Kid Heroes for the Planet

April 13, 2018
LOUI BREZZELL

You don’t have to be a superhero to help the environment. Even small, simple actions can add up to big change. People around the world will celebrate Earth Day on April 22. But anyone—including kids—can work to help the Earth at any time. TFK talked to a few kids about how they are protecting the planet. Let them inspire you!

Raising Her Voice

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny has another nickname: Little Miss Flint. Mari, 10, lives in Flint, Michigan. Since 2014, Flint residents have been without clean drinking water. That is when the water became polluted with lead. As a result of lead poisoning, children in Flint have suffered from health problems.

“We knew that the water wasn’t good,” Mari told TFK Kid Reporter Gitanjali Rao. “But we had no idea just how bad it was and that it was making us sick.” Mari has worked hard to spread awareness of Flint’s water crisis by organizing fundraisers and other events. In 2016, she inspired then-president Barack Obama to visit her hometown. “

Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter,” Mari says. “It may not always be easy, but you will find adults who support you and want to hear what you have to say.”

Testing the Water

DISCOVERY EDUCATION

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, prompted TFK Kid Reporter Gitanjali Rao, 12, to wonder about her own city’s water supply. Watching her parents test tap water at home in Lone Tree, Colorado, gave her an idea. “I realized that testing lead levels in water is not an easy process,” Gitanjali told TFK. “I wanted to do something about it.”

Her solution? Tethys. Named after the Greek goddess of fresh water, the device (pictured) is a cheap and easy way to test water quality. Users simply dip a sensor in water. A smartphone app can tell if the water contains lead.

Her invention earned Gitanjali the top prize in the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. “Do not be afraid to try solving a problem,” she says. “Ask yourself: ‘Why does this happen, and what can I do?’”

Ryan Recycles

COURTESY RYAN'S RECYCLING

At age 3, Ryan Hickman began a mission to clean up the environment—one can and bottle at a time. That was in 2012, when Ryan went with his dad to a recycling center near his home, in Orange County, California. The experience motivated Ryan, and the next day, he began collecting recyclables from neighbors. Soon, Ryan’s Recycling Company was born. “Recycling keeps bottles and cans out of the ocean,” Ryan, now 8, told TFK, “so animals don’t get sick [from them] and die.”

So far, Ryan has helped customers recycle 320,000 plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. He has also donated nearly $6,000 to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Recently, he launched an online challenge to his fans: Recycle 300,000 cans and bottles by May 1. To join Ryan’s recycling campaign, visit ryansrecycling.com.

Cheetah Champ

CARINE BOEKEE

Joris Hutchison, 11, has always loved cheetahs. So when the Seattle, Washington, student learned that the big cats might become extinct in his lifetime, he set out to help protect them.

Joris started fundraising. He sold T-shirts, flowers, and lemonade. He held garage sales and skating parties, too. “I’m just a normal kid who decided to do something about a problem,” Joris told TFK Kid Reporter Christopher Nguyen.

So far, Joris has raised more than $14,000. The money goes to a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, a country in Africa. It is used to buy special collars that track cheetahs. They help prevent the animals from being killed by farmers who believe the cats are a threat to their livestock. Joris says it is also important to share news and information about cheetah endangerment. “We need to raise awareness and tell people what’s happening,” he says. “It needs to be stopped.”