2019 International Eco-Hero Youth Award Winners
Action For Nature is proud to announce our 2019 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.
AGE GROUP 8-12
Khloe Kares: Ghana Living Water Project
When Khloe visited Ghana in 2017, she learned about the severe lack of access to clean water there and the amount of disease caused by poor sanitation and knew she had to do something to help make an impact. She found out women and children have to walk many miles to fill containers with contaminated water, carry it all the way home, then boil it in order to use it and drink it – all before school starts.
Khloe wanted to make sure every child in Ghana went to school with water so she started the Ghana Living Water Project and raised $10,000 to install a water pump and bathroom facility in a primary school there. She returned in 2019 to install another water pump at another school that didn’t have clean running water and plans to install another water pump later this year. She checks in often to make sure the pumps stay well maintained by the schools and are clean and working properly. Her goal is to install a water pump every year in Ghana in different schools which do not have access to clean running water. These pumps not only help the kids but they help the village. Her last two pumps have helped over 3,000 people!
Khloe is an avid activist who acts when she sees an issue. She first started Khloe Kares when she started noticing homeless women and children on the street in her neighborhood. She sewed tote bags then filled them with toiletries and everyday essentials that last 2-3 months on average. Khloe then passed out these “Kare Bags” herself, working diligently to find sponsors, calling on the community for donations, and spending her own holiday and birthday money on supplies. She’s passed out almost 4,000 bags over the last 4 years now and continues these efforts alongside her Ghana Living Water Project.
“We all deserve the right to have access to clean water. Kids should not have to walk miles to get water... we need to do more to help countries get access to clean water. We need clean water to survive.”
Sammie's Buddy Bench Project
Sammie saw lots of lonely kids at school and wanted to help them. She heard about buddy benches at a camp in the summer of 2017 and decided to get them for her school. With the help of her mom, she found a company (Green Tree Plastics) that uses recycled plastic caps and lids and turns them into benches so she can help the environment while making sure the buddy benches will be able to last for years to come.
Sammie started collecting recycled plastic caps and lids that are ground up and melted into molds and made into buddy benches. She drew a comic of how to use a buddy bench and reached out to her peers and community to participate and help her save caps. Within 2 months she collected 1,200lbs of caps – enough for 3 buddy benches along with extra caps to pass along to other schools wanting to get started! Since then, she has donated 100 buddy benches which included 75 to Indiana schools from over 15,000 lbs of caps and worked with UPS to deliver 3 benches to a school on Staten Island. A shipping fund in her name helped 13 groups in 12 states transport caps and benches.
Sammie has since spoken to other schools and to the media about how other kids can collect caps that would end up in the landfill turned into buddy benches that help foster friendships. Recently, she worked with schools in Australia, India, and Mexico to implement bottle cap collections and buddy benches of their own.
"You don't just have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid too. I was able to, one plastic cap at a time."
Plastic Free Oceans & Seas
When Flossie was just 7 years old on holiday in Thailand, she saw all the plastic and rubbish in the sea while kayaking with her mother. When she got back to Ireland, she started to notice it there as well and decided to start a beach cleaning club called Flossie and the Beach Cleaners.
For the past 2 years, Flossie has organized weekly beach clean-ups around Ireland and worked with local politician Cormac Devlin to get people in her community to participate. She is very passionate about marine life and writes a weekly blog about the battle against plastic. She has frequently spoken to the public and media about the plastic problem to get and fundraised to get the first two Seabins in Ireland.
Flossie is headed to Indonesia this summer to share her knowledge about plastic pollution. She plans on continuing her efforts until all of our beaches and oceans are clean and free of plastic. She was recently announced as one of Image Magazine’s “Woman Of The Year 2018” and also spoke at the “Biosphere Global Conference” in Dublin. In the future, Flossie hopes to become a marine biologist and visit other countries where ‘plastic rivers’ exists and teach the children about what they can do to help us solve the plastic problem.
“I have learned that every time you don't recycle properly you are polluting the world, that pollution is a real thing and climate change may end our planet if we don't act immediately. It has changed me in the way I think about the planet we live on.”
Mayor Leaps to Save Amphibians
Not many, if any, of our Eco-Heroes have the title Mayor, but Trinity has been Mayor of Amphibiville for the Detroit Zoo for three years since winning an essay competition. She has worked to raise social awareness for amphibians and wetland conservation, designing fun frog fact cards to share on social media and cataloging frog field data.
Trinity is one of the youngest certified members of FrogWatch, a citizen science program of the American Zoological Association. Through FrogWatch, she shares her scientific findings to assist local and national scientists with frog breeding data collection. She is also a guest contributor for Frog Log Magazine’s junior/youth section which is a program of the Amphibian Survival Alliance.
