan province of China.
The Beijing Tree Planting activity provided members of the local community an opportunity to give back to their environment. Greenkeepers launched this project to tackle the growing problems of Beijing's, and China in general's pollution. Its goal was to not only reduce pollution, but also to stop it at its source by encouraging people to adopt greener methods of living. Over 1000 trees have been planted in Beijing since.
During the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, students of the Greenkeepers attempted to educate members of the International School of Beijing community of the types of plantation on campus. Greenkeepers members printed labels, for each type of plantation on campus, on recycled paper with only black and white ink, and attached it to plants all over the school. Over 300 trees have been labelled.
To curb the usage of paper cups or disposable plastic bottles, Greenkeepers promoted the use of reusable cups and mugs.
To promote environmental awareness and protection within children of younger ages, Greenkeepers launched its Science Safari to educate younger children of prominent environmental issues.
Greenkeepers noticed that among the local community, there was little regard for paper usage, namely that of napkins and paper towels. In order to reduce the harm done to forests through the use of so many pieces of paper, signs were established, across the local community in Beijing. In places like coffee shops and restaurants, Paper Towel conservation posters attempt to raise awareness and educate the public about environmental friendliness. More than 100 labels have been set up.
During the annual Earth Day Overnight Campout event, members of the local community gather to reduce electricity usage by living on the International School of Beijing campus for one electricity-free night. Thus, members of local communities show their respect and acknowledgement of the cause to reduce electricity usage worldwide.
The yearly Unplugged Concert, as with the Earth Day Overnight Campout, also draws attention to society's prevalent use of electricity in the 21st century. Performances are done without the use of electronic equipment, usually solely based upon a performer's voice or abilities with musical instruments. The concert not only raises money for the cause, but also allows community members to gather and appreciate the idea of energy conservation.
Greenkeepers is an entirely student run service organization. Each local branch consists of a general leadership team, known as the "core team," that facilitates group meetings. Each core member is in charge of a small focus group tasked with spearheading its own initiative such as fundraising or public relations. Although only one group is in charge of organizing and leading a specific endeavor, each member of a Greenkeepers branch contributes in the project's success. The executive team of Greenkeepers International is the core team centered in Beijing.
In the spirit of Greenkeepers' founding principles of remaining student-led and a collaborative effort, the founders decided not to include a typical power hierarchy within the organization. Thus there are not specific positions within the main core team.
Members of Greenkeeepers enjoy a high degree of freedom. Although Greenkeepers has its set in stone annual events and projects, members have the options to join existing task groups or to start their own. They are fully able to pursue their own creative ideas and desires with the backing of Greenkeepers' local connections and access to resources.
As of January 2015, Greenkeepers has had a total of over 300 members in its lifetime. As a student-run organization, members hail from various walks of the community. In its Beijing and Jakarta branches, Greenkeepers is almost entirely consisted of international high school students. Nevertheless, the organization enjoys a relatively small and limited local following.
Although high school students primarily make up the organization, Greenkeepers has immense presence within younger age groups as well - in accordance with its goal of spreading environmental awareness.