Action For Nature is proud to announce our 2015 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.
Watch us on YouTube for more video of our 2015 Eco Hero presenters.
Winners are divided into two groups, age 8-12 and 13-16.
Age Group 8 - 12
Wild Bird Advocate
Local wild birds have become a passion for Desmond. It wasn’t always so. To fulfill a Boy Scout requirement, he signed up to build bird feeders. Once the birds started coming to eat the seeds he was hooked. Now he is learning more and more about birds, their songs and habitats. He has helped raised over $800 for conservation of a local canyon by being sponsored for bird sightings. He also helps with trash removal and educates others about the danger of trash to wildlife. At local council meetings he has advocated for saving riparian habitat. He has campaigned for the protection of the California Condors, the largest birds in North America, only 475 of which survive. These are threatened by lead poisoning contained in hunters’ bullets left in the dead animal carcasses they devour. Desmond has supported successful legislation to ban lead bullets. He has written articles and given presentations on how people can protect birds.
“Birds in Los Angeles,” he says “face many threats such as trash, lead poisoning, outdoor cats, window crashes, pesticides, habitat loss and rat poison. I want to make a difference and help the birds.”
Protecting Sea Turtles
Since she was 7 years old, Isabel has been raising funds for the Australia Zoo Animal Hospital in Queensland. So far she has raised over $30,000 Australian dollars. In 2011, bad floods occurred and a huge amount of trash washed out to sea resulting in 171 Green Sea Turtles being taken in by the Zoo, only about 30 to 40 of which were released back into the ocean. She became very aware of how trash, particularly plastics, in the seas affect marine life, especially turtles who fatally mistake plastic for food. She speaks at rallies, events and protests and does beach clean-ups. Besides being a Joey Ambassador, she is the youngest member of the Sea Shepherd Advisors Board.
Seoul, South Korea
Horrified to see food waste and other trash being discarded in his local park, Rock Lee regularly returns to collect and recycle waste and encourages others to join him. He has become an environmental leader in his community.In May 2014, he founded the Earth Kids Foundation. The foundation’s young volunteers collect and recycle trash every Sunday morning and recruit others to join them. They participate in many environmental events organized by NGO’s and local communities. Rock has also created a cartoon series “Earth Kids – Riki & Piki” to draw attention to the need for increased conservation and responsible living habits. A junior newspaper reporter, he has been featured in newspapers, magazines, radio and on TV, inspiring others to care for the Earth. In October 2014, he gave a speech at an important environmental convention in Korea titled “Please listen to the voice of an 11-year old environmentalist and artist.”
On World Environment Day 2014 UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) featured on its homepage a presentation Rock made on threats to the island of Kiribati. This was an award winning presentation he made to the TUNZA (Youth) division of UNEP “If we work together it can be synergy for achieving our goal,” says Rock who is a member of TUNZA and Green Rangers Korea. Rock knows we have only one Earth which provides us with so much and he believes it’s now time for us to give back to the Earth.
When Joshua heard about the water shortage in California where he lives, he decided to take action. After researching the subject, he created school presentations which he has delivered to over five hundred children. These focus on interesting facts about water usage on the planet and ways to save it and include recommendations on what students, parents, and siblings can do. He explains why water conservation is important to all of us. He created flyers on water conservation tips and posted them in the school bathrooms. Joshua also designed water-hero stickers to give to students who switched from plastic to reusable drinking water bottles. For his school library, he created an Earth reference material listing and reviewed twenty environmental books for students to read. Joshua has also spread awareness on water conservation with a booth presentation during the school Science Night. These activities were not easy to absorb into his school and athletic activities schedule, but he found it rewarding because he realized he is making a difference.
Luca has always loved animals. From TV, school books and the internet, he learned that many are threatened. So at age 8 he helped found YARH (Young Animal Rescue Heroes).
“We have,” he says, “to encourage more children to protect nature and wildlife because this is protecting their future.”
With the help of his family, he puts on workshops and presentations.He has appeared in various children’s programs and been featured on TV and in newspaper articles. He also works on recycling paper and drink packs.Reducing paper consumption saves trees, a precious resource and source of shade in Kenya. He and his mom visit schools persuading children not to burn trash, and creating awareness for endangered wildlife and environmental conservation.