Through her social media outreach, Trinity is reaching an international audience to teach people about the importance of amphibians in our ecosystems. She found that many people have a limited understanding of frogs and has even fought to stop yearlong frog spearing.
She has learned that according to the Global Amphibian Assessment, nearly one-third of all amphibian species are endangered or threatened, making amphibians the most endangered group of creatures in the world. Her love of frogs started when she was very young and would go into the woods and wetlands with her father.
“I want to inspire young people like me to help save our beautiful world and all of the creatures in it – especially amphibians.”
BuzzBuddy (Pollinator Gardens)
When Kedar found out that pollinators are on the decline, he wanted to learn how to help. He learned about pollinator gardens and decided to create an App “Pollinator for a Pet” that teaches people how to plant native pollinator gardens and make an impact. His App lists 90 different plants that can be sorted by season, color, pollinators, bloom season, plant type, light, size and drainage conditions. It also has information on types of pollinators, their food, water, shelter and safety needs as well as some designs for creating a backyard pollinator patch.
Kedar also conducted local plant sales and found that people in his community didn’t even know what ‘native’ plants are and why they are important. He started a YouTube channel called BUZZBUDDY where he posts educational raps about native plants and explains what they do and how easy they are to care for.
Recently, Kezar went to the Zoo to monitor the health of penguins. He was shocked to learn that penguins are on the endangered list along with many other species.
“It is important to educate my generation because we are going to be the next ones doing all these things.”
Kedar is now focusing on making a video game about conservation to continue to educate his peers about the environmental issues we face and what we can do to solve them.
Lilly’s Plastic Pickup
Born in the UK, Lilly Platt moved to Holland in 2014. One day, while she was learning to count in Dutch, she took a walk with her grandpa and counted 91 pieces of rubbish in a short distance. “My grandpa told me that anything that falls to the ground will somehow make its way to the sea,” says Lilly. “I learned about the plastic soup and the damage that plastic does to animals and the environment, and decided that I would do my best from that moment on.”
Lilly began picking up plastic litter and posting photos and videos on social media. “I decided to also make it my mission to spread as much awareness about the plastic problem as I can,” she says. “I Skype with schools in other countries to talk about plastic pollution and how they can reduce their plastic use.” Working with a company based in Bali, Lilly has a reusable bamboo straw-and-spork set that people can use to refuse single-use plastic wherever they go.
In April 2018, Lilly celebrated her 10th birthday by organizing #LillysGlobalCleanupDay and shortly thereafter traveled to Norway to participate in the Plastic Whale Conference and Coastal Clean-Up. Lilly is a Child Ambassador for both the Plastic Pollution Coalition and the world water charity HOW Global, the Ship of Tolerance and YouthMundus. Lilly continues to pick up litter every day and holds Friday school strikes for climate outside her town hall.
Shamwari Gathoni Kariuki
While working on a club eco-project, Shamwari began learning about plastic pollution and was inspired to take action. “Plastics can be harmful to our environment and us if they are not disposed of properly,” she says. “Some people throw them all over, making our country dirty and even causing danger to animals when they eat them. Others burn the plastics and this produces very bad smoke that can make us sick when we breathe it in.”
In September 2016, Shamwari began collecting plastic waste and upcycling it into DIY products such as funnels, wall clocks, pen holders, hair accessories, and home décor, which she then sells. So far, she has succeeded in diverting 200+ bottles and 350+ caps from landfills.
“As long as plastics are still used, I will continue with my project and come up with different designs of recycled items,” says Shamwari. “My creativity is growing every day, and I’m loving my cleaner, safer and [more] habitable environment.”
AGE GROUP 13-16
A World With Elephants
Taegen Yardley first became aware of the plight of African elephants when a speaker came to her sixth-grade class to educate them about the ivory trade. Because of the interest she expressed, Taegen was asked to testify at the Vermont State House in support of legislation that would have banned the sale of ivory. “It was on this day that I learned the power of my voice and the power of the young voices of my generation,” says Taegen.
Seeking to find a way to amplify those voices, Taegen gathered fellow students and asked a teacher to help them make a documentary about the humanitarian and conservation reasons for ending the ivory trade. Kids Battle for a World with Elephants went viral on social media – conservation organizations shared it, National Geographic wrote about it, and Taegan was contacted by teachers all over the world who wanted to show it in their classrooms. She was invited to present at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s International Conservation Chief’s Academy, “where I was so fortunate to meet people who live in places where many of the majestic creatures I am fighting for still roam.”
