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MEarth : Educating + Inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders

Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

MEarth (Me - Earth) educates and inspires the next generation of environmental leaders. Students learn and grow in our gardens, green kitchen and natural habitats, becoming change agents for an empathic and sustainable future. We want to share the magic of MEarth with every child in Monterey County.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if every child in Monterey County felt empowered to be a change maker – not only to sustain and protect their own health, and that of their families, schools and communities, but also the long-term health of the planet?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In today’s American society, our trend toward individually-focused, consumption-driven behavior isolates people from their communities, fragments our ecosystems and food systems, and erodes our planet’s resiliency. The results are systemic issues of nature-deficiency and obesity for our children (in Monterey County, alone, 44.6% are obese). Our kids are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, real food sources and the natural world.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

MEarth’s NatureConnect + FoodConnect programs address the root causes of these insidious problems by nurturing a deep respect for the environment and encouraging eco-behavioral changes in our program participants to bring about a more connected, protected planet. Our programs reach 2000+ kids annually through award-winning outdoor education curriculum, garden-to-table culinary education and hands-on conservation projects. MEarth’s programs inspire kids to become changemakers in the lives of their families, schools and communities. We continually build partnerships that help us engage the underserved youth of Monterey County, those in greatest need of nutrition education, safe outdoor learning experiences, and leadership mentoring.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Many kids in our programs are immersed in nature for the very first time. In the beginning, they express fear that animals might attack them or they might get lost in “wild” nature, but with the support of MEarth’s staff, students learn to feel safe, to explore with all of their senses, and open their minds and hearts to the natural world and to those with whom they share it. Some delight in tracking frogs at the pond or marveling at the iridescent feathers of hummingbirds, as they whiz by. Others enjoy working side by side, harvesting carrots and lettuces, preparing a healthy lunch and sharing food around the table, together. Students leave with full bellies, bright eyes and a new set of skills to change their own lives, and their world!

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since 2008, we have empowered 12,000+ young people and countless community members with sustainable solutions for the major issues facing our planet and our communities. Our older alums say their experiences at MEarth inspired an environmental degree path or their drive to pursue a green career. Parents say their children’s experiences at MEarth inspired their family to recycle, refuse single-use plastics, grow their own food, cook and eat together, and/or volunteer in the community. In a recent evaluation study, 55.26% of past students said “Because of what I learned at MEarth: I want to become an environmental leader in my community”; 77.63% said, “Because of what I learned at MEarth: I help, or want to help, with meal preparation at home”; and 88.16% said “Participating in classes at MEarth helped me develop a greater appreciation/interest in nature and the outdoors.”

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

As the demand for MEarth’s effective and unique programming grows, we are beginning to see our organization become a go-to resource for sustainability education in our community. Scalability is a hot topic around our Boardroom table, as we look at ways to expand our reach. Our strategic plan includes focused outreach, fund development and diversification, as well as organizational capacity building. MEarth is proving itself as a beacon in the environmental education movement that has the power to inspire other schools and communities to build similar programs and join in this critical work.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Since its inception, MEarth has been primarily funded through grant support. Looking ahead, our strategy includes mobilizing individual donors to sustain our mission annually and long-term, scaling our fee-for-service revenue model, and continuing successful relationship building with partner organizations and philanthropists to grow our programming and our impact.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are several exceptional organizations teaching healthy lifestyle/eating practices and environmental/wildlife education to our local youth, however, none that we are aware of deliver a cohesive program that nurtures leadership, instills empathy, and emphasizes eco-behavior changes, as we do at MEarth. Additionally, because of our unique partnership with Carmel Unified School District and the vision of MEarth’s founders, our programming occurs on a 10-acre environmental education center, the Hilton Bialek Habitat, which is a model facility absolutely unique to our region.

Founding Story

MEarth’s Habitat was the founding vision of science teacher, Craig Hohenberger, who saw an opportunity to bring indoor classroom learning alive in the outdoor environment. The Hilton Bialek Habitat was born on a 10-acre abandoned Christmas tree farm adjacent to Carmel Middle School with help from fellow passionate educators and inspired donors. Since the late 1990’s the property has been molded into a rich habitat for native species and enhanced by the addition of a 1-acre organic garden, outdoor kitchen and LEED-certified multi-use classroom. Since MEarth incorporated as a nonprofit in 2008, our programming has exponentially grown and the future is bright.


MEarth has a dedicated team of six staff members: Executive Director (FT); Director of Community Partnerships(4/5ths); Grants Associate (4/5ths); Volunteer Coordinator (PT); Organic Garden Manager (PT); and FoodConnect Educator (PT). We are currently hiring a NatureConnect program educator (bilingual-Spanish) and an Administrative Assistant (PT). MEarth is generously supported by community volunteers and nine active Board of Directors members.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name


How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

United States, CA, Carmel

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Businesses, Regional government, National government, Customers.

Supplemental Information
On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):


How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

MEarth’s programs immerse students in the wonders of the natural world and our local food system, nurturing interpersonal and global behavior awareness, with hands-on environmental stewardship projects and garden-to-table culinary education. Students learn about endangered species, impacts of pollution on plants, animals, water quality and human health, the interdependence of species within our ecosystem, and our human potential to disturb or protect those systems. We engage students in the vital process of harvesting, preparing and sharing food around the table together, creating a community of youth with the capacity to communicate, collaborate and think critically about how their actions impact others and the world around them.

Tell us about your partnerships

MEarth’s partnership with the Carmel Unified School District provides our incredible outdoor education site, the Hilton Bialek Habitat. Programming partners include the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County, RISE Program of CSUMB, Network for a Healthy California, and multiple Private/Charter Schools, with additional programmatic support from local chefs, organic farmers and conservation organizations.


Concentrated wealth for a small percentage of Monterey County’s population is starkly contrasted by growing underserved communities throughout the region, creating strong economic and social divides in our community. In working to reach more students from the county’s farthest reaches and bridge diverse populations, our goal is to secure funding for a biodiesel bus to eliminate transportation barriers for clients further afield in Monterey County and build our staff’s bilingual and multicultural capacity to amplify our impact.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, developing emotional competency, building leadership skills, group play, storytelling, immersion, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)

1.5-3, 3-5, 6-12, 13-17, 18-35, 36-64, 65+.