Action For Nature is proud to announce our 2017 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.
This award recognizes the Eco Hero's ability to impact community-based environmental outcomes on a large scale.
Go Healthy STL
Since the age of twelve, Sophie has been donating food to local food banks. When she noticed that there were few fresh food options, she began developing organic vegetable gardens at low-income pre-schools, shelters and daycare centers. With grants and donations from local gardening centers, Sophie has created twenty two gardens. She recruited teen volunteers to build raised beds and engaged young children in planting and maintaining the vegetables. She also introduces young children to nature by presenting free STEM workshops using the gardens as an outdoor learning laboratory. 752 youth volunteers have helped with the project and more than 16,500 pounds of fresh produce grown in the gardens have been donated to local low-income families. “Creating a community where equity in opportunity including health and education exists for all is vital,” says Sophie. Her goal is for as many families as possible to have access to fresh food.
This award recognizes the Eco Hero's ability as a leader to stand up, speak out, and take risks in the arena of environmental justice.
British Colombia, Canada
Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary
Ta’Kaiya is an environmental activist, an inspirational speaker, and a singer from the Tia’amin First Nation, who grew up on the shores of the Salish Sea in British Columbia, Canada. She speaks out about indigenous rights, social justice, and youth empowerment in a campaign she calls an Earth Revolution. As a child Ta’Kaiya witnessed the degradation of her family’s native lands. Her dream is to help make the Salish Sea a Marine Sanctuary where marine life can once again flourish as it did in her grandparents’ time. Over a two year period, she has trained and mentored ten indigenous high school youth, she has called the Salish Sea Ambassadors, to be leaders and speakers in their schools and communities.
She herself learned to “speak from the heart in the oral tradition of my people.” Since she was 10 years old, she has spoken and sung to numerous audiences of all ages in different countries at rallies and international environmental events and has presented at the United Nations five times, advocating for indigenous rights, environmental rights, and youth empowerment.
This award recognizes the Eco Hero's creative contribution to environmental science with the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others.
“We are producing and consuming more and more commodities, wastefully using up the earth’s natural resources such as oil and wood,” says Edgar. To combat this wastefulness, Edgar created a machine to convert wasted plastics into paving blocks, roof tiles, bricks, and other useful products. However, melting plastics can create toxic gases: dioxin and furan, so he created a filter to trap the gases and make melting the recycled plastic a more sustainable process. He has employed over 50 people who have collected more than 20,000 kilograms of plastic bags, which he uses to produce building materials to be used in construction sites. He likes public speaking and has educated other youth on environmental issues. Edgar plans to continue repurposing plastic, and also has set up a new venture to use plastic bottles to make into clothes lines and other materials.
Age Group 8 - 12
Kady received her very first electronic tablet when she was just a year old. When it broke it was replaced with other devices. She soon discovered that millions of useless electronic devices such as cell phones, TVs, computers, etc. were thrown in the trash and ended up in landfills, polluting the environment. So she formed a group she called eTreasure, inc. and started collecting devices from her friends and people in her community. She called the project e-Treasure, inc. after learning that one person’s trash can be another’s treasure. Now Kady places collection bins in schools throughout her county and asks family, friends, and community members to donate their old electronics. So far she has collected over 400 items which are given to organizations that responsibly dispose of or re-purpose them. For example, old cell phones are sent to “Cell Phones For Soldiers” where they are recycled and used to help service men and women to call home, and old tablets are updated and donated to low-income students.
Kady is now supporting a long-term project to change the laws of her state of Florida to facilitate the recycling of e-waste.
Educating others about pollination
In 2014, Eunita visited the Kakamega forest, a remnant of an ancient tropical forest that once stretched across central Africa, and is 60 miles from her home. There she learned about the importance of pollination and realized that this information needed to be shared with her community. So she established a small garden with sweet smelling indigenous flowers and local fruit trees to attract bees, birds, bats and certain animals. With her brother’s help, she put up information boards for the visiting pupils, teachers and community members to inform them about pollination. She funds the garden with the sale of flower seedlings so that others can start their own pollination gardens. Pollination, she explains, is key to a healthy environment and crucial for food supplies. “Without pollination many wild plants would disappear and the landscape would look dull and gloomy.” Already pollinators are decreasing due to agricultural activities. “We need to conserve our pollinators,” she urges.
South Dakota, USA
Painting endangered species
Bria wants to raise awareness through painting endangered species to raise money for wildlife. She has already exceeded her goal of raising $10,000 by her 11th birthday. She has staged three art shows and published two coloring books. She has painted over two hundred endangered species and raised more than $10,500, which she has donated to her favorite charities, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Wolf Conservation Center and The Jane Goodall Institute. Before painting, Bria spends time researching each animal at the library or through documentaries. She learns that habitat loss, deforestation, global warming, poaching and human conflict are the major problems leading to wild animal endangerment. She is particularly troubled by the demise of the rhinos and elephants and the future of many marine animals. She has learned how important it is to protect animals and habitats and how every species has an important role to play on the planet. “Without animals there will be no us.”
Papyrus swamp protection
Jabes and his family live a subsistence life near a papyrus swamp which he visited with friends to cut papyrus to make mats. It was then that he noticed how much life the swamp supported, including grey monkeys, mongoose, snakes, fish, birds and insects. Concerned, in 2014, he spoke with his teacher and formed a wild life club at his school to initiate public awareness in the surrounding neighborhoods. They met with community leaders and politicians. Their goal was to save the swamp from destructive events like burning and clearing. “The swamp can help us meet our daily needs,” says Jabes, “without destroying it.” Jabes spends time every week-end travelling to meetings and talking to the local community about conserving the swamp.