To date, Taegen has created five documentaries, which have been shown at the United Nations, The US Department of the Interior, the CITES meetings in Johannesburg, and the Wildlife Roundtable at the Global Environmental General Assembly in Vietnam. Taegen is now an ambassador for the Perfect World Foundation, and in November 2018, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, presented Taegen with the first annual Fostering Partnerships in Conservation award from Interpol’s Wildlife Crime Working Group.
The Bioma Project
As a young volunteer at many environmental events, Bill Tong noticed that there were not many other youth involved. Recognizing the need to inspire a new generation of conservationists at a time when schools are cutting environmental science classes, Bill conceived the Bioma Project.
Founded in 2014, while Bill was a 7th grader at a Maryland middle school, the Bioma Project is a youth-led initiative that provides free classes and service projects to educate young students about the problems facing their local ecosystems, and how they can help.
Today the program is present at 29 schools across Maryland and Washington DC, with 900 students participating. Several tanks are installed at each school, and throughout the year students build simulations of local aquatic ecosystems, where they raise a variety of native plants and animals to release at the end of the year.
Self-direction and a sense of ownership are important aspects of the curriculum, and students are encouraged to research, organize and conduct their own service projects, such as local habitat restoration. And because it’s important that students see the value of environmental science beyond education and public policy, but also commercially, the Bioma Project runs an aquaculture lab where students breed and sell ornamental fish, learning business and chemistry skills, and selling the fish with proceeds going to support conservationist causes.
While Bill plans to remain part of the Bioma project in perpetuity, as an adult he will step down to allow a new generation to lead, with the ultimate goal of bringing environmental learning to K-12 students worldwide, using student-designed projects and innovative teaching tools.
North Carolina, USA
As founder of Scout Conservation, a Facebook page connecting scouts with the conservation needs in their community, William David first began organizing service projects for groups of Boy Scouts.
In 2015, he helped lead a project to pull 130 tires and a truck full of trash out of Hominy Creek in Asheville, NC. While the morning shift of volunteers was made up primarily of scouts, the second shift was comprised of other high school students, many of whom were very hesitant to participate and “get dirty.” But by the end of the day, everyone was in the river and the students were asked to work longer than planned. “The students were really proud of what we accomplished,” says William.
Inspired by this success, William then began planning and leading conservation projects for school groups (grades 8-12). Since 2016, William has organized five projects per year, all related to the theme of water quality but with various topics that can connect to the science curriculum. Projects include river clean-ups, live staking for erosion control, wetland restoration, and invasive plant removal, and each work day begins with an education session.
William has put together extensive documentation so that the projects can continue after he graduates, and he plans to stay involved in conservation work wherever he goes to college. “It really is the best ‘job’ ever; I get to connect great people, students who really want to help once you explain what is needed and why, and awesome conservation professionals that are out there doing so much to benefit us all.”
Vihaan and Nav Agarwal
Ages 12 and 15
One Step Greener
Vihaan and his brother Nav are co-founders of the NGO One Step Greener. In 2017 a fire at the nearby Ghazipur landfill caused it to collapse killing two people and releasing toxic fumes. The brothers realized that waste was contributing increasingly to an already dangerous and hazardous level of pollution in New Delhi where they live.
In fact, Vihaan himself sometimes suffers from breathing problems related to pollution. One Step Greener trains people how to segregate their waste at source and provides a monthly scheduled pick up of dry waste.
What started with actions in their own home in February 2017 spread to 15 homes, and now reaches 400+ homes in 7 colonies in Delhi. Over 1,600 people are now actively segregating their waste.
Vihaan and Nav are currently in talks with local Resident Welfare Associations (RWA’s) to implement solutions for them and are in talks with experts on wet waste management.
Currently, One Step Greener collects dry waste consisting of paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, and metals. They have partnered with a recycling company which pays for the waste and recycles it responsibly. They are also writing a school curriculum to introduce waste management problems and solutions to youth. Starting with their own school, they plan to do waste segregation and collection. The brothers’ message to students is “don’t give up just because no one takes you seriously at first.”
Sebastián Bautista Requejo
Reto 3R Veracruz / Eco-Bags
Sebastian lives in Veracruz, one of the main ports of Mexico. Here he has observed that the excessive use and disposal of plastics has serious consequences. Pipes and drains are obstructed causing flooding, asphyxiation of animals and birds, and the ecosystem is damaged.
Of all the plastic that is manufactured, between 60% and 80% (bags, glasses, containers, etc.) will contribute to the pollution of the sea day by day, says Sebastian, which is not acceptable. To create awareness and to change habits, Sebastian has talked to businesses, schools, restaurants and shops. He was also recently named one of 3 Finalists in the Ocean Category out of 2,332 projects from 35 countries in the Premios Latinoamérica Verde (Latin America Green Awards).
