Nadia Sparks, age 12
Nadia’s story is triumphant. Having set about collecting rubbish along her cycling route to school, her green habits caught the attention of some bullies who took it upon themselves to try to mock her by calling her ‘Trash Girl’. “Eventually I came home distraught because of the way they were treating me, explains Nadia. “They were yelling ‘Trash Girl’ at me and telling me to get down and pick up their rubbish. They said it was my job and would tell me that they had left rubbish outside the school for me on purpose. They even threw plastic bottles at my head.” Supported by her family, Nadia’s response was to own this catchy moniker and, having caught the eye of a local creative agency, soon found herself immortalised as a superhero character. ‘Trash Girl’ became a symbol of hope and positivity. Nadia’s story went viral and inspired thousands of fans to start following her on social media. She became one of the youngest ever ambassadors for the WWF and is now viewed as being one of the most energetic young environmental campaigners in the UK. Nadia says “I’m not going to stop. Growing up now we are facing something in our lives that no other generation ever has. I will be continuing to collect the bottles and cans that line my route to and from school. I also collect rubbish anywhere that I walk.”
Representing her whole class at Damers School, 8-year old Rachael has spent the last school year involved in a plethora of anti-plastic campaigns. From getting local businesses including Waitrose and parents to collect printing cartridges and toners for recycling to challenging their school to become plastic-free, Rachael and her classmates demonstrated that teamwork can reap the most incredible rewards when Damers First School was awarded Plastic Free School Status by Surfers Against Sewage. They were highly praised for involving their community. The Eco Reps & Entrepreneurs group from the school are entering the Santander Young Enterprise Fiver Challenge. This year’s product is Waxtastic No Plastic. Waxtastic is cling film alternative made from 100% cotton dipped in beeswax. It lasts for up to a year and is 100% eco-friendly.
Tara O’Grady, 10
Problem-solving and a passion for detail was the motivation Class 5F (represented by Tara) from Europa School needed to campaign against the use of plastic cutlery in their school. Unfazed by the barriers ahead, they talked to their teacher who suggested that the whole class worked as a team to solve this problem. Sure enough, when all the class put all their minds together they came up with amazing ways to make their school a greener place. These included setting up a stall to fundraise for new recycling bins and biodegradable cutlery. Kickstarting action in their school has led to a cultural shift in the awareness of environmental issues and the summer fete even featured a quirky dustbin recycling game to get parents involved.
Heather Kent, 10
Showing that inspiration to protect our planet can come from the most unexpected ideas, Heather Kent from the Cotswolds decided that litter-picking through Lent would be her launch into the world of environmental excellence. “I collected at least one carrier bag of litter a day and people sponsored me along the way. I raised £887.31 for three of my chosen causes, On one of my litter picks I filled three bin bags with 97 plastic bottles. I was shocked when I found out that it would take 450 years for one of the plastic bottles to decompose. This was just in a small area in a stream near my home.” It was tough going at times. Heather says, “During my Lent litter picks I had to face picking in cold snow. It was hard to collect a bag of litter but I kept going until I did.” But she continued, fired up by her passion; “I do what I do because I don’t want the food chain to be broken as animals can become ill and even die if they eat plastic. I want a clean world in the future for future generations.”
Even a small action can create a huge effect and for Heather, this is just the beginning of her journey. Inspired by the reaction of her local community, she has started to take her cause direct to the big brands who are creating packaging that takes hundreds of years to disappear. The judges were impressed by Heathers ‘can-do’ attitude and look forward to seeing how her involvement in 16 Under 16 will help to take her passions to the next level.
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