From petitioning schools to cut single-use plastics, to speaking out for the environment all over the globe, these young heroes are combining their powers to take pollution down to zero!
1. Hannah Testa
Hannah Testa is the founder of Hannah4Change, an organization dedicated to fighting issues that impact the planet. An environmental activist and speaker, she partners with businesses and government to influence them to develop more sustainable practices. Hannah has received numerous honors and awards, including the Teen Earth Day Hero by CNN, the Young Superhero for Earth Award by Captain Planet Foundation, the Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Award, the Gloria Barron Prize.
2. Erin Schrode
Erin Schrode started Teens Turning Green at thirteen years old with her mother, Judi Shils. Through Teens Turning Green (now Turning Green), Schrode is leading the efforts to raise awareness about global sustainability while influencing young adults to make the transition to utilize eco-friendly brands in their everyday lives. Turning Green gets teens involved through a series of campaigns and projects, such as Project Green Dorm and the #ConsciousCollege Tour campaign. They also promote advocacy of environmental health through campaigning and lobbying for change that will protect the Earth. In Currently, Schrode is helping the people of Puerto Rico with the #ChefsForPuertoRico campaign.
Working with Chef José Andrés, Schrode is the COO of #ChefsForPuertoRico, World Central Kitchen’s disaster relief initiative in response to Hurricane Maria. Since being there, Schrode and her team have been able to prepare and distribute 3.3 million balanced meals across the island of Puerto Rico.
3. Steff McDermot
Estefania (Steff) McDermot has stepped forward as a fierce defender of the blue seas surrounding her home of the Cayman Islands. For generations, her family has dived, fished, and built boats to live on the waters teeming with life, but today it’s more common for her to see plastic floating across the harbor, dead coral, algae blooms, and mountains of trash on the beaches. Steff attended the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp to build international support to back her work to pressure the island nation to take meaningful action to address the problem. In partnership with Plastic Free Cayman, Steff created the 345 Pledge that provides businesses and individuals a stepwise plan to reducing their plastic consumption by committing to make 3 immediate changes, 4 changes within 6 months, and 5 changes within the next year towards achieving a plastic-free Cayman Island.
4. Carter and Olivia Ries
In 2009, Carter and Olivia Ries created One More Generation, an organization seeking to keep endangered species protected for one more generation and beyond. Through OMG, they seek to advocate for wildlife and environmental issues, as well as empower youth around the world to stand up and help create solutions for the pressing issues of today. They have made their voices heard on several platforms across the globe, including a presentation at TEDxYouth and an address to the United Nations on World Wildlife Day.
5. Chloe Mei Espinosa
Chloe Mei Espinosa’s passion for scuba diving among tropical reefs inspired her work to protect the oceans by reducing plastic straw pollution. In April 2018, the then 11-year-old researched and created her own logo and website, skiptheplasticstraw.com, as part of a 6th grade project to educate people about the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws. On her website, she created a Skip the Plastic Straw pledge counter for people to commit to not using singleuse plastic straws. To date, more than 800 people have signed the pledge! After attending the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, Chloe Mei lobbied her school district to go “straw-free”; in July they agreed, and it was announced all 32 schools of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District would stop using plastic straws and instead offer paper straws on request. Not satisfied with getting just her own school district to go straw-free, in August Chloe Mei managed to convince Saddleback Valley Unified School District to stop using single-use plastic straws in all 34 schools in that district!
6. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, (his first name pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) is a young indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement. At the early age of six, Xiuhtezcatl began speaking to crowds at conferences and demonstrations from the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in Rio de Janeiro to addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations New York. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians an organization of young activists, artists and musicians from across the globe stepping up as leaders and working together to create positive concrete action in their communities to address climate change. He also uses original eco hiphop music to educate and inspire his generation into action. He is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Obama administration for their failure to protect the atmosphere and their future. He has worked locally to get pesticides out of parks, coal ash contained and moratoriums on fracking in his state.
Xiuhtezcatl has traveled across the nation and to many parts of the world educating his generation about the state of the planet they are inheriting and inspiring them into action to protect the Earth. His movement has grown to over 1,500 youth lead Earth Guardian crews globally working on the frontline to combat climate change. His work has been featured on PBS, Showtime, National Geographic, Rolling Stones, Upworthy, The Guardian, Vogue, CNN, MSNBC, HBO and many more. In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl received the 2013 United States Community Service Award from President Obama, and was the youngest of 24 national change-makers chosen to serve on the President’s youth council.
7. Dyson Chee
An avid water advocate, Dyson Chee has a deep passion for the ocean surrounding his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Dyson believes that the world is his classroom where he has the opportunity to explore his interests of ocean conservation, scientific research, and politics. While interning at a world-renowned coral research lab and at the Hawaii State Capitol, Dyson started Project O.C.E.A.N after attending Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in 2018, with the goal of rallying youth support for environmental issues that affect the health of the ocean and local community. His greatest hope is to inspire youth to be engaged citizens and to make a positive difference in their community. Dyson currently serves as an ambassador to Philippe Cousteau Jr.’s EarthEcho International and for Student Voice. In June 2018, he was awarded The National Billy Michal Student Leadership Award by the National WWII Museum for his strong record of volunteerism, school and community activism, and helping to implement creative solutions to recognized problems.
