Eco-Warriors: When Kids Teach Kids

This month at orgayana we have looked at eco-warriors – the frontrunners and teachers who inspire our kids to become involved and help find solutions to how we as indviduals can help save the planet. But sometimes the amazing thing happens: the kids are ahead of their teachers and take the important issues into their own hands! These are the eco-warriors kids, who are also showing our children, that they can make a difference – even if you are just a kid.  Meet Isabel and Malati Wijsen from Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Ryan from Ryan’s Recycling and Carter and Olivia from One More Generation.

Ryan’s Recycling

Make a sustainable difference at 3-years-old? Have your own business before you ride a bike? …Is this really possible? Well, it is hard to believe – but after a visit to the local recycling center with his dad, California residing Ryan didn’t just see a good opportunity to make easy money, but a way he could make sure that his neighbours and friends would collect their bottles and cans for recycling.

Since he had the idea in 2012, 8-year-old Ryan has now collected 348.000 cans and bottles, had 35.000 kg’s recycled and donated 8.000 USD to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.  Ryan has appeared on CNN, ABC World News and “The Ellen Show”, but is still as passionate about recycling as 6 years ago. He spends his weeks and hours going through the bags of bottles and cans, and separates the glass, aluminium and plastics before taking them to the local redemption centre with his parents.  We asked Ryan a couple of questions on what’s it like to be an eco-warrior at such an early age – his dad helped him reply to our questions:

– What reactions have you had from kids when you’ve talked to them about your project?

When I talk to kids about recycling most of the time, they are excited to recycle and help save the planet with me.

– How do adults react, when they see that you as a child can make such an impact (and through that deliver such an important message to them)?

Most adults also want to help clean up the planet once they have heard my story and I explain to them how easy it is to recycle.

– Are you taken more or less serious as a child?

I think both adults and kids pay the same amount of attention when it’s one on one. I think it’s important for kids to take matters into their own hands because if kids start the habit when they are young of recycling and picking up trash when they see it, by the time they are older, it is something they are used to doing and they don’t even really have to

In your opinion why is it important for kids to take matters into their own hands?

I would advise anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps to start recycling small and have it grow as much as you have time for. Anyone can recycle and clean up the earth. I always say that I’m only 8 years old and if I can do it, then anyone can do it. Don’t don’t get discouraged if you can only recycle a little bit because every bit helps!

Any advice to other kids who would like to achieve what you have, where to start?

In six years, I’ve recycled 350,000 cans and bottles. It’s hard work sometimes but I like doing it and I like knowing that I helped make a difference in the world by not only recycling but also by telling people how they can do the same thing.

Ryan has built a sustainable business – also financially – at the age of 8, all while making sure that thousands of bottles aren’t ending up on the landfills or in the oceans. Follow Ryan’s progress and journey on his business page + instagram below.

Ryan’s Recycling Webpage + 


Bye Bye Plastic Bags

“Ban the use, sale and production of plastic bags from retailers” – nothing less. This is the mission statement from Bali residing sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen. Inspired by a lesson in class about significant change makers such as Mandela and Ghandi, the teenage-sisters decided to go in their footsteps and take one important matter into their own hands: they chose plastic.

In 2013 they set up the initiative Bye Bye Plastic Bags and created a 25-page booklet in Bahasa Indonesian with illustrations and explanations on waste management and the state of the ocean. With government help, the girls distributed the booklet to schools and soon after started the campaign to ‘sticker’ shops that were plastic bag free. By getting a BBPB sticker, you would get credit by being mentioned on the girls’ social media platforms.

The then 13 and 15-year-old sisters have now grown up and are now running a big youth-driven organisation, where they have spoken at over 200 events, donated 1500 booklets, given 13.000 alternative bags to local communities and expanded to the business to 16 other locations globally. See where and what you can do if you want to help or become and ambassador below.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ Webpage

One More Generation

At 8 and 7-years-old, Carter and Olivia Ries started their own non profit organisation to help educate children and adults about endangered species with the intention of preserving wildlife for at least ‘One More Generation’. And while educating themselves in marine wildlife, they discovered how plastic pollution and its environmental threats was also a big part of this risk of animal extinction. The siblings continued to create a Plastic and Recycling Curriculum for elementary schools and have now grown the organisation into one with many programs within Animal Conservation, Environmental Conservation and Youth Empowerment. The latest initiative is the “OneLessStraw” campaign, encouraging individuals, schools and businesses to remove straws, by making a pledge. Thousands of people and 600 companies have participated.

We spoke to Olivia Ries, now 18 years-old, about how it has been to communicate important messages like OMG’s to adults and kids, being a child yourself:

– Olivia, 9 years ago you formed OMG – what made you and your brother, at 7 and 8, take matters in your own hands? 

Our aunt traveled to South Africa and brought us back a certificate saying we were proud adoptive parents of cheetahs. A year later, when it was time to renew the adoptions, I asked my dad “why do animals even need to be adopted?” and when he explained, that unless there we people helping to save the animals there may not be any left for when we get older. So, we knew we needed to do something to help.

– What reactions have you had from kids when you’ve spoken to them about this project? 

Most kids are very excited to help and make a difference. There are some kids that aren’t that interested but our goal is to get at least one kid to see that they can make a difference.

– How has it affected adults, when you as kids have delivered these important messages to them? 

Many adults may not listen to the youth just because we are kids. But then there are some adults that are interested in what the youth of today has to say.   Some people will help us, and some don’t take us seriously. We just have to keep trying to make a difference.

– In your opinion why is it important for kids to take matters into their own hands? 

Well, our parents made this mess and it is important for the youth of today to clean it up so that our future will have a clean and safe planet.

– any advice to other kids who would like to achieve what you have, where to start? 

Start with an idea, and never give up. If we can make a difference you can too.

Read more about OneMoreGeneration here + make your pledge in the OneLessStraw Campaign here.


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