Through social media, Sebastián has reached thousands of people throughout Mexico and around the world. To attract attention, he used his own money to produce and distribute brightly colored cloth eco-bags printed with an eco-message. This is a replicable idea and he is persuading businesses to put their logos in his bags, and then give the bags to their customers, making awareness on the community.
One eco-bag can replace hundreds of plastic bags and prevent C02 emissions, says Sebastián. “This is a serious global problem. If we want a better world, free of plastics and its toxic effects, we must become activist citizens and learn to reduce the personal footprint of plastic as much as we can.”
BaiSolutions: ETSI (Environmental Teaching Sustainability & Irrigation)
Arya is a young entrepreneur who has set up his own think tank he has named BaiSolutions to address environmental teaching, sustainability and irrigation.
While visiting India, Arya teamed up with individuals who put him in touch with small scale farmers in a rural area. He learned that the suicide rate among rural farmers whose crops fail and who are therefore unable to feed their families is high. Also widows of farmers have to resort to any means possible to feed their families.
Arya developed what he calls an AWD (Alternative Wetting and Drying) water irrigation system which conserves water and he introduced this to youth and farmers. Through this volunteer effort he met people from a Save Our Farmers group and partnered with them.
Besides working with some 25 local farmers, he also volunteered with a local school, presenting his ideas to some 1,000 schoolchildren. He provided extensive knowledge through lectures, demonstrations, projected-presentations and pamphlets distributed throughout the community.
Now back in the USA, he keeps in touch with his Indian contacts and plans to expand his projects this year. Arya’s AWD system is easy to install using inexpensive and readily available materials and saves precious water drop by drop. Such efforts are imperative in a world that has a growing population and a diminishing quantity of water.
“It is our responsibility to educate others to perform actions that are just and beneficial to the natural world,” he says.
Adithiyan Rajan Indira Saravanan
United Arab Emirates
We Care Campaign
“Environmental pollution is one of the key problems faced in our modern world.” Adithiyan, a regular contributor to Gulf News of the UAE, is a tireless young environmentalist with a dream of inspiring a positive change in people. With determination and passion, he is working to achieve his vision of creating a world where the majority of people live an eco-friendly life and exist in harmony with nature.
Adithiyan demonstrates vigorous leadership in his mission to protect the environment and society in any way he can, such as planting trees, speaking to over 4,500 people personally about sustainable development, writing newspaper articles and volunteering his time and money to various charities. His efforts are varied but his goal has always been the same: to encourage the public especially youth to become responsible citizens by working towards a sustainable environment and society.
Through his “We Care” campaign he has inspired and led other youth to create awareness, advocate green practices and to lead by example. High on the list of activities is planting trees and promoting a No Plastics program, which has reached over 1,000 people in the past four years. Adithiyan Rajan wants people to know that everyone must protect and preserve nature to secure a sustainable future.
“In the future, I see myself as one of the pioneers for positive change in the world because I still have a lot to give back to Mother Nature.”
While snorkeling, fishing, and bodyboarding near his home in Hawaiʻi, Dyson noticed more and more plastic debris and rubbish on the beaches and in the ocean. Knowing he could not ignore this, he founded Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawai’i, and began presenting at schools to raise awareness.
So far Dyson has visited over 60 classrooms and community events, reached out to more than 2,000 people in Hawai’i, and has plans to reach many more. He obtained more than 3,500 stainless-steel straws which he handed out individually to draw attention to the need to eliminate plastic pollution.
“I decided to make it my job to reach out to youth in my community and to share with them my love of the ocean and the issue of plastic pollution. I strongly believe that with our power combined, we can change the world.”
Dyson has also volunteered at the Living Art Marine Center and at the Gates Coral Lab. He was also an intern at the Hawaii State Capitol working to get bills eliminating single-use plastics passed through the Hawai’i State Legislature. Dyson will be submitting testimony, testifying at hearings and doing community presentations during the next legislative session.
AnnMary Vikatoria Raduva
Say NO to Balloon Releasing
Lobbying for public awareness of the environmental danger of balloon releases.
The Climate Report Card
Created a climate report card on her city and is lobbying for its implementation of a climate action plan.
Sainath Manikins andan
United Arab Emirates
Marine Robot Cleaner (M-Bot)
Designed a Marine Robot Cleaner to collect floating wastes from water surfaces.
Saving The Hands That Feed Us
Raised money to purchase gloves and masks to protect Indian farmers from pesticide poisoning. Created a network of 50 farmers to transition them to organic farming.
Schools Under 2C
Designed a remote farming robot to help increase farming and farmlands and thus protect the environment.
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