The Great Global Cleanup

How the next generation of activists are tackling one of the biggest climate issues

Key Takeaways: Earth Day Live – Community and Youth Activism: The Next Generation

Environmental youth activists are the future of our planet, with our youngest generations set to inherit a planet plagued by the devastating effects of global climate change. Perhaps one of the most prevalent environmental issues, plastic pollution, is being faced head on by youth activists around the world. 

On March 31st, 2022, EARTHDAY.ORG hosted a panel of youth activists discussing the importance of addressing plastic pollution, as well as ways they are creating change in their communities and countries worldwide. 

Moderated by Broadcaster and Journalist Colm Flynn, the panel included Lefteris Arapakis of Greece, Lilith (Lilly) Electra Platt of The Netherlands, Pedro Urioste of Brazil, and Heidi Solba of Estonia. 

Pedro Urioste is a 16-year-old activist working on the interconnectedness of Brazil’s social and environmental issues. Brazil is not new to the environmental crisis, suffering decades worth of deforestation and pollution. While progress continues to be made, Pedro believes more needs to be done. Currently, only 3% of recyclable material in Brazil is actually being recycled. Polluted neighborhoods in Brazil is a social issue as well, with Pedro noting, “When we talk about plastic and we talk about pollution in general, we must always remember who are the ones who must carry the burden of all of this pollution.”

Pedro currently works with Limpia Brasil and founded the Youth Who Clean Program, which aims at promoting cleaning efforts and lectures in local schools. 

On the other side of the world, Lilith (Lilly) Electra Platt is working to inspire people to reduce their plastic usage. At just 13-years-old, Lilly has founded Lilly’s Plastic Cleanup. She estimates that she has collected over 200,000 pieces of garbage since her movement started. When asked about why she believes people litter, Lilly simply stated, “A lot of people just think it’s convenient,” adding that people genuinely might know the consequences of their actions but do it anyway. 

Lefteris Arapakis, Co-founder and Director of Enaleia, works at motivating fishing communities to clean up plastic pollution in our oceans. Coming from a family of fishermen himself, Lefteris is no stranger to the amount of plastic pollution in our water. Rather than collecting trash and plastic that gets caught in fishing nets, Lefteris noticed that most fishermen simply threw it back in the ocean. Rather than continuing to be part of the problem, Lefteris set off to organize a movement in his community to be part of the solution through plastic collection. Lefteris has even joined forces with recycling companies to refurbish this plastic into something new, like clothes. 

Lefteris sees plastic pollution as an economic failure. He states, “We need to go from a linear economy to a circular economy. We need to make sure that the products and the plastic can be recycled and we use less virgin plastic overall.”

Finally, Heidi Solba works with the Lets Do It Movement, operating in over 164 countries worldwide. Heidi emphasizes the duty of humans to our planet, and shifting our mindset and behavior to greener societies. Heidi states, “Cleanups are a really great opportunity to realize and bring the people into the action and realize what is the waste and to see the waste and understand their behavior…through cleanups we are actually changing the people’s behavior.” Seeing youth activists around the world motivates Heidi to keep pushing for global change. 

Offering their final remarks on the future of environmental activists, all four panelists showed an overwhelming sense of optimism. Young people are motivated to act on climate change because they are the ones forced to carry the burden. Lilly expressed her passion for environmental change, stating, “As a person of the youth, I really think that we deserve a planet that everyone else has seen…no one deserves a corrupted and polluted wasteland.”

Here at EARTHDAY.ORG, you too can be an activist in your community. Contact local congress members and calculate your personal plastic footprint through EARTHDAY.ORG’s End Plastic Pollution Campaign. Want to participate in a cleanup in your area? Find a cleanup near you or register a cleanup in your community. Together, we can end plastic pollution and create a beautiful home for future generations.