With great pleasure Action For Nature announces its 2012 International Young Eco-Hero Awards, which recognize young people 8 to 16 years old for their environmental achievements. We hope the accomplishments of these outstanding young people will inspire many others to preserve and protect the Earth upon which all life depends.
Winners are divided into two groups, age 8-12 and 13-16.
Age Group 8 - 12
Pictures for Gulf birds
Olivia has drawn over 500 pictures of birds since 2010. As a part of her fundraising efforts, she sent these beautiful pictures to individuals and organizations that donated to the Audubon Society’s effort to clean up after the 2010 Gulf coast oil spill. Overall, she has raised $200,000 for Gulf recovery efforts. This money was used to establish a volunteer center for people who cleaned oil damaged birds in Moss Point, Mississippi.
Olivia has reached thousands of children in person and has used social media to make conservation related connections with over 30,000 people. When not campaigning online, she wrote a book called Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf. Written in her own words, this unique introduction to backyard and endangered birds features Olivia’s hand-drawn illustrations, bird facts, and full-color photos celebrating Olivia’s campaign.
From these experiences Olivia has learned that everyone has a talent to share and that people can work together to make the world a better place. She has also learned that the environment is in great trouble and everyone should take habitat-loss seriously.
Currently, Olivia is in the middle of a one person traveling exhibition of her artwork, which opened in March at the Ned Smith Center in Pennsylvania.
Educating and influencing other youth
In 2009 Pavan started Green Kids Now Inc. He did so because he observed people mistreating the planet and wanted kids to take action. Pavan put up flyers and advertised to get the word out and so far over 1,000 kids have pledged to help the environment. He feels information sharing is extremely important and says, “We do not have to waste time reinventing the wheel.” He works with principals and with the Green Kids teams at each school to show other kids how to take action and bring them the opportunities they need to implement their ideas.
Recently, Pavan planned A Green Kids Conference which had over 800 attendees and he is now planning another. His radio interviews are heard by over 150 classes in Australia and around the world. The subjects covered relate to climate change/global warming, reducing waste, energy use, effects on plants and forests, food choices, water, air quality - and much more.
The author of two books sold on Amazon.com, Pavan plans to reach out to more organizations for partnership and financial grants so that he can reach more youth. He hopes that the programs and services of Green Kids Now will continuously evolve to meet the needs of schools and communities.
Using education and tree plantings to fight deforestation and pollution
In his home state of Odisha, India Nissan has been challenged by many people especially youth who are not aware of how to care for the environment. He says “because, there is a big move for industrialization and urbanization, people are happy to cut the trees to build new houses.” Despite this resistance, he is actively creating awareness among young people and communities to plant trees, stop pollution and deforestation and help them put collective ideas into action.
Anchored by his religious faith, Nissan started this project with the assistance of his family and church. Explaining how he first inspired people to care for the environment he says, “In our Sunday school we formed a group “shalom”, we made a small fund for this project. My grandparents had given me Rs. 500 as a gift on my birthday.” This gift was the seed money Nissan needed to get his project started.
So far, Nissan provided 3000 saplings to three communities, formed seven “Save the Planet” youth groups, and educated three thousand people and twenty different churches about how to care for the earth. Nissan is well on his way to making a meaningful positive impact on the health of his environment.
Raising funds to plant trees
Cassandra loves to sit quietly for hours on end studying animals; one day she realized that the environment is in danger because a lot of people do not see how we all fit together on the planet. If people are destroying the forests, then they are destroying the animals that live in the forests, they are making harmful changes to the eco-system of the whole planet and they are hurting species around the world. “The end result,” Cassandra realized “is that people are actually destroying themselves along with everything else.”
Cassandra wanted to help save the planet by raising money for planting trees so she started a project she called “Cassie’s 5,000 New Trees Fund.” In order to raise funds to purchase saplings, she created and sold drawings, clay sculptures and jewelry to school and family friends.
Starting in third grade, she raised over $480 and sends these funds to an organization called Trees for the Future which plants a tree at 10 cents per sapling. She is nearing her goal of planting 5,000 tree saplings.
Cassandra is raising awareness and influencing her fellow students, adults, and people in power by writing letters to journalists and the US President. She has also been featured in local newspaper articles. Most recently, State Senator Joel Anderson awarded her a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Community Leadership.
“Before,” she says “I was thinking one person can’t make a difference but now I am thinking that is wrong because I am one person and I am changing the world.”
North Carolina, USA
Fighting for the North Carolina forests
In 2009 Cole gave a school report about wild life and the habitat in North Carolina. The North Carolina coastal forest, he learned, has the highest concentration of tree species, aquatic diversity and wetlands in North America. These forests have the richest temperate freshwater ecosystems in the world. As he researched he realized that these forests were being cut down by paper mills that made paper packaging for fast-food restaurants.
Wanting to take action, Cole started a project he called “Help save North Carolina’s Endangered Coastal Forests!” Cole’s mission is to insure that all fast food companies adopt recycled paper for packaging. He learned the only way to make a change is to put pressure directly on fast-food chains since they are the biggest users of the paper mills’ product.