Campaigning for Clean Waterways
Abby is a young environmentalist who cares deeply for the waterways near her home in Florida. Concerned about the toxic fertilizer runoff in the Indian River Lagoon, Abby took it upon herself to speak out. She organized the Marine Science club at her school to attend the Hands Across the Lagoon day, where thousands of local residents stood shoulder to shoulder across bridges spanning the local estuary to bring attention to the Lagoon’s declining health. Abby took further action by speaking to the City Council to encourage them to adopt a strong fertilizer ordinance. From her research in the Marine Science Club, Abby learned that nutrient runoff is a significant factor in the declining water quality of the Lagoon.
After repeated presentations to the Council, the ordinance was adopted. Two City Council members presented Abby and her Marine Science Club with a Proclamation award in recognition of their dedication to restoring the lagoon.
Bracelets for Turtles
Ella loves the ocean and the animals that call it their home. She walks on the beach near her home every week-end. She became particularly fascinated with Loggerhead Turtles and started making bracelets, which she sold to friends and family and at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center to fundraise for the turtles. So far she has made almost 400 bracelets and raised $1,115 which she has donated to the Center.
“Although I cannot volunteer at the Center until I am 18,” says Ella, “I can still make a difference for the turtles by raising money, cleaning up their ocean and educating other kids to do the same thing.”
Age Group 13 - 16
New Mexico, USA
Makayla who lives in a dry, sunny and often windy climate noticed that the many nearby solar panels were often dirty and therefore inefficient. She wanted to find an environmentally friendly way of cleaning solar panels that did not use harsh chemicals or precious water. So, inspired by the idea of levitation in some Harry Potter books, she researched how sound waves (acoustic levitation) could be put to use. The idea is the sand, lifted off the panels by the sound waves, is blown away by the wind. She researched the internet and with her dad’s help constructed a small model acoustic levitator.
In 2014 she presented her idea at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC (the first time she had ever seen a big city) to professional engineers, NASA scientists, the public, and President Obama, as a Broadcom MASTERS finalist. She has also received awards from the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, and two Naval Science Awards. She got to work with people of all different ages, experiences and backgrounds. Her goal is to get a patent if she can raise the funds.
“I didn’t think that a 12-year old kid from a little one stoplight village in New Mexico could make a difference in the world,” says Makayla, who is a member of the Cherokee Southwest Township, an Official Satellite Community of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. “(Now) I see that lots of people, not just me, are concerned about the Earth and making things better and it makes me feel like part of a big family that cares.”
Waterway Contamination Research
Caroline is a young environmental scientist working to find a solution to the problem of algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon near her home. Since last year, the lagoon has been plagued with toxic algae blooms caused by water releases from Lake Okeechobee. These toxic algae blooms have a life-threatening impact on manatees, dolphins, sea birds, oysters, eighty percent of the seagrass, and many of the various 700 species of fish. The toxic algae blooms have also prohibited any recreational activities on the lagoon.
This impacted everyone living there and Caroline was determined to do something about it. She began a research project to discover an effective way to filter the algae and reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lagoon. Using Pleurotus Ostreatus mushrooms as living filters to remove nutrients from the agricultural effluent, her research demonstrated that the filter bags inoculated with mushroom spawn removed more total nitrogen than the control filter bags. Over a six week test period, the average change in the percentage of nitrogen removed was 5.45%, and the amount removed increased during each subsequent test cycle. The results have shown that the use of fungal mycelia filters to remove nutrients is plausible and that the growth of the mycelia can be sustained in adverse conditions over an extended time period. Caroline plans to continue her research and find new ways to restore the lagoon.
“This is an important ongoing environmental issue in my community,” says Caroline, “and working on my project has allowed me to speak to different groups and be featured in the newspaper, which helps to raise awareness.”
Carter & Olivia
Ages 14 & 13
Plastic Pollution & Wildlife Protection
Brother and sister, Carter and Olivia are passionately interested in wildlife conservation. When they were 8 and 7 years old respectively they founded “One More Generation,” a nonprofit which educates others about the need to protect endangered species. After a visit to the Gulf oil spill in 2010, working with oil-soaked suffering and dead sea turtles, they were shocked to learn how discarded plastics can cause great harm to animals on land and sea. Realizing that many people knew nothing of the causes and dangers of plastic pollution, they created a school curriculum which is available to schools throughout the USA and is being introduced in South Africa, the UK and soon in Australia. So far, they have reached thousands of students with this “Precycling” program, which besides teaching about plastic pollution, gives kids an interesting opportunity to turn trash into art. They also work directly on problems affecting wildlife and are, among other issues, currently collaborating on a Rhino campaign in South Africa and on an Orangutan campaign in Indonesia.
