Audubon Naturalist Society

Diane Lill, head of the Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids program, works with Aoife Bane (far left), Jace Munoz (center) and Cade Munoz. Photo by Darren S. HigginsCategory: Nonprofit organizations that have created innovative green products, are selling innovative green services, and/or promoting a green lifestyle

What Diane Lill loves most about her job is how excited her students become whenever they have an opportunity to improve the environment.

“We don’t dwell on the really depressing stuff. We focus on things they can do,” she says.

Lill runs the Audubon Naturalist Society’s GreenKids program, which uses hands-on science to introduce a “green culture change” to Montgomery County Public Schools. Since 2005, the Chevy Chase-based nonprofit organization has worked with one-fifth of MCPS schools—training 1,000 teachers and bringing free and fun programs such as Salad Science and Trout in the Classroom to more than 25,000 students.

Lill has helped raise more than $1 million to pay for activities that include teaching kids how to compost with worms, make “green” cleaning products, and find out how a garden’s ecosystem works. Teachers receive help in incorporating hands-on learning into their lesson plans, and schools also benefit from guidance on how to operate in a more eco-friendly manner. The two-year partnerships are geared toward helping the schools achieve certification as Maryland Green Schools.

“I wish there were more GreenKids programs throughout the state of Maryland. They do some great stuff with the kids,” says Laura Johnson Collard, executive director of the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education, which awards the Green Schools certification. She says GreenKids has been instrumental in helping schools integrate local environmental issues into classrooms to raise awareness.


Lill has helped 40 Montgomery County public schools—including all of those in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster—obtain certification, and says she hopes eventually to “work with every kid and every school” in the county.

“Children need a chance to make a difference in the world,” Lill says.