Since she was three years old, cheetahs have been Paloma’s favorite animal. When she learned that these magnificent African animals are in decline and threatened she wanted to raise money to help them. She started with lemonade stands and bake sales, then made presentations to her school as well as to the 4H program. To recognize International Cheetah Day she presented to the second, third and fourth grades in her school. She makes and sells greeting cards, has volunteered at events such as Earth day at the Oakland Zoo, and has organized craft projects for kids. Her biggest project so far was her “Kids and adults For Cheetahs” fundaiser in October, 2016, attended by Themba, an ambassador cheetah from the Wild Cat Educational Center in Occidental, California. Her goal was to raise $5,000. In fact she raised more than $7,000 which she donated to the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, Africa. “I was really amazed and proud of myself,” she says, “that even a 9 year old can inspire other people to help save cheetahs.”
Age Group 13 - 16
Go Green Drive
Muskan always wanted to solve the problems of society, so from a very young age she started attending and producing events related to environmental problems with her family members and school mates. Since 2015, she has been one of the lead members of the Go Green Drive of her school and she has also been helping two NGOs outside her school. “The aim of the Drive,” she says, “is to persistently try saving the environment by contributing my bit … at my school level..” This consisted of ongoing drives for waste paper, and plastic, reducing paper use and conserving water. The school group collected 400 old plastic spectacles which they donated to low-income people; they arranged a sale of handmade bookmarks, recycled photo frames, pens, coasters and paper bags. Muskan also works on 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan', with her grandfather which deals with sanitation problems of the area. The group working with her in this Abhiyan gives talks, presentations, street plays, organizes marathons, writes articles, brochures and displays posters. “I want to learn more and more things like skills, knowledge, and conservation training etc. so that I can give as much as I can back to this society,” she says,”the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.”
Project GreenWorld International
When he was 12 years old, Hridith founded Project GreenWorld International (PGWI) in Oman with only 4 members. Today, this organization spans continents and has partners in Nigeria, Nepal, South Korea, India, and Uganda. With more than 1024 members it is the one of the largest children’s Eco-Initiatives in the world. At PGWI’sinaugural “Planting a Sapling” Day in 2012, eight members planted 53 plant species in a local city. In India in 2015 saplings were planted by 321 members, and since then, PGWI members have planted 3,956 tree saplings. Through its outreach, the organization has conducted tree planting drives, clean-up campaigns, recycled 6 tons of waste paper, conducted musical awareness and dance presentations, presented electricity reduction and water conservation awareness seminars through schools, and attended international conferences.
“With multiple social awareness campaigns and activities,” says Hridith, “we believe that our hard work has not gone in vain and that together we can achieve our goal of ‘Greener Nature and Better Future!’
Soap Nut Detergent Research, "Grey Water Project"
Shreya set up a research project after witnessing the devastating effects of drought on Californian farmers. Wanting to do something to contribute to the drought solution, she explored how re-using grey or “used" water from the laundry could save the most water. Because many commercial laundry detergents have harmful chemicals that are detrimental if the grey water is used for plants, Shreya set out to find an environmentally friendly and cost effective alternative to detergent. After hearing from her grandmother about soap nuts, a berry shell that produces soap naturally, she tested grey water from soap nuts and compared it to other detergents on aquatic life, soil and plants. Shreya found that the soap nut detergent did as well as regular water and better than grey water from commercial detergents, without environmental hazards. She presented her findings at the local water districts and won several awards at regional, state and national science fairs including the Broadcom Masters Technology Award and the President's Environmental Youth Award. Wherever she presented she was encouraged to spread the word about grey water re-use and soap nuts. This prompted her to start her organization, The Grey Water Project, which is “aimed at promoting the safe reuse of grey water through laundry to lawn systems.” Through her organization, she has presented in several libraries and schools. Shreya is continuing her grey water research. “I hope” she says, “that my research and outreach to the community can help conserve water one drop at a time.”
Street Flood Prediction Research
Two years ago, Sanjana and her family were stranded by fast floodwaters in city streets. She later learned that flash floods negatively impact millionsof people, cause many deaths, and are considered the number one natural disaster in the USA. As a young scientist wanting to address this problem, she designed a Smart Flood Sensor that can detect, monitor and measure water flow in city streets. The sensor uploads the data to the internet for analysis in order to predict and prevent future flood damage. Text messages and internet notifications alert local crews, like city planners or first responders, to help reduce response time to areas with potential flooding.
Sanjana’s model was tested and produced meaningful results for her Home Owners Association, such as detecting a leaking drain pipe, and a drain that required increased pipe capacity. This is just one of Sanjana’s many environmental research interests. She has been interviewed and written about extensively as setting an example for youth to pursue their own environmental projects.
Green Highway Research
Olivia believes that climate change is arguably the biggest environmental issue her generation faces. To address this situation as an aspiring scientist, innovator and change maker, she has created the Green Highway renewable energy technology project, which has a USPTO provisional patent. In a nutshell this project proposes the use of highways and car motion as renewable energy. Olivia built and tested prototype models. People said her idea would never work. However, after receiving recognition from ProjectCSGIRLS she is continuing her research with lots of support and encouragement from her teachers, her community, and peers at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council. “As I learn more,” she says, “I am motivated to persevere and make sure that my generation is the one to curb climate change."
Amanda, Age 16, Pennsylvania, USA – Designed and built a novel, renewable filter for ultimate water purification
Meagan, Aged 13, Ohio, USA – Recycled used books to give to children without books
Rachel, Age 16, South Carolina, USA – Engaged students in environmental science through Adopt-A-Stream monitoring
Aryan, Age 13, New Jersey, USA – Started a project to reuse and recycle school pencils
Martin, Age 15, New York, USA – Raised awareness about the Canadian commercial seal hunt