Aarushee is a young thinker who looks out at the world to consider how problems can be solved. When she read that thousands of Indian children under the age of 5 were dying each year of intestinal problems and dehydration due to the lack of clean drinking water, Aarushee was shocked. A promising young inventor, Aarushee did a lot of research on the internet, and designed a biodegradable (no plastics!) container that can hold 350 ml of clean drinking water and has a packet of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) pasted on the side. This “Blu Pak,” as she calls it has a small beak shaped outlet so that the fluid can easily be administered to infants. It can also be adapted to address malnutrition - another problem that Aarushee is researching. At a very early age, she has already received a design patent for the Blu Pak.
Bringing Nature to the Visually Impaired
Evan has always had a love and appreciation for the great outdoors. It is something he believes everyone should have access to and fully enjoy. That belief is what led him to embark upon a journey to make nature trails more accessible to the visually impaired. After a chance encounter with a representative of the Nature Conservancy, Evan got involved with cleaning and repairing the Big Pine Braille nature trail, which had been vandalized, in his home state of Georgia. Wanting to do more, he then met with the Rome Chapter of the Georgia Council of the Blind (GCB) to tell them about the trail and encourage members to use it.
Over the next couple of years he spread the message that nature is for everyone. Evan has worked closely with the GBC, has presented at a GCB State meeting, and has spoken on the Georgia Reading Radio Service show: “Eye on Blindness.” Information about the Big Pine trail was posted on the International Braille blog, and Evan has received emails from visually impaired people all over the country about trails in their communities and how they would like to have a local Braille trail. He also organized and led a trail hike for 25 visually impaired people. A new Braille trail, the Whispering Woods Braille Trail, built by students and community volunteers, has been completed and dedicated. Evan is now working with legislators to promote increased outdoor access for the visually impaired on a national level.
SharJah, United Arab Emirates
Known as the “Green Machine” because of her great passion for the environment, Arushi takes every opportunity to spread awareness about the need to protect the environment and reduce waste. She visits schools with environmental videos and games, quizzes, and Green Talk sessions. She campaigns at food courts, cafeterias and high foot-traffic areas. She teaches students about the benefits of organic farming, has organized educational trips for youth to sustainable buildings and other “green” UAE sites, and has persuaded factories to recycle packing material. Spreading awareness with campaigns, events and workshops she has given motivational presentations to educate women, laborers and children.
Arushi started a waste management program in her building (she visited 66 flats with her parents) that is now being used by all residents and is supported by the local waste management company. She also campaigned for her building’s residents to dim the corridor lights between 10 pm and 5 am to save electricity. With the sponsorship and help of environmental agencies and corporations she has mobilized youth to work towards environmental protection. She plants trees and makes tables from recycled tires. She is the President of the youth community group “Students for the Earth” and is also an Environment Ambassador to the Middle East-with Tunza Eco Generation (a joint venture between Samsung Engineering and UNEP).
Arushi has also received earlier the “International Diana award” for her environmental efforts and leadership. As well, Arushi is recently selected as inspirational young achiever for Commonwealth Young Achievers Book (CYAB) to be published this year, and has also been featured both as inspirational teen on www.inspiremykids.com and an inspirational "Hero" on "Kids are heroes" at
Believing in actions more than words, Arushi works at the grassroots level to set an example for others to follow. She is on a mission to inspire and empower more eco-warriors to get into action and lead us into a greener future. Click here for Arushi's Facebook page.
One Million Footprints for African Wildlife
Monique is a passionate young individual with an inborn desire to make a difference to the environment by engaging other Youth in learning about the challenges facing our planet and finding sustainable solutions. She is especially passionate about wildlife and is on a mission to show others why it is so important that we protect the diverse inhabitants of our natural world. She is the founder of the organization Children4Conservation, and one of its social media programs, “1,000,000 Footprints to Save Africa” is a campaign to uplift and inspire the youth of the world to unite to save Africa’s natural heritage for generations to come.