8. Ta’Kaiya Blaney
Ta’Kaiya Blaney is an actor, singer-songwriter and Native Children’s Survival (NCS) Youth Ambassador from Tla A’min Nation, Turtle Island. From the Idle No More Movement to the United Nations Ta’Kaiya has performed and spoken at grass-roots Indigenous gatherings and rallies and at International conferences and forums across the globe. Ta’Kaiya’s engagements have included, the TUNZA United Nations Children and Youth Conference on the Environment, the United Nations Rio+20 Conference, and the United Nations Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues. In 2014, Ta’Kaiya was the youngest keynote speaker for Powershift (an annual global youth summit focusing on climate change policy) at Pittsburg, P.A. and Victoria, B.C. and the youngest Indigenous youth to present an intervention at the United Nations Headquarters Permanent Forum On Indigenous where she introduced the NCS “Indigenous Children’s Fund”.
9. Robbie Bond
Robbie Bond is truly a young champion for our nation’s beautiful National Parks & Monuments. At just 9 years old, Robbie founded Kids Speak For Parks, an organization created to stand up and speak for national parks and monument, largely in response to the Trump administration’s executive order that stands to threaten 27 national monuments. His goal is to build a chorus of young voices for those national treasures. Robbie attended the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp and soon formed a partnership with Klean Kanteen and Litterati to extend his campaign to eliminate single-use plastics in national parks and marine protected areas. “Our government needs to hear from us, the youngest amongst us, that our national parks are not for sale,” Robbie said about his work. “You can’t get the parks back once they are taken away.” Robbie recently received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes and the Action for Nature International Eco Hero Award.
10. Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen started campaigning against plastic bags in Bali when they were 10 and 12 years old. They founded an organization called Bye Bye Plastic Bags and started a petition to get plastic bags banned from their island. Permission was obtained to collect signatures behind customs and immigration at Bali’s airport and, eventually, they got over 100,000 signatures.
For over a year, Bali’s Governor failed to meet Melati and Isabel’s request for a hearing. In frustration, the sisters threatened a hunger strike. Twenty-four hours later, they were escorted to meet with the governor. During that meeting, the governor signed a memorandum to help the people of Bali say no to plastic bags by January 2018. Additionally, the Indonesian government has pledged to invest $1 billion towards reducing marine waste by 70% by 2025, as part of the UN’s Clean Seas program. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has grown into an internationally recognized organization, and has teams all over the world working to git rid of plastic bags.
11. Coda Christopherson
A surfer and advocate, Coda Christopherson is an active defender of the planet’s oceans. After attending the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, she left determined to convince her school to stop offering plastic straws to her peers. Coda started advocating in her community and at her school. Her presentation of “Plastic Pollution SUCKS but you don’t have to” resonated and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District agreed to go strawless! To guide and help others that are trying to do the same thing, Coda established Strawless School, an initiative to stop the use and disposal of plastic straws at schools by educating students about their impact on the ocean and providing eco-friendly alternatives. Her first eco-event was held at the Manhattan Beach Pier where she enlisted 800 community members to take the Strawless School Pledge and stop using single-use plastic straws and flatware. In return, she gifted 800 sets of reusable metal forks, spoons, and straws. Together with the Strawless School Squad, an organic supporter group that sprang from her campaign, she plans on educating and inspiring other schools to go strawless. Coda’s compassionate nature and belief that the ocean has rights remains the heartbeat of her work. She is grateful to live in a world in which she can use her voice as a force for good.
12. Charles Orgbon III
Charles Orgbon III’s journey as an environmentalist began in 2008 — he was only 12-years-old. Charles noticed his school’s littered campus, and wanted to organize an effort to resolve the problem. He later developed Greening Forward, which would become a leading organization in the United States devoted to training and funding environmental leaders, ages 5-25. Greening Forward has distributed over tens of thousands of dollars in funding to youth environmental projects that plant trees, build compost bins, install rain barrels, monitor streams, recycle tons of waste, and advocate for a number of other environmental issues.
In addition, Charles completed an Arctic Science Expedition that has helped informed his role as an informal environmental educator, has integrated his award-winning blueprint for youth environmental leadership into Chilean and Colombian school systems, and consults numerous governmental and international agencies on their youth engagement strategy around environmental issues. Now, Charles is leveraging his environmental organizing and non-profit leadership to effect change in corporations. Charles supports Deloitte’s Sustainability Advisory and Environmental Liability practices, helping his Fortune 500 and public sector clients understand and ultimately reduce their environmental impact.