People always ask me how I ended up getting February 15, 2017, declared as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in the state of Georgia. After all, I am just a 14-year-old girl. As Oprah once said: “Follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose.” I am fortunate to have found my passion at such a young age, and it has driven me to do all I can to save our Earth. I know that may be simplistic, so here is my story.
When I was 4, I realized that the actions we take can have an impact on our world. One day, after leaving a store, I said, “No one cares about our planet except for us”. My mom asked why I said that, and I replied, “Because no one brought their own reusable bags except for us.” So from a young age, I learned that protecting our Mother Earth started with us. Around the age of 10, my parents started exposing me to issues that were affected the animals I love, and so I started to really raise my voice to help the Earth and its animals. I raised money and awareness for various animal causes (it was difficult to focus on just one cause) by speaking at protests and rallies, collecting thousands of petitions to send to politicians, leading fundraisers, and producing educational videos to spread awareness of animal issues.
Around this time, I realized that one of the biggest problems facing wildlife is one that we CAN control - plastic pollution. For me, it’s difficult to see a problem and not do anything about it. Even though I am young, I felt through education I could get others to reduce their plastic consumption because I always believed that “Knowledge is Power”. If we all were truly aware of what is really going on, wouldn’t we all want to improve the situation?
After learning all I could about plastic pollution, and teaming up with several environmental organizations, and I started presenting to as many people as I could. Once I realized I was making a difference, but a small one, I decided to leverage the internet and share videos and other content to as many people as I could. While that idea was reaching more people, I still wasn’t satisfied. I then ended up networking with a local state senator. After showing him the impacts of plastic pollution on animals, I boldly requested that we create a day to educate the public about the dangers of plastic pollution. Together, we wrote a resolution that proclaimed February 15, 2017, as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia. After doing a lot of networking and marketing, the event was a huge success. It was attended by hundreds of people and seen by hundreds of thousands of local and national television watchers, newspapers readers, and internet viewers. My goal that on at least this one day, we will all commit to avoiding single use, disposable plastic products such as plastic bags, straws, cups, utensils, and bottles. Once you live without plastics for one day, you’ll likely realize that it is easy to make a more permanent lifestyle change and then we can really make a big impact!
There is no doubt that you too can do what I have done, to go out there and make a positive change in the world. Fuel your passion for helping animals and the environment by getting educated on the issues…remember, “Knowledge is Power”. Discuss the issues and share what you have learned. Network like crazy! And use the power of the internet and social media. Remember that us kids may be 25% of the world’s population, but we are 100% of the future! I hope you will join me to influence changes that help save our wonderful planet. Together, let’s change the world!
-Hannah Testa, Hannah4Change
Hannah was a featured speaker at the 2017 Green Schools Conference and Expo Student Summit. In her presentation, “Making Good Trouble,” Hannah followed the lead of Atlanta Civil Rights icon John Lewis to share how she found her voice and encourage more students to rise up to create sustainable change – activating more “good trouble.”