Action For Nature is proud to announce our 2014 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.
New Hampshire, USA
Tackling Water Issues
Deepika is a young scientist who is passionate about helping people gain access to clean water, and increasing global awareness of the water crisis. She believes that water, the most essential element for life, is becoming increasingly scarce. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 780 million people lack access to clean drinking water, and this problem is getting worse. Deepika became aware of the world water crisis when visiting rural India and witnessing the plight of people without access to clean water. UNICEF estimates three thousand children worldwide die every day from drinking unclean water.
Deepika has developed a solar-powered water purification system which destroys harmful bacteria and degrades organics. She has been conducting research in water purification for three years, and in 2012 Deepika received the “America’s Top Young Scientist” award from Discovery Education and 3M. She has also applied for two patents on her invention and its uses. Deepika is particularly enthusiastic about collaboration, and she has written in the Huffington Post about how collaboration can further innovation.
Currently, Deepika is educating others about the importance of wastewater remediation. She has presented at schools around the USA and abroad, has attended conferences, was an invited guest at the 2013 White House Science Fair, and has given media interviews.
In her words, “I hope to collaborate, share, and work with others who have similar interests and move towards the same goal of clean drinking water for all.”
Coral Reef Protection
Dylan is dedicated to ocean protection. While visiting the Kahekili Coral Reef on Maui, Hawaii, when he was seven, Dylan learned how rapidly the coral reef was dying. He decided to take action and conducted beach patrols where he spoke to anyone who would listen. He informed beach patrons that the “coral is alive” and they should engage in marine and coral preservation efforts.
Dylan founded the nonprofit organization ReefQuest, whose mission is to foster marine environmental stewardship through citizen science. ReefQuest is an extension of Dylan’s vision that kids can become marine environmental stewards if they are given the proper tools to do so. Dylan created an online Virtual Reef that is used to monitor coral reefs on the Internet by stitching high resolution, 3D underwater panorama pictures together for educational and environmental use.
He has worked with prestigious scientific groups such as The State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, the University of Hawaii, the University of Queensland in Australia, and the Coral Reef Alliance. In addition, Dylan has spoken on the topic of “Passionate QUESTioning” at the TEDxTeen Conference in New York City.
Dylan wants to take ReefQuest global to Africa, Australia, Asia, and Micronesia. In addition, he is working on a textbook that will bridge science education with environmental activism by 2015.
Spreading Environmental Awareness
Ishita lives in a government colony in India. She conducts awareness campaigns and provides workshops for underprivileged youth from her locality and at a few government hospitals.
She understands systemic societal and environmental problems and has started a project called C.R.A.F.T (Creating Awareness for Tomorrow) to spread awareness about the importance of a clean environment and better hygienic conditions. She is pained that Delhi, her home, has become one of the most polluted cities, experiencing water scarcity, air and water pollution, poor waste management, poor drainage systems, and inadequate sewage treatment facilities which pose a huge threat to its 18 million inhabitants. Ishita is innovative in how she presents information. She screens animation movies on sanitation, good hygiene, and resource preservation. She not only imparts this information but also engages youth in problem-solving through discussions and creative activities like skits and poster making.
Josiah and Ridgely
Age 14 and 13
Saving the Chambered Nautilus
Josiah and Ridgely's passion about the protection of the chambered nautilus, a marine mollusk whose shell is often used for jewelry and decoration, is relentless. Through their combined efforts they are pursuing global awareness to save the nautilus. Josiah created a website, SaveTheNautilus.com, to create awareness and raise funds to support research. The nautilus has been taken from the wild for nearly 40 years with little to no regulation or conservation measures. The awareness and money Josiah and Ridgely's project generates makes a significant contribution to saving this amazing creature. Both youth and adults learn about the nautilus through Josiah’s efforts.
Josiah and Ridgely raised nearly $20,000 for Nautilus research through t-shirt sales and fundraising. They have been in the news all over USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. In 2012, Josiah visited American Samoa with Dr. Peter Ward, a leading scientist at the University of Washington. While there, he got first hand field work experience collecting samples and learning from the people in the region. He helped to assess the current state of nautilus populations using historical fishing techniques, genetic analysis, and underwater video surveillance. This research is important because of the need to get the nautilus on the CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) list. “Until the Nautilus is added to the CITES list, my goal will not be accomplished,” says Josiah, because, he explains, Nautilus trading in the United States is a huge problem.
Josiah and Ridgely are firm believers that everyone can make a difference. They are motivated by the work they do and are inspired to take on further projects. After this experience, they want to take on future projects and save the environment even more.
