It’s not always easy being young in this world. The challenges that come with growing up are often difficult, and the stresses of college or work can be overwhelming. However, there are environmentalists and a new breed of eco-entrepreneurs who have faced these obstacles head-on and found their way to success!
Teen Environmentalists Fighting For Change
Autumn Peltier is 17 years old and is a member of Canada’s Wiikwemkoong First Nation. She has dedicated her life to fighting for clean water. Autumn also works within her own community to increase people’s awareness about how important it is to protect water sources. In the past few years, she’s met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and even addressed world leaders at the UN General Assembly. She has spoken at the United Nations World Water Day on March 22, 2018 (link is external), been honored by the Assembly of First Nations as a water protector, and recently traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, for World Water Week in August 2018, invited by the United Nations as a Keynote speaker.
Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old Swedish climate activist. Greta was born in 2003 to Swedish writers and entrepreneurs Svante and Malena Ernman. Greta caught the public’s attention when she refused to go to school until Sweden’s parliament took action on climate change. Greta has since inspired countless protests around the world. Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the “Greta effect.”
Irsa Hirsi is a 20-year old activist for climate solutions and racial justice. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she leads her community of young people who are standing up for their future. She founded the US Youth Climate Strike. In 2020, she was named in Fortunes 40 Under 40 Government and Politics list. Driven by her identity as a Black Muslim woman in this work, Hirsi has been a longtime advocate for intersectionality and diversity within the climate justice movement as well as in her daily life. Irsa is the daughter of Somali Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Lesein Mutunkei is a 17-year old environmental activist from Kenya. He started Trees for Goals in 2018 as a way to combat deforestation and the effects of climate change in his community. He combines two of the things that he loves the most: football and the environment. Every time that he scores a goal during a game, he commits to planting eleven trees. So far, Lesein has been able to plant over one-thousand trees.
Jamie Margolin is a Colombian-American 20-year old environmental activist from Seattle, Washington. Jamie speaks openly about her experiences as an LGBT person. She is a writer, community organizer, activist, and public speaker. Her identity as a Latina Jewish lesbian drives her passion to fight for those who are oppressed and marginalized. Jamie is the founder of Zero Hour, an international youth climate justice movement. She led the very first Youth Climate March in Washington DC and 25 other cities all around the world during the summer of 2018. Margolin is also a plaintiff on Our Children’s Trusts’ Youth v. Gov, a Washington state lawsuit against the state of Washington for denying her generation’s constitutional rights to a livable environment by continuing to make climate change worse
Xiye Bastida is a 20-year old climate activist of the Otomi Toltec Nation, one of the indigenous cultures of Mexico. Born to environmentalist parents, her name “Xiye” means “Soft Rain.” She organized Fridays for Future in New York City. She sits on the administration committee for the People’s Climate Movement and is co-founder of the Re-Earth Initiative. In 2018, Xiye was invited to the 9th United Nations World Urban Forum to speak about Indigenous cosmology and received the “Spirit of the UN” award. Forum.
Amariyanna Copeny (Mari) a/k/a “Little Miss Flint” is a 15-year old from Michigan. Mari gained national fame when she wrote to President Obama about the water crisis in her city. This prompted the president to visit the city and approve a $100 million relief package. Mari has expanded her effort to help communities across the country deal with toxic water. She participated in the National Climate March and continues to speak about the Flint water crisis to national groups.
“My generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.”
Leah Namugerwa is a 17-year old youth climate activist from Uganda. Leah spoke at the World Urban Forum in 2020. and was a youth delegate at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference. She advocated for tree planting in Uganda when she was 13 years old. She also started a petition to make businesses enforce the plastic bag ban in her country. On her 15th birthday, she planted 200 trees in lieu of a party. She then launched the Birthday Trees project which gives seedlings to other young people who would also like to forego a party in favor of planting trees. In 2019, she began organizing school strikes to bring attention to her activism goals.
Stella Bowles is a 17-year Canadian environmentalist. She has spent years bringing attention and action to help clean up the Lahave River in Nova Scotia. She is the youngest recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia. She also received a Meritorious Service Medal. As a youth activist, Stella co-wrote a book for children titled My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River. Stella gave a TEDx talk about her project on the La Have River titled Oh poop! It’s worse than I thought.
Ella and Caitlin McEwan
Ella (10-years old) and Caitlin McEwan (8-years old) are two British schoolgirls that proved to the world that youth activism pays off. On Sept. 21, 2021, McDonald’s pledged to significantly reduce the use of plastic in its Happy Meal toys worldwide. The corporation stated that the changes will start now and roll out around the globe so that all McDonald’s toys will be made from more sustainable materials by 2025.
This global initiative follows backlash against McDonald’s for its plastic toys. In 2019, British sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan, then nine and seven years old, started a petition calling on McDonald’s and Burger King to stop giving out plastic toys with their kids’ meals. The petition garnered more than 566,000 signatures and soon enough, McDonald’s began testing out books, board games, and plush toys in U.K. Happy Meals.
We wanted to also recognize the new wave of young eco-entrepreneurs that have built successful businesses while identifying opportunities to improve the environment and operate sustainably.
If you think being a young environmentalist is time-consuming, meet three young entrepreneurs that have embraced ecopreneurship.
Coop Kicks Founded by Elliot Cooper
Coops Kicks is a Brooklyn, New York–based Instagram sneaker and streetwear retailer. It was founded by Elliot Cooper in 2017 (when he was 13 years old) with the aim to offer high-demand, limited-edition footwear. Coops Kicks has been an environmentally conscious company since its inception. Its goal is to maximize profit while achieving environmental and economic sustainability by recycling and redistributing new and used footwear.
Elliot Cooper teamed up with GotSneakers, a sneaker recycling group, to help minimize pollution from shoe waste – and launched a fundraising program. All the revenue generated from this program is earmarked to be donated to The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch-based nonprofit engineering environmental group that develops technologies to recover plastic trash from the oceans and intercept it in rivers before it reaches the sea.
Not one to miss an opportunity, Elliot has plans to deploy an ERC20 smart token in 2022 to enhance customer loyalty. Elliot is graduating from high school in 2022 and hopes to attend the University of Miami next fall.
Greenchar Founded By Tom Osborn
Tom Osborn is the founder of Greenchar a clean energy company he founded at 17 years old. While helping his mother cook, he realized the harmful effects of cooking with charcoal on his mother’s health and the environment. This inspired him to start Greenchar. Greenchar provides smokeless charcoal briquettes and distributes cook-clean stoves throughout Kenya. These briquettes are not only unique because they are smokeless but because they are sourced from alternative charcoal sources like a revitalized agricultural waste; indirectly combating deforestation.
Tom has teamed up with prominent institutions like General Electric, MIT, and Echoing Green, and its customers have reported that they experience efficiency and a cleaner cooking environment.
Coral Eyewear Founded By George Bailey
Coral Eyewear was started by Geroge Bailey (when he was 19 years old) while studying philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of East Anglia. George began researching sustainable materials, combining his passion for the environment, with his limited experience in the optical market.
Geroge Bailey teamed up with his university’s entrepreneurial fund and was later introduced to philanthropist and TV personality Jake Humphrey. Jake was already supporting UEA students through his scholarship and was immediately captivated by the Coral Eyewear idea, becoming an investor, a creative driving force, and Coral Eyewear’s first brand advocate.