Cole designed and printed postcards which he distributed to all the children in his school to ask McDonald’s to use more post-consumer recycled fibers. Two years later, as a result of the action of Cole and others, McDonald’s uses recycled fibers. Cole’s goal is to have all food chains do the same. Now he has seven schools participating. Last year, Cole gathered 6,000 postcards which he delivered to KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) executives at their headquarters, and he plans to keep up the pressure.
Says Cole, “I learned that a child’s voice is as important as an adult’s and we can have a say in what happens to our future.”
Speaking out for the Earth
When he first spoke at a global warming rally, Xiuhtezcatl was six years old. Now aged 11, he says, “My favorite thing is to give a multi-media presentation that I helped to create called EARTH – it stands for Earth Activists Restoring Our Home.” He has given this in schools and at conferences over the last two years and has helped to organize and lead other actions and marches. Last May he helped to organize the biggest US iMatter March to date, where over 2,000 people saw him speak.
He has written and performed rap music with a message with his group called “Voice of Youth.” He is also the lead speaker and organizer for Earth Guardians. With Xiuhtezcatl’s help, the group of youth activists helped get the City of Boulder to rewrite their Integrated Pest Management Policy and ban the use of pesticides in six Boulder parks. His group took it even a step further by adopting the largest city park.
Xiuhtezcatl is motivated to act: “Because it is powerful when youth stand up, and realize that their future matters and they deserve to inherit a healthy planet.”
British Columbia, Canada
Filming for nature
Miranda is a documentary filmmaker who produced her first film at nine years old. The film is about a local hatchery and the threats to both the salmon population and habitat.
Other documentaries followed, including, in the fall of 2011, a piece called “Forever Plastic” about a Vancouver resident who is trying to live plastic-free. The film also features a story about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. Another of her films, documents the efforts of a sociologist turned artist, who is bringing attention to the issue of global deforestation. Miranda’s latest film, just completed, about e-waste (electronic waste), features an ethical e-waste recycling organization called Free Geek.
Miranda’s films inform people in a visual way about environmental issues. Through her documentaries she has become a sought after speaker and source of information in her community.
Recycled clothing and shoes
Erek has been holding recycling drives for 3 years to collect old jeans and shoes so that they do not end up in a landfill.
The jeans he collects are repurposed into denim insulation which is used in new homes, some built by Habitat for Humanity. Five hundred jeans can insulate an average home. To date, Erek has collected thousands of jeans and enough denim to insulate almost twenty homes.
While much of Erek’s attention goes to collecting jeans, he also repurposes old shoes. To date, he has made sure that 3,000 pairs of shoes remain out of the local landfill. Instead, and by partnering with USAgain: “Shoes in good condition (are) directed to those that need them and shoes in bad condition (are) ground up as materials used in such things as car insulation and playground mulch.”
The most important thing that Erek has learned is that “it only takes one person to make a difference and if you give people a convenient avenue to recycle, many will respond."
Age Group 13 - 16
Jason operates a business named iREtron.com, which is a re-commerce internet company that buys old electronics which Jason repairs and re-sells at low prices to low-income individuals and students. IREtron will buy used cell phones, kindles, and iPod, etc., so that they don’t end up poisoning the earth when discarded. So far, over 500 items have been re-purposed.
Jason developed this innovative business and environmentally sound idea early in high school and hopes it will blossom into a profitable and earth-friendly business. In a society that is increasingly obsessed with technological gadgets, he has found an opportunity to help people and the earth avoid the looming hazard of e-waste; he believes that e-items should be repaired and reused rather than dismantled. As one of Silicon Valley’s youngest environmental entrepreneurs, Jason plans to expand his business.
Studying animal movements
‘Evidence, awareness, protection,’ these are the goals of Meagan who is a highly dedicated and focused young scientist. Inspired by her sister (who is a researcher/caretaker of Koko the famous gorilla), Meagan became a ‘citizen scientist’ with the non-profit Sky Island Alliance, which is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the rich natural heritage of native species in the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico.
Meagan devotes her time to a project which installs remote sensing cameras in the wilderness to record the movement of wild animals. This involves her trekking into wild areas (often with her dad) to check the cameras and interpret the collected data. Her project began three years ago and is currently focused on the effects of wildfires on the region’s’ wildlife. With these remote sensing cameras, Meagan has been tracking the movements of many animals with a focus on jaguars and ocelots.
Meagan says, “Until I feel that both these species are adequately flourishing and protected, I will be recording data so that we can prove their existence and need for protection.”
Reducing old school bus emissions
One day when Jonny was walking home from school he inhaled exhaust fumes from a passing school bus and realized how harmful old buses are to the environment. Having already taken science classes at a nearby university, Jonny had a working grasp of aerodynamics. He took this knowledge and asked his family and teachers for more information. As a result of his hard work and willingness to learn, Jonny formed the GreenShields organization and has created an aerodynamic shield that fits onto the front of old schools buses and improves gas mileage from ten to twenty-five percent.