Promoting Environmental Awareness in China
Interested in environmental policy and activism, Jane applied for grant money to start a non-governmental organization (NGO) targeting the pollution of urban environments in China, where she spends time each year. She began an urban environmental movement, called Spearmint, and held her first event in Wenling, China, with the Wenling High School to raise awareness and promote a change in littering habits. Jane’s emphasis on individual responsibility inspires students to collaborate and participate in her events.
In July, 2013, Jane’s Clean-Up Day brought almost 50 participants to what's known as the “Heart of the City” to pick up trash, and spread door-to-door awareness of environmental issues the city faces. Jane also educates the participants and stresses the importance of their efforts and the urgency of maintaining environmental habits after the event. In the future, she is planning another trash event in Shanghai, China, with a focus on smog and air pollution. Jane’s blog, Spearmint, addresses environmental issues, keeps readers up to date on the organization, and is a place for Jane to share other aspects of her activism. She believes the government plays a huge role in what happens environmentally.
Jane is actively involved in many recycling and energy-saving initiatives. She has launched a school-wide expansion of recycling paper and plastic bags, and she introduced the idea of using recycled material for holiday decorations. Using her bilingual abilities, she translates workshop project plans for low-carbon energy-saving from Chinese to English.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Reducing Landfills and Empowering Others
Simran’s mission is to create networks for children and youth to talk about the environment, and gain a clear understanding of environmental issues today. She is particularly interested in the issue of landfills.
Through her group SynergY, she provides leadership for 300 students from the UAE and India who work passionately to set an example for others and raise awareness. The group has planted one thousand trees in her neighborhood to green the landfill areas and to raise awareness about the need to reduce landfills and improve waste management practices. In addition, Simran has given school presentations, radio and television interviews and writes blogs. She hopes to implement this outreach with other Asian cities including her home town in India.
An accomplished speaker, Simran has attended over three dozen international conferences, youth forums, and events, traveling across the globe to make presentations and mobilize youth. Her work has empowered her to connect on various global platforms including the Global Youth board of Plant-for-the-Planet and TUNZA Eco Generation as Regional Ambassador Middle East. She was recently a youth panelist at the United Nation’s First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo 2014, held in Qatar.
"No Waste" Campaign
Patna, a city in the eastern part of India, is one of the oldest residential areas in the world. Swaraj grew up there and is from a humble, middle-class family, he has overcome financial and social barriers. Still a teenager, Swaraj is a leader who is concerned about environmental and social issues and whose work has been recognized by global organizations such as UNESCO, UNEP, Dexterity Global, and Volvo.
According to the local newspaper, 1150 tons of waste are generated in the city of Patna each day, but only 700 tons are picked up. The rest is left to rot by the roadsides. When he learned of this, Swaraj organized and is leading a project called In-Waste, a program that provides bins and regular pick-up services to homes at a nominal fee. Two to three hundred high school students and other volunteers participate, as well as unemployed people who are paid a small fee. Some of this garbage is brought to a “waste-park” and is used for making children’s toys and greeting cards which are later put on exhibit. Swaraj’s goal is that everybody should care about the environment and that waste should be re-purposed. Swaraj and his group are engaging students at public schools as well as top policymakers and environmentalists. They want to get out the word that this project can be duplicated in other places.
Stopping Ocean Trash
Wyatt uses artwork to express his genuine love for the ocean and its inhabitants. Through a program he calls Art to Save the Sea, Wyatt makes art to raise awareness of the trash problems affecting the ocean, and he donates his funds to help support the ocean advocacy organization, Oceana. At age seven, Wyatt saw a picture of trash on a beach which deeply affected him and he decided to do something about it. He diligently created 70 clay sculptures which he sold at an art show, and he wasn’t about to stop there. He has successfully enrolled 750 people to sign his pledge to save to oceans.
Wyatt made a Claymation movie called “Save the Sea from the Trash Monster!” which has received over 4,800 YouTube views to-date. The success of the movie inspired Wyatt to create a book to tell the same story. He donates his book to schools around the world, spanning from Guatemala to a First Nations Library in Canada through Books Without Bounds. He sells “I am NOT a Trash Monster!” t-shirts at art shows and online to spread awareness about the need to keep oceans clean.
Wyatt believes there are seven steps that everybody can take to save our oceans: recycle all plastic, pick up trash, use biodegradable plastics, eat sustainable fish, take shopping bags to the market, use reusable water bottles, and sign his pledge to save the ocean. It doesn’t matter how small a person is, or how small the gesture, Wyatt knows anybody can make a difference! He has raised over $6,000 for Oceana and often speaks at their events.
Maria and Harrison
Age 13 and 15
Recycling Medical Flipcaps
Brother and sister, Harry and Maria were visiting their doctor’s office, when they noticed little colorful plastic caps lying about. They were told these were discarded “flipcaps” used on the tops of vaccination and vials and that they could take some home with them.
