2018 International Eco-Hero Youth Award Winners
Action For Nature is proud to announce our 2018 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
After seeing that his school cafeteria’s food waste was being mixed with other waste, Nikita and his classmate Sofia Khrystyna initiated a composting project called Compola. Nikita knew that food scraps could be easily transformed into compost, organic fertilizer to nourish trees and plants that grow near the school or on neighboring streets. He and Sofia learned about the many landfills in Ukraine and all the things in them that could be used for something useful, rather than contaminating land and air. He thought that by composting at school, they could reduce the size of the landfill, nourish the trees, and in so doing, clean the city's air from harmful substances. Starting with a single compost at their school, now with grant funding, they’re preparing to launch a project to provide 1,000 Ukrainian schools with compost. Their goal is for all 18,000 Ukrainian schools to compost. Nikita hopes Compola will educate other kids to sort garbage, so when they grow up, they will be eco-conscious and reduce landfills in Ukraine and make up for damage that has already been caused.
Cape Town, South Africa
Save the Baby Rhino with Hunter
On New Year's Eve in 2015, Hunter heard about a baby rhino that had been abandoned by his mother. He was relieved when it was later announced on social media that the rhino had been rescued and was safe. Hunter knew at that moment that he wanted to help this baby by raising money to look after him. “I knew that every rhino life counted and each rhino needed every chance to survive as they are so endangered.” Hunter started off donating his pocket money and then asked his family and friends in South Africa and overseas to help. Hunter set up a social media page, with his mom's help, to keep people updated about the baby rhino, and to reach more people. Over time, Hunter’s project grew beyond fundraising to also teach others about the plight of rhinos and how to help. with a modest goal of R1000, Hunter has raised over R170,000 ($12,600) to help save and raise orphaned rhinos and to train anti-poaching teams. Hunter has spread the word to over 10,000 kids from South Africa, Australia, and Asia. “I don't think we are even close to winning the war on poaching and there will always be work that needs to be done to save our wildlife. Keeping rhino, elephants, lions, pangolins and so many more animals safe from extinction is going to need warriors and I will always be one of those warriors. I am only 10 and know my journey is only beginning.”
Kids Speak For Parks
When President Trump signed the Executive order to review 27 of our National Monuments to decide if they should be downsized, Robbie sprung to action, thinking of the book, “The Lorax.” He started a nonprofit organization, Kids Speak for Parks, to help raise awareness for the preservation of our National Parks and Monuments. He has traveled to 12 National Monuments and 3 National Parks, and has spoken at several schools across the country to create awareness of the threat to our national treasures. Robbie met with Deputy Director of Department of Interior, Tim Williams, and the Hawaii congressional delegation in Washington, DC, and was invited to speak at the 30th Anniversary of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and at the SHIFT Festival in Jackson Hole Wyoming. He also spoke at the Trust For the Public Land meeting in Washington DC and at the Monumental Mistake Rally in Salt Lake City, Utah where he collected over 3,000 signatures for the Public Comment period on National Monuments. “I have learned that I do have a voice and that I can use it to protect our public lands and influence others to speak up.”
Lake Cathie, Australia
Shalise's Ocean Support
After Shalise learned that thousands of marine animals die annually from fishing lines, it became her mission to remove this harmful pollution. Fishing line takes 600 years to break down and is invisible to animals, which get tangled and injured. “I don’t think a lot of people understand exactly how much damage that one piece of fishing line they throw away can do. It is one of the most harmful things that gets washed into the ocean because it is strong and invisible in the water.” She spends her weekends cleaning up and documenting the waste on the beaches of her home in Australia on social media. “I think as kids we are all here to shape the future together and I would like to be the drop in the ocean that helps to create the ripple effect. To show young people everywhere how just one person can make a difference in our world today.” Eventually, Shalise got the local town council to set up fishing line bins and won a state grant to get signage, rangers, and bins to dispose of trash fishing lines. “I want to be a voice for the ocean as marine animals can’t stand up and speak for themselves.”
At the age of just 3 years old, Ryan went with his father to the local recycling center where he got $5 for feeding cans, bottles and glass into the machines. It inspired him to do more recycling from that moment on. Living near the ocean, Ryan saw how recycling prevented pollution from getting to the sea. Since then, Ryan’s Recycling has recycled nearly 300,000 cans and bottles in an effort to save the planet and to keep it out of the landfills and ocean. Ryan is saving the money he makes from recycling for his college education and he donates the proceeds from his company t-shirts sales to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, CA to support their efforts to save marine life. To date, Ryan has donated nearly $6,000 and is currently leading a "Ryan's Recycling Challenge,” getting supporters from all over the world to recycle together. “Please help me to recycle and clean up the environment!”