This innovative solution is the result of Jonny’s scientific knowledge, his ability to network, and his ambitious goal setting. Greenshields is an environmentally friendly organization which “looks at things the way they could be not the way they are.” Jonny hopes the GreenShields product, which he is extensively testing through a university program, will cut down harmful emissions and becomes a profitable enterprise.
Speaking up for her generation
When Zola realized that the ocean was a fascinating world parallel to our own, yet also a world in growing danger, she felt empowered to speak up.. Her biggest effort focused on supporting the adoption of “marine protected areas” along the coast of southern California. To help create these areas, Zola spoke at multiple public hearings across California, circulated numerous petitions, produced a short film, spread the word to peers, and spoke up from a young person’s perspective about preserving marine life on California’s coast for the benefit of future generations. She later started a Green Team at her school and has become a youth activist in fighting for legislation to ban single-use plastic bags.
Zola is committed to making adults respect the opinions of youth and is working to foster and lead other environmentally conscious youth because she believes young people must “step up to the plate and become champions of their own beliefs.”
Providing water for neighborhood crops
Maria is an accomplished fundraiser and organizer who saw a problem in the environment and took action to solve it. The problem started after the Rwandan genocide in Africa, when selfish farmers diverted water away from the farmland in Maria’s village, leaving villagers without sufficient water to grow crops. Upon seeing the hardship this caused, she formed a dance troop and raised money for an ambitious project. Together with her dance group, she built partnerships with other non-profits in the area and raised almost 1,700 US dollars.
As a result of her hard work organizing and making connections to others in her community, and with the help of one hundred and twenty other youth she involved, her goal was reached. With the funds raised, the necessary equipment was purchased to pump water from the nearby river into the local fields. Now thirty hectares of local land are producing crops to feed the local people.
North Carolina, USA
Molly knew from an early age that she wanted to work with aquatic creatures and found her passion while researching the often abandoned red eared slider turtles. These discarded turtles disrupt ecosystems by crowding out local wildlife and disrupting native turtles’ ways of life. She wanted to find a turtle-friendly solution to stop these invasive species from ruining local eco-systems permanently. After researching statewide and national laws pertaining to reptile care and ownership, she founded the Raleigh Aquatic Turtle Adoption (RATA) organization which re-homes unwanted pet turtles and raises awareness about documented problems with releasing pet turtles into the wild.
To fund her organization, Molly makes and sells turtle-shaped soaps. In addition to managing this project, Molly is a junior curator at the prestigious North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Whether it is by selling soaps, educating others at the museum, or humanely keeping turtles out of the wild, Molly is a committed champion for turtles.
For more information, please check out: http://www.raleighaquaticturtleadoption.com/
Madison and Rhiannon
Advocating for orangutans
Inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees, Rhiannon and Madison decided to study the effects of palm oil production on the endangered orangutans of Indonesia for their Girl Scout Bronze Award.
They found out that this production process is destroying the rainforest which is the orangutans’ habitat.
They designed a national campaign to stop their very own Girl Scout organization from putting palm oil in the famous Girl Scout cookies.
Their mission is to: “educate consumers about the environment and social impacts of palm oil, an ingredient used in everything from baked goods to cosmetics while also encouraging companies to move towards environmentally friendly and socially responsible products.”
Among the many skills and qualities these two young people embody, perhaps the most daring is their willingness to take on their own organization.
In a direct response to Madison and Rhiannon’s campaign and after the support of over 70,000 people, Girl Scout executives met with them and in the fall of 2011 announced a palm oil policy, a step in the right direction.
Gabrielle started the non-profit Donate Don’t Dump that works with grocery stores to give unsold surplus food to food banks instead of throwing it away. Gabrielle’s organization also works to raise public awareness about the realities of food insecurity - a problem which affects 20% of the US population. Gabrielle’s vision is to “create the next generation of recycling by diverting the 96 billion pounds of edible food that becomes waste from landfills and instead (divert it) into hungry people’s’ pantries.”
What started as just an idea of a fork, spoon, and knife bent into the shape of the traditional recycling emblem, to identify companies that donate, is now a full-fledged organization that has chapters in thirteen high schools, youth groups, and colleges around the country.
Recently Albertsons has become the first for-profit grocery chain to be Donate Don’t Dump Certified and it has agreed to display Gabrielle’s logo creation in all its stores in San Diego County.
Fundraising for Bearded Vultures
Olivia has raised over $10,000 US dollars as well as created two high quality websites in order to save the endangered bearded vultures and launch her new conservation venture. It was while working with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Bearded Vulture Project, that Olivia was first inspired to raise funds to track the lives of these precious birds.
Raising funds is not an easy task as she soon found out; but with time and hard work she exceeded everyone’s expectations. There were some people who didn’t care about the birds but Olivia, “was able to overcome these obstacles because she feels that making a difference to the environment is more important than being scared and not making an effort.”