Action for Nature Honors 14 Bold Young Eco-Heroes

Photo: Photos of the Lorax Facility Built by Sarah Jo Lambert
Working in Communities from Texas to Germany to Tackle Tough Environmental Problems

If you think all teens want to do is hang out at the mall, think again.

The fourteen extraordinary winners of Action For Nature’s International Young Eco-Heroes Award for 2010 aren’t shopping for cute boots. They’re designing and building environmental centers, keeping water supplies safe, reforesting their communities and educating their peers. With creativity, drive and a deep concern for the future of the planet, they are tackling some of the globe’s most urgent problems with kid power.

Every year since 2003, Action For Nature (AFN), a U.S.-based non-profit, has recognized young people ages 8-16 who are taking important steps to solve tough environmental problems. Youth from countries around the world, hoping to be selected, send in their stories and explain their work. A panel of judges including experts in environmental science, biology and education determines the year’s winners.

Meet the 2 first place winners of the 2 age categories for this year.

Felix Finkbeiner: Paul, Germany, Age: 12, First Place
(Category 9 to 13 years old)

For 12-year-old Felix Finkbeiner of Germany what started off as a small class presentation about deforestation and the need to plant trees quickly grew into a global youth effort to protect the environment. Felix told his classmates, “Let’s get children all over the world to plant one million trees in their countries.”

Felix began to present at schools across Germany, recruiting youth for his cause. Invited to speak at the 2009 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Tunza Conference in South Korea, he urged other youth to take up the cause around the world. Five hundred youth from 54 countries responded.

Felix joined the United Nations organization, Plant-for-the-Project, where he now serves as a spokesperson. He was elected by youth to serve on the Tunza Junior Board, which advises UNEP on how to best appeal to and educate youth around the planet about environmental issues.

Already one million trees have been planted in Germany, and Felix continues his international effort to encourage young people in other countries to match his goal.

Sarah Jo Lambert: Lubbock, Texas, Age: 16, First Place
(Category 13 to 16 years old)

When 16-year-old Sarah Jo Lambert of Texas decided to go green two years ago, she had a big vision. In addition to wanting to provide local teachers with an environmental curriculum, she also wanted to build an entire environmental education center at a camp near her home. She knew she couldn’t tackle it alone, so she forged partnerships with youth groups and local companies.

Working with EarthCo Building Systems, Sarah Jo spent more than 425 hours helping build the earth block construction eco-center over two years. She learned to drive a backhoe and dump truck, and she worked on the construction tasks alongside the builders. She recruited more than 2,000 people to help build and/or donate to her cause, and together they volunteered more than 1,000 hours of work.

When the eco-center was completed in spring 2010, she named it the Lorax Lodge, after a Dr. Seuss character. “Even though Dr. Seuss used all these crazy words, he really knew what he was talking about,” Sarah Jo said. “He knew how to get kids involved.”

(listed in alphabetical order, click here to see full details)

  1. Eric Babb: Highland, Utah, Age: 14, Second Place - Recruited more than 1,000 people to help remove invasive plants.
  2. Gates Bierhuizen: Culpeper, Virginia, Age: 15, Third Place - Founded a pharmaceutical take-back program to protect his local water supply.
  3. Connor Cass: Tulsa,Oklahoma, Age: 14, Honorable Mention - Reforested Tulsa with 400 trees and provided youth with 600 saplings to plant.
  4. Sarah Connor: Northport, New York, Age: 10, Second Place - Supported environmental issues and tree planting through her lemonade stand and web site.
  5. Aitan Grossman: Palo Alto, California, Age: 13, Honorable Mention - Wrote and composed a song about climate change and global warming and distributed it worldwide.
  6. Muthamizh M.: Tamilnadu, India, Age: 15, Third Place - Campaigned against global warming and climate change, reaching out to 4,000 people.
  7. Liam Bane O’Neil: Durango, Colorado, Age: 11, Second Place - Started a sustainable community garden for both local people and wildlife.
  8. Jordyn Schara: North Freedom, Wisconsin, Age: 15, Honorable Mention - Founded a local chapter of a pharmaceutical take-back program and educated others about the issue.
  9. Elodie Sihan: Ivory Coast, Age: 16, Second Place - Put a stop to bush fires by recruiting friends and educating locals in five villages.
  10. Brandon Wood: Kissimmee, Florida, Age: 9, Honorable Mention - Raised funds to transport a laboratory chimpanzee to a sanctuary.
  11. Asad Zaidi: Punjab, Pakistan, Age: 16, Honorable Mention - Started an environmental education campaign and presented it to 1,650 students.
  12. Alexander James Zerphy: Annapolis, Maryland, Age: 13, First Place - Started a non-profit to protect horseshoe crabs and educate local youth about them.