After accumulating lots of used batteries from remote-control toys during the 2016 Christmas holidays, Asvini’s parents cautioned her to recycle them rather than put them into the landfill trash. Asvini learned about the dangers of improper battery disposal because of the chemicals they contain that can contaminate the soil and make their way into our groundwater, endangering the entire ecosystem. Asvini introduced battery recycling to her friends in school and placed battery recycling bins in classrooms. She collected more than 300 batteries in a month. This inspired her to recruit the larger community. Asvini partnered with Round Rock Public Library where over 25,000 batteries (weighing more than a half ton) have been diverted away from landfills in just twelve months. After participating in tree planting activities with Tree Folks, she received the Family Tree Award. Asvini is now campaigning for her school to reduce paper usage after hand washing, raising awareness about all the trees being cut. “I am working hard to keep batteries away from landfill and reduce cutting trees for paper. This will save the place where we are living and save the planet.”
Milkweed for Monarchs
In 2015, Genevieve read all about the need to help save the Monarch Butterflies and learned about the Butterfly Hero project. She brought the idea to her mom and took the pledge to help butterflies by creating a backyard pollinator garden. Genevieve went on to certify her backyard as a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Certified Wildlife Habitat. She also created a Roots and Shoots project called "Milkweed for Monarchs" which was named the Jane Goodall Institute Project of the Month. Genevieve then contacted Dr. Francis Villablanca at CalPoly to register her garden with the Monarch Alert Citizen Science project. For the past three years, she has been processing, tagging, and taking Oe samples from butterflies that visit or are born in her garden. Called a “Butterfly Superhero”, Genevieve also convinced her school to certify its grounds as a Certified School Habitat and gave native milkweed seeds to the science teacher for students to plant. But she didn’t stop there – most recently Genevieve met with the Mayor of her city and convinced them to take the NWF Mayors Monarch Pledge! “I am trying to help bring the plight of the Monarch Butterfly to members of my community and to the general public. Maybe if I can inspire enough people to help, the Monarch can avoid the predicted quasi-extinction that could happen in 20 years.”
AGE GROUP 13 - 16
Nova Scotia, Canada
Young Citizen Scientist
“In the fall of 2015 I learned what a straight pipe was and I was very upset! A straight pipe is a pipe that goes directly from your toilet into the river,” exclaims Stella. Through a science project and speaking out via a social media campaign, she let people know how polluted the LeHave River is from the straight pipes and created a big public concern which resulted in the local authority appropriating fifteen million Canadian dollars for the 600 homes along the river to change to septic tank systems. Stella is now training other kids to test their waterways and “get political.” She has traveled across Canada, met Prime Minister Trudeau and other high-level decision makers, and has visited Ecuador as a Canadian Youth Ambassador. “I have a lot more work to do,” she says. “I really am just getting started. I give many speeches about my project. I hope to show other youth that science is great, social activism is important and that my generation has a lot of work to do.”
Charlie & Jeremy
Two Green Leaves
In fifth grade, Charlie and Jeremy realized that one of the most impactful things they could do as kids was to educate others. “We simply cannot solve any problem if we do not know what it is.” So they started Two Green Leaves – a blog dedicated to educating others through the perspective of what they call the ‘affected generation.’ They went on to become public speakers, and testified at public hearings as climate activists, often speaking to large crowds, as far away as Washington DC, on such subjects as a Clean Energy Jobs Bill for Oregon and bills to enact a carbon cap. They are proud to have been instrumental in persuading the Portland Public Schools Board to include climate change science in the curriculum of over 60,000 kids in 80 public schools. “Previously our teacher,” explains Charlie, “couldn’t say if climate change was a fact, leaving climate change without the full explanation that it is manmade.” As they push forward, they have two goals: educate others about the causes, effects, and solutions to climate change and help pass effective climate legislation at the state and national level. “Testifying is so empowering,” says Jeremy, “because you are really making a difference.”
Hannah, who has been an environmentalist and animal rights activist since the age of four, is particularly passionate about plastic pollution awareness. She realized that one of our biggest environmental challenges is one we can control through education and awareness. With the support of her state senator, Hannah spearheaded a Plastic Pollution Awareness Day for the State of Georgia in 2017. To pull off this big event, she arranged for 90 NGO's from across the world to participate in the event. She involved artists (professional and students) to showcase their artwork around plastic pollution, and involved ocean scientists and internationally-recognized environmental leaders to speak. It was such a success that it was repeated in 2018. Hannah has become a sought-after public speaker, addressing student groups and conferences nationally and internationally, talking to thousands of people. Her goal is to touch as many people as possible and inspire them to reduce their plastic footprint.