In the last five years, she has encouraged educators, schools and students to become involved through fun-filled events which include song, dance and placing painted footprints on cloth (with a goal of reaching one million). She has spoken at events about poaching concerns, and has helped organize marches emphasizing the predicament of elephants and rhinos. So far, she has reached almost 17,000 students with the message that the time has come to say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – as youth we must stand together to protect the future of Africa.”
Auckland, New Zealand
Protecting Maui's Dolphins
Libby is working with fellow New Zealanders to save the rare Maui’s Dolphins from the brink of extinction. In fact, there may be only 40 to 50 such dolphins, the smallest and rarest of dolphins, which live only off the West Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, left in the world. She has launched a campaign, the Maui Movement, and has created her own Web site with the goal of getting the marine habitat where the dolphins live extended. Unfortunately, the dolphins have to compete with the fishing, oil and gas industries, all important to the economy of New Zealand, and to sonic underwater testing.
Says Libby, “If these dolphins go extinct, New Zealand will be the first country ever to cause the extinction of a marine cetacean in history. We have to act now.”
Helping Others to Recycle
Sameer Pusapaty realizes the importance of recycling. Recognizing the problem people have understanding what can be recycled and how, he realized that the process needed to be streamlined. He developed tools for his community to make recycling easier and more efficient.
He first conducted a survey of neighbors to understand the residential recycling practices. The neighbors were amazed to realize how much of their trash could be recycled. He then simplified the process by using everyday technology to encourage people to recycle efficiently and reduce waste. Leveraging UPC / QR code and smart technology, he developed a handy mobile application for his community which he calls Recycle Buddy. This application can scan a UPC / QR code and display the recycling information. It can also perform generic lookups for disposal information based on the material and the item type. This can also serve as an efficient teaching tool.
Sameer volunteers for the City of Austin as a Block Leader/Zero Waste Advisor distributing materials to over 150 neighborhood families, and interacting with them to explain the importance of following the best practices and why recycling is important to the world.
Anuj loved the dazzling Holiday lights he would see in his neighborhood during the winter months, but he would often see lights left on during the day. Recognizing an energy waste problem he decided to take action. Anuj created a project that encouraged the use of an electrical light timer to prevent lights and lighting displays from being left on for extended hours. Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, his Web site, public canvassing, and booths at grocery stores, he distributed free electrical light timers to help save energy across town. Anuj formed a team of school volunteers to help him lead the effort to make Trumbull a more energy efficient town. As a group, they devoted approximately 500 volunteer hours. He worked with town leaders, energy company program managers, and vendors to effectively execute his project. It involved distributing 250 electrical timers and approaching 500 households during the Holiday season. By creating a sample study of his local community he learned that this campaign had the potential to save about 1 million-kilowatt hours of power in the town of Trumbull, preventing up to 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the environment.
One Cell Battery Collection
Anirudh is committed to a more sustainable future for our planet. He has developed a successful recycling program in his local community to help rid the world of battery waste. With the help of his school principal, Anirudh developed the One Cell program. He purchased envelopes for collecting batteries, customized them, and sent them home with students to return with all the used batteries inside their homes.
Anirudh began the program when he was 9 years old and 5 years later the program is still growing. His goal for One Cell is to expand the program to more schools so that he can collect more batteries. In the past three years, he has collected more than 1100 pounds of batteries.
This year his goal is to collect over 700 pounds. Anirudh hopes to get at least 15 schools participating before he reaches 10th grade. He would also like to raise money to support the program by applying for grants.
Washington, D.C., USA
Mikaela Matera-Vatnick loves both the art of film and the environment. Those two passions are reflected in her first film project “Are we unconsciously destroying our environment? A vision from two hemispheres.”
Her film documents the scientific collaboration between two labs in two different countries. These labs are conducting the same experiment: testing how atrazine, an herbicide used on crops, affects crayfish that are commercially important in both Argentina and in the United States.
There is little public knowledge on the harmful effects of atrazine on both animals and humans. Mikaela’s film brings more exposure to these dangers and the great work environmental researchers are doing to try and prevent them. Working with the head of the Biology Department at Widener University, and the head of the Biology Department in the University of Buenos Aires, Mikaela crafted a detailed documentary. She not only had help from the department heads, but from their students as well, who conducted the experiments. This film demonstrates how a visionary teenager can contribute to the body of science.