Greening Forward recognizes young people making a significant difference in our planet each year through our Earth Saver Award. One to three young people, ages 5-25, are celebrated every year for their achievements in leading environmental sustainability programs. Award winners receive focused mentorship, media attention, and often a cash prize to continue their efforts. These young people have rallied their communities around efforts that protect our air, water, land, and ultimately, our future.
Applicants are reviewed by an invitation-only process by Greening Forward’s staff and youth council. Please contact a Greening Forward Outreach Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the Earth Saver Award, or if you would like a personal introduction to one of the awardees.
Hasib Muhammad, a freshman at Harvard University, connected with young environmentalists from around the nation during his time working as Greening Forward’s Vice-President of Engagement. Hasib first became interested in environmental work after returning from a family trip to Bangladesh in the third grade. The experience of seeing the link between poverty and environmental degradation was eye-opening, and witnessing how the young people of Bangladesh wanted to make a change but lacked opportunities to do so left a powerful impact on Hasib. A perceptive young man, Hasib has a knack for getting to know what makes people tick. He attributes his success to his ability to empathize with others, his strong work ethic, and his dedication to projects he is passionate about. Through his work, he has learned that he is definitely not alone in wanting young people to make a change. He is inspired by youth coming together and amplifying their voices to try and create the change they want to see in the world. Hasib hopes to always retain his youthful, optimistic perspective and continue working with others to make the world a better place for generations to come.
Randy Priest, a young environmentalist residing in Atlanta, Georgia, received the 2015 Earth Savers Club Award for initiating projects that have greatly impacted his local community and high school. Randy’s main focus is on waste reduction and considers the Anti-Litter campaign at his high school, Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia, to be not only his most successful project but also his most significant personal achievement. This project involved implementing a variety of litter-removal tactics, encouraging students to refrain from littering, and promoting the idea of picking up litter as part of their civic duty. Additionally, Randy applied for recycling receptacles at Berkmar and created an eco-bench at his school in collaboration with Greening Forward’s CEO, Charles Orgbon III, and funded by the organization. Although the majority of Randy’s achievements occurred during his high school career, he first developed an interest in environmental issues in middle school, when Charles encouraged him to join the environmental club he ran. “Ever since then,” Randy says, “it has been a part of my life.” Although his involvement in the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band at University of Georgia occupies a great deal of his time, Randy looks forward to getting involved with environmental issues once again next semester, particularly in educating other students about recycling.
Milo Cress has been advocating sustainable straw practices since 2011 when he was 9 years old. He is the founder of the Be Straw Free Project which aims to reduce the amount of straws that people use. Milo realized how much space plastic straws take up in landfills, and he decided to take action by mobilizing young people. He has appeared on many media outlets promoting his work. I even saw an advertisement of Milo Cress’s work at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park! Through Be Straw Free, Milo has gotten the Colorado governor to proclaim a state-wide Be Straw Free Day, and he has spoken internationally about his sustainability efforts.
Brooklyn Wright is a young environmentalist and author from Atlanta, Georgia. For most of her life, she has been promoting environmental practices at schools and communities around the United States. She penned the storybook The Adventures of Earth Saver Girl to promote environmentalism in a creative and engaging way for young audiences. From litter to bullying, she speaks with poise and maturity as Earth Saver Girl. Brooklyn Wright has received numerous awards from the 2012 Barron Prize from Keep America Beautiful to an Eco Superhero Award from the Captain Planet Foundation.
Avalon Theison, 12, is an ambitious young environmentalist from Tampa, Florida. Avalon created Conserve It Forward because she wanted to share her love of amphibians to the world. Conserve It Forward better helps people connect with the environment, primarily through amphibian conservation. Her organization helps people understand the environmentalism can be fun! For instance, at many events, you can find Conserve It Forward presenting educational, fun, and interactive sessions. Avalon planned and ran Save the Frogs Day in Tampa for the past three years. Her future plans are to develop the Care Cans program, bringing nature to hospital patients.
Arfan Siddique, 18, is a recent graduate from Chamblee Charter High School in Chamblee, Georgia. Heavily involved in his community, he was vice-president of the Chamblee Charter High School Environmental Club. A major goal of the Environmental Club was making environmentalism more inclusive to the student body. Through his leadership, Arfan has worked with other school clubs to spearhead environmental problems. In addition, he created his own nonprofit organization, The Project CarryOn Foundation. Through his organization, Arfan has been able to spread awareness of arsenic poisoning and water-borne diseases in Bangladesh. Arfan is joining the ranks of Princeton University’s Class of 2017 this fall.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 12, a leader of Earth Guardians in Boulder, Colorado, traces his environmental activism to his heritage. “My dad is of the Aztec Tradition and I have always grown up knowing that all life is sacred and should be protected,” Xiuhtezcatl said. “In order to change the world, we have to change the way we think about earth and others,” Xiuhtezcatl continued. Xiuhtezcatl has organized over 35 rallies and actions and was the co-organizer of the biggest iMatter youth led march in the United States with over 2,000 participants. He was instrumental in working with City Council to get pesticides out of parks, coal ash contained, a fee on plastic bags, and end a 20 year contract with Xcel energy so the City could start moving towards becoming a municipal powered by renewable energy. He also started a performance group called “Voice of Youth” and he writes original music and lyrics to educate people about the Earth. He filed a suit against the State of Colorado and the Federal government for not protecting the atmosphere and endangering future generations. Xiuhtezcatl’s journey is shown in a WITNESS documentary.
Sean Russell, 19, founded a youth driven fishing line recycling and marine debris prevention initiative called the “Stow It-Don’t Throw It” Project. Sean grew up in Sarasota, admiring the beauty of the sea, but also witnessing how litter and debris can harm and kill wildlife. “Our ocean faces significant challenges, but it is important to not get overwhelmed with these challenges. Instead, each one of us must work together to protect these sensitive ecosystems for future generations to enjoy,” Sean said. Since this project began in September 2008, Sean has expanded his efforts to involve hundreds of youth in 17 Florida counties in the assembly and distribution of more than 3,500 personal-sized fishing line recycling bins. Sean has also managed strong partnerships with more than 25 environmental and youth organizations throughout the state of Florida and across the country to ensure the project’s sustainability. In November 2012, Sean brought together hundreds of these youth for a powerful Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the Mote Marine Laboratory.
During the summer of 2001, at age eleven Zander created a sea turtle workshop for children. For the past nine years, his interactive program called “Turtle Talks” has been shared with kids along with an out of the box marine science class. This fun with a purpose lecture always includes each child being given his free sea turtle activity book. In 2004, Zander wrote the Turtle Talks Activity Book, a children’s book to share with youth in coastal communities. The sea turtle book is available in five languages. He has also written two other children’s activity books, one on the Gopher Tortoise and one on freshwater turtles. There are over two hundred books in print.