Lila Copeland has been an activist all her life. In 2013 she founded Earth Peace, a non-profit in California dedicated to peace for all species and a sustainable future for the planet.
Earth Peace started as a way to go into schools and clubs to discuss the massive damage animal agriculture is doing to the planet, human health and the animals it uses for its profits. Lila soon saw that she needed to take bigger action so she started the Healthy Freedom campaign to get a vegan meal choice on the menu in every school in the second largest school district in the country: Los Angeles Unified. Lila started the campaign in 2015 going out to students, district leaders, celebrities, plant based food companies, athletes and medical experts to achieve a win in May of 2017. After two years of campaigning and community campaigning LAUSD ratified a resolution to put a vegan meal choice on the menu every single day in LAUSD. Every semester they are adding more schools until every school in the district is included. This will bring new knowledge of why eating vegan is the most effective way to curb climate change to more than 600,000 students every day. Cutting animal agriculture out of our daily habits can massively curb climate change and stop the destruction of our oceans which is currently underway. UN and NASA both concur that animal agriculture is the leading driver of climate change now.
Lila hasn't stopped there, she has already begun her state wide campaign in California to get a law that puts a vegan meal choice on every public school menu in the state every day of the school year.
Follow Earth Peace at http://www.earthpeacefoundation.org facebook: http://www.facebook.com/earthpeacefoundation and @earthpeacefoundation
If you are a student in California contact us and get involved in the revolution!
Student Bank Bartselana
Jose was 7 years old, in first grade, and due to the fact that his parents had divorced, he had to wait a long time to be picked up from school by his father. During this time he walked around the campus and noticed the amount of trash and how the kids paid no attention to it and would dispose of their waste anywhere. He decided to run for president of his school government with a platform of trash control and a recycling bank. He became elected as he entered into second grade and he officially opened his elementary school Ecology Bank.
Jose's Ecology Bank opened up with 100 soles (currency of Peru), 50 soles came from his own savings and 50 soles from his father. In order to become a member, a student had to pay with 6kg of white paper in any condition and 1 sole. In order to remain a member, students must pay 1kg of white paper a month plus 1 sole. Kids began to subscribe and save. Over time, Jose found a company that would pay him for large bulks of paper. Now Jose was able to pay the kids for the recycling and keep more money for the ecology bank.
When Jose noticed that the kids would pull out their savings to spend it on trivial things, he decided to teach them financial education for which he researched online and prepared his own presentations, teaching them that they can save to buy a bicycle, food for the house, or more important things. He then opened up an Ecological Solidarity Warehouse where he buys and sells personal and home electronics, such as rice cookers and mp3 players, to the students. The Ecological Bank has become very popular for which Jose has received media attention, has traveled to different countries and now has spread to 5 local schools with a total of 2,000 members.
Jose could expand even further. However, he must devote time to his studies.
New York, USA
Effects of Environmental Factors of Glass Eels Migration
Nicole, a young scientist, studies the effect of environmental factors on Glass Eel (Anguilla rostrada) migration in the Blind Brook off the Long Island Sound. The eels are born in the Sargasso Sea and migrate into freshwater estuaries along the coast of the United States in groups or families. They are declining due to many man-made dams and pollution. From March through May 2017, Nicole captured and weighed the eels in a special net before releasing them and recording their surrounding environmental factors. Despite this cold, wet and freezing work, she continued this data collection in the spring of 2018. After analyzing her data Nicole has written a research paper for anticipated release in 2019 and is hoping to gain support to install an eel ladder for a dam. “Working with glass eels has emphasized to me the importance of every species in an ecosystem.” Nicole knows that scientific study takes many years and she hopes to continue her research while she’s in college.
Eco-Man: Superhero for Nature
Juan loves the river which is about a thousand feet from his home and where his family has lived for generations. But he became increasingly aware of how much trash was floating in the water and soon realized that people were dumping their waste directly into it. He gathered up his little sister and some friends and began pulling the trash out of the water. He soon started going door to door to educate his neighbors by telling them: “Do not throw garbage into the river, because we are polluting our environment.” Sadly, he found many would just slam the door in his face. He didn’t give up, however. He continued collecting the trash but then wondered what to do with it. From his teachers, he learned about recycling and composting and he has since participated in talks, conferences, media interviews and has also made a video to educate and inspire others. “I have learned,” he says, “that environmental problems are increasingly serious and if each one of us does not do something there will no longer be a planet to live on.”
