Earth Day is April 22. It’s a day when people around the world work to help the planet. But many people, including kids, are passionate about protecting the Earth and its inhabitants every day. TIME for Kids spoke with a few of them. Read here about five Kid Heroes for the Planet. Maybe they’ll inspire you to take action, too!
Jaysa Hunter-Mellers (above) is a 14-year-old from Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 2016, she spoke at Bridgeport City Hall to ask leaders to shut down the last coal-fired power plant in her state. It was just two miles from Jaysa’s house.
“I had an asthma attack when I was 6,” Jaysa told TFK. This inspired her and her mom to research how coal gas can cause and worsen health problems. “I didn’t think that people would listen to me because I was a kid,” Jaysa says. But after her speech, the company that owns the coal plant promised to close it.
Now Jaysa’s working to raise awareness about the importance of civics education. Civics teaches about the rights and duties of citizens. “I learned to speak to my local government at a young age,” she says. “But a lot of people, not just kids, don’t know how to do this.” —By Constance Gibbs
Helping ButterfliesAZUMI YUKI ART STUDIO LLC
When Aiden Wang was 6, his teacher taught him about the monarch butterfly and explained that it’s in trouble. Monarchs need milkweed plants to survive, but these plants have been disappearing because of weed killers called herbicides. So Aiden started growing milkweed at his home in West Windsor Township, New Jersey. The plants attract monarchs, and the insects lay eggs on them. Aiden cares for the caterpillars and releases them when they become butterflies.
Aiden’s now 13. “It’s not easy taking care of monarchs, but I like taking care of things,” he told TFK. In 2019, Aiden released 399 monarchs. He thinks others should grow milkweed, too. “That might really help,” he says. —By Karena Phan
Doing Good for GorillasCOURTESY SARAH BARRETT
Addy Barrett, from Germantown, Maryland, has a favorite animal: the mountain gorilla. When she was in first grade, she read a book about mountain gorillas. Addy was surprised to learn that they’re endangered because of poaching and habitat loss. She wanted to protect them. That’s why Addy started Gorilla Heroes. The group raises money for the animals with lemonade stands and a Gorilla Gala.
Addy’s now 12 years old. So far, Gorilla Heroes has raised more than $11,000 for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Ellen Fund. Why does Addy care so much about mountain gorillas? She says it’s because the species “is so remarkably intelligent and shares many of the same emotions that we do.”
She adds, “The feeling of making a positive impact on the world is like no other. It feels so good to know that I am making a difference.” —By Ellen Nam
Educating the YouthCOURTESY AFFECTED GENERATION
In fourth grade, Jeremy Clark (left) and Charlie Abrams saw an image of the Statue of Liberty up to her waist in water. The image, on the cover of National Geographic, was a projection of what the statue would look like if all the ice in the world melted. “That’s not what we wanted for our generation or for future generations,” Jeremy told TFK.
The boys, who are now in high school in Portland, Oregon, have teamed up to fight climate change. In 2019, they founded Affected Generation, a nonprofit organization that encourages young people to get involved in climate activism. The group has other goals, too. One of them is to push Portland Public Schools to teach a climate-change curriculum. Why is that mission so important? “Because you can’t take action on an issue if you don’t know about it first,” Charlie says. —By Rebecca Mordechai