They discovered there was no method of recycling plastic medical flipcaps, so being avid recyclers, they decided to implement a flipcap recycling program at their local hospitals and doctor’s offices and to create and sell their artwork made from flipcaps. They call the program, Flipcaps: A Healthcare Waste Sustainability Initiative.
It was a slow process to convince healthcare personnel to get into the habit of recycling flipcaps. After recognizing areas of high volume vaccination where flipcap recycling bins are most needed, the siblings went to hospital management and succeeded in getting recycling of flipcaps added to hospital protocol. They speak at events and attend art fairs. In a short time, approximately 750,000 flipcaps have been recycled.
Their efforts have positively impacted their entire healthcare community as they raise awareness through visual media: artwork and designs using flipcaps and a public collection of art displayed at local hospitals and doctor’s offices, pharmaceutical companies and school and art fairs.
New York, USA
Organizing Environmental Activities
Since he was very young, Christian has been an environmentalist. The USA Gulf Coast oil spill was his catalyst. He learned how the spill was affecting marine life and waterways far beyond the Gulf. It was truly a widespread disaster, and he decided then that he could make a difference by taking care of our environmental resources today and on an ongoing basis.
After collaborations with existing local organizations, he formed a local 4-H club. To recruit members, he rode his scooter around the neighborhood handing out flyers, and sent out emails. He was frustrated because so many of the teenagers he contacted wanted to be indoors playing video games. However, he persevered and now has a group of approximately twenty-five members from seven to eight local schools who meet one to two times a month to do clean-ups and participate in local group projects. The group is dedicated to local marine and wetland environmental work and is one of the largest 4-H groups on Long Island. They pick up such things as cigarette butts, fast food trash, and even discarded bottles of hair spray that had been dumped. Says Christian: “It’s better to get outside in nature and do something rather than sit around inside talking about it.”
Single Use Plastic (SUP) Campaign
When Ribhu looked out at his local holy river, the Yamuna, he was horrified to see not water, but a river of single use plastic (SUP) that people had discarded. When he researched this, he discovered that 200 million wild creatures die every year due to discarded SUP, and he also was disturbed by photographs of dead cows with stomachs full of plastic bags. Every five minutes, he learned, five million plastic bags are thrown away across the world.
Ribhu began creating a network of friends to help him deliver a message about SUP to all who would listen. They contact schools, green grocers, and magazine editors and card printers who they are trying to persuade to discontinue shrink-wrapping their products. His motto is: Reduce, Reuse, Refuse and Re-imagine. He has successfully introduced steel glasses into his school, replacing approximately 50,000 plastic glasses that might have been used over the last two years. “I believe in the power of dialogue,” he says.
New York, USA
Buddies for Bats
Truth wants people to know that bats are incredible creatures. He fell in love with bats when he discovered a Little Brown Bat inside a backyard sun umbrella on his porch. He learned that bats in North America were being devastated by White Nose Syndrome and dying by the millions and he wanted to help. He read every book on bats at his local library and learned that bats are vital to our environment. They pollinate the trees, plants and flowers we depend on for food, oxygen and medicines; they eat thousands of insects that kill crops and carry disease; and they are responsible for as much as 95% of seed dispersal in rain forests. Nevertheless, few people understand them and many people fear them. So Truth founded Buddies for Bats to educate the public about their importance. Through his classroom and library presentations, Bat Education Booths at street fairs, a local newspaper column, his Facebook page and online coverage, he has educated thousands of people. “I’ve learned,” he says. “that in the world of environmental activism, your age doesn’t matter – it’s your commitment that counts!”
Facebook: Buddies for Bats
Vanessa and Patricia
Age 9 and 13
Green Team Indonesia
Green Team Indonesia was founded in 2013 by Patricia, and now her younger sister, Vanessa, has joined her. “For us,” they say, “the environment is not only concerned with plants or garbage – the environment is also related to the people around us.” Therefore, they manage a blog where they share stories related to environmental issues, and they share positive thoughts, like “spread the word of kindness”and ”together: hand-in-hand, we can balance the world" They give away Kangkong (a leafy vegetable) seeds and teach others how to nurture and harvest the plants. They do regular beach cleanups, gardening and recycling projects. In addition, they teach English, cooking and crafts at an orphanage for blind children.
Patricia was selected as a Surfer Girl's Green Ambassador and has joined several green activities. In April 2013, to celebrate Earth Day, the sisters worked with Surfer Girl to plant 500 mangroves at low-tide. In doing their volunteering and green actions, they work together and have fifteen to twenty-five supporters who help with clean-ups and seed plantings, which they finance with bake-sales and selling their crafts. Click here to view their blog.