Rahul & Rohan
Age 13 & 15
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Happy Planet Initiative
Brothers Rahul and Rohan are Eco-Artists who have shown their work in some twenty-five venues in Dubai, London, New York and Pennsylvania. Their Save Wildlife campaign raises awareness to save endangered species such as elephants, rhinos, and tigers through their artworks and exhibitions. They were inspired by the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. They felt they should do all they could to “save these beautiful species by actively campaigning and bringing awareness about saving them for future generations.” “Animals are voiceless and easy victims in the face of human cruelty. Through our works, we want to depict that and dedicate art for a purpose. We are building a movement that will make a real change for wildlife. We passionately believe that we have a duty to prevent endangered species from being wiped out.”
Puerto Rico, USA
Restoring Boa Habitat
Victor did not know anything about snakes, until one day he learned that his island has its own boa, called the Puerto Rico Boa, which can grow to almost 9 feet in length and which is in danger of extinction. He decided to learn more about it, to educate others and to protect it. To this end, he partnered with a community forest, Bosque Estatal San Patricio, and set out to provide a conservation area for the boa. This involved planning the habitat, getting sponsors and assembling materials, which included rocks to create small caves at the desired height for the snakes to hide, sun themselves and sleep, and plants in the colors red and white, which attract bats, the main prey of boas as well as bat houses to attract the bats. The preparation was physically hard work, but on opening day all was in place, including signage to educate the public. Victor received lots of publicity and soon began giving tours and pointing out the boas as he saw them. Sadly, in September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and María hit Puerto Rico and drastically damaged the area. Once the forest re-opens, Victor says he will “rebuild my Puerto Rican Boa conservation area better than ever. I already know what it takes.”
The Blue Feet Foundation
The blue-footed booby resides in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Equator, thousands of miles from Massachusetts where Will lives. Nevertheless, when Will learned that this interesting bird was declining, he decided it needed his help. With the support of his younger brother, Matty, he came up with the idea of setting up a website and selling blue socks. For the first three months, they had no orders, but then finally orders started arriving and he has now sold over 3,000 pairs of socks in fifty USA states and thirty countries, raising over $40,000 which he has donated to the Galapagos Conservancy for the scientific study regarding the population decline. “The blue-footed booby is a special bird and it made me sad to think it could disappear. I want people to be able to see it in person” says Will. During the day Will posts pictures and facts about the blue-footed booby on his Instagram page which has over 13,000 followers from around the world.
Solar Makes Sense
On November 3, 2015, the City of Bozeman where Claire resides passed a school bond that included expanding her middle school. She wanted her school to have solar electricity as part of a remodel even though it was not part of the architect's original plan. The Principal agreed to allow her to join him at a meeting with the architect and the contractor. When she pitched her idea, they said it was impossible and too expensive as it would cost upwards of $150,000. Claire was disappointed but not deterred. She went to a School Board meeting and presented her idea to the Board. Board members were quite receptive provided she could raise the money. She assembled some students to help. The estimate was lowered to $125,000. Through a lot of hard work and research, grant requests, fundraising, and school events, she raised the money and more. The extra funds raised were matched by an energy company and now another Bozeman school will have solar panels. The architects, contractors, School Board, and school district facility director are so pleased with the solar project and Claire’s efforts that they are all now completely on board with including alternative energy in future design and remodeling plans. In the summer of 2018, Claire was elated when her school went solar. “My community is growing very fast and it is important that with this growth we take on a responsibility to try to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum,” says Claire.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Youth Against Human-Elephant Conflict
In rural Sri Lanka, children sometimes had to miss school because of heavy rain and danger from elephants on the five-kilometer route. But now, thanks to the work and fundraising of Anya and the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society, they can travel safely on an “Elefriendly Bus.” The elephants are sometimes violent because of their negative interactions with local farmers who are trying to protect their crops from destruction by these animals who are searching for food. Each year between 50 and 80 humans die and between 150 and 250 elephants are killed due to human/elephant conflict “Elephants are an important symbol of Sri Lanka for me and I want future generations to be able to live together with these giant, beautiful creatures,” explains Anya. Through her writing, videography and speaking out, Anya is educating her community on ways that humans and elephants can co-exist.
Derek & Landon
Age 13 & 15
No Mangrove = No Man
Derek and Landon have harvested, grown, and transplanted thousands of red mangrove seedlings along the coasts of Florida over the past three years and are spreading awareness on how mangroves provide nurseries for a lot of young aquatic species.
Independent School Sustainability Coalition
Ariane founded the Independent School Sustainability Coalition (ISSC) organization in 2016 to unite schools in the New England region to work together on implementing sustainable initiatives on campus and on educating the students that attend these prestigious schools on environmental issues.
Schools Under 2C
Rayan founded the Schools Under 2 organization to show youth support of the Paris Climate Accord and challenged his school to meet the objectives of the Paris Climate Accord. He created the Compliance Plan to reduce carbon emissions in three ways: lighting reduction, compost implementation, and the creation of a transportation app.