The environment is on the minds of kids who recently received Young Eco-Hero Awards for their leadership and innovations from Action for Nature, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco.
Anuj Sisodiya, age 16, always liked the holiday lights that decorate American houses in winter, but was bothered by the energy wasted when lights are left on all day. So he organized volunteers at his school to do something about it. They used social media, door-to-door canvassing and booths at grocery stores to distribute information and free electrical light timers during the holidays. His sample study showed that the campaign could save about 1 million kilowatt hours of power in his hometown, preventing the release of up to 590,000 kilos of carbon dioxide.
A few years ago, Anirudh Suri, now age 14, started a program at his school in California that helps people recycle old batteries.
He purchased and customized envelopes that he distributed to students to fill with all the used batteries they could find. His schoolmates returned them to a collection point at school. In three years he has collected more than 500 kilos of batteries for recycling.
Sameer Pusapaty, age 16, took a different approach to recycling in his Texas neighborhood. He studied recycling behavior and used mobile devices to help his neighbors find out what was recyclable. He created an app called Recycle Buddy that relies on scanning UPC/QR codes so people can get recycling information or do searches on recyclable materials. He is a community leader who helps educate families on why recycling is important.
Abigail Perez, age 12, and Caroline Nolan, age 14, are both from Florida, a state with wetland habitats, and their projects reflect their concerns about clean waterways.
Perez organized her schoolmates in the Marine Science Club to speak out about the nutrient runoff from sewers and farms, which was spoiling the water in a nearby lagoon. After her repeated presentations to the city council, it adopted an ordinance to protect the lagoon.
Toxic algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee threaten wildlife and 700 species of fish. Nolan’s research led to a remedy. She successfully used Pleurotus ostreatus mushrooms to filter nutrients from the agricultural effluent that was causing the algae blooms.
Luca Berardi, age 11, who lives in Kenya and loves wildlife, was only 8 years old when he helped found an animal rescue group. He also promotes recycling and reducing paper use to save trees, so important in Kenya. He and his mother make presentations in schools to educate kids in good environmental practices and conservation.
Makayla Gates, age 13, is a member of the Cherokee Indian Nation from New Mexico. With her father’s coaching, she made a device that cleans dirt off solar panels without using water, which is precious in New Mexico’s desert climate.
The “acoustic levitator” uses sound waves to loosen dirt, which is carried away by the wind. Her invention caught the attention of President Obama, the Smithsonian Institution and NASA, the U.S. space agency. She has won several awards for her work, including the Broadcom MASTERS. Her advice to other young inventors: “Don’t let anyone put limits on you, and don’t you put them on yourself. If I can do it, so can you.”
Rock Lee, age 12, from Seoul, South Korea, is a dedicated recycler who founded Earth Kids Foundation in 2014. Its volunteers collect and recycle trash weekly and participate in other environmental events. Besides being a “junior reporter,” Rock created a cartoon series called “Earth Kids — Riki and Piki” to highlight conservation and environmentally responsible living habits.
On World Environment Day 2014, the U.N. Environment Programme featured his award-winning presentation on environmental threats to the island nation of Kiribati on its website.
Mikaela Matera-Vatnick, age 15 and from Washington, used video to demonstrate the collaboration of two scientific labs, one at Widener University in the United States and one at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to test the effects of the herbicide atrazine on humans and animals. Her video documentary helped raise awareness about this chemical.
Aarushee Nair, age 15, from Haryana, India, was concerned about clean water, and that’s why she invented a biodegradable container that holds clean water and oral rehydration salts that may be easily used for infants.
Through its award program for 8- to 16-year-olds, Action for Nature encourages “young people to take personal action to nurture and protect a healthy environment on which all life depends.” These eco-heroes are just a few of the kids whom the group acknowledges annually.