An elementary student from North Carolina was recently awarded a $2,500 prize for his environmental action campaign involving sustainable packaging.
Second grade student Cole Rasenberger was asked to write a government official on behalf of an endangered species for a class project.
Instead, he decided to take action on behalf of an entire ecosystem that was very close to his heart: the threatened forests of the United States.
Rasenberger contacted and exchanged several emails with representatives of the Dogwood Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting Southern forests, before they realized he was only nine years old!
Through the Alliance, Rasenberger learned that many of North Carolina’s coastal forests are owned by large paper packaging mills, and are being destroyed to make paper for fast-food restaurants.
After hearing this distressing news, Rasenberger decided to personally convince the McDonald’s CEO use less packaging and more recycled paper at the chain’s fast-food restaurants.
Rasenberger hand-drew four postcards representing different forest habitats for his campaign. But he knew that wouldn’t be enough.
Betting that many voices would speak louder than just his own, Rasenberger printed 2,250 postcards – enough for his entire school. He wrote a speech explaining his research and project, and over the course of three days, led a team of 24 students as they stormed all 51 classrooms to present the speech and get the postcards signed.
Very soon after sending the cards, Rasenberger heard back from McDonald’s, which informed him that they would soon be switching their bags to 100 percent recycled paper.
“I have learned that children do have a voice in the world and can make changes, Rasenberger said.
For his inspriational efforts, Rasenberger was awarded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, an award that honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant, positive difference to people and our planet.
Check out the other young eco-heroes here!