Big Idea: Environmental Educator Jayni Chase

Chevy Chase may be the family's biggest star, but his wife, Jayni, 51, plays the lead when it comes to the environment. The eco-savvy mother of three put her passion for the earth (and her husband's celebrity status) to work in launching the Center for Environmental Education in 1988. The organization provides resources to K-12 schools looking to get greener. With her latest endeavor, GREEN reModel, Chase has an ambitious goal: to create the ultimate green school.

What is GREEN reModel?
It's a program that aims to show how easy it can be for a school to go green. We've selected five schools around the country to serve as models. Once we assess their environmental footprints, we'll help the community prioritize and address each one's needs, whether it's increasing recycling or installing solar panels. The plan also includes creating healthier cafeterias and providing teachers with green-education resources. Our hope is that other communities will see these five schools and say, "Hey, we could do that here."

Were you green as a child?
The eco mind-set has always been a part of my family culture. As a child of the Great Depression, my father was aware of what he used and knew how to reuse everything. During World War II, my mom would collect and recycle foil from gum wrappers. With stories like that, how could I not take a hard look at what I was using myself?

How can parents inspire their kids about the environment at home?
It's important to focus on the positive and not scare kids with lots of doom and gloom. Recycling teaches them about closing the loop, so it makes a good first step. For instance, kids can see that throwing a soda can in the garbage sends it to a landfill, whereas tossing it into a recycling bin allows it to become another soda can -- or something else entirely. The concept is that there is no "away." We say that something is "thrown away," but it's still here, somewhere.

What's the most vital message you hope people hear?
Years ago, there was an organization called Earth Communications Office that made public service announcements to play in movie theaters. One of the phrases it coined was "One person can make a difference." I will never give up that saying -- and I hope others won't either.

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