Seven young scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and activists from across the globe have been named UNEP’s 2020 Young Champions of the Earth. Each of these dynamic environmentalists will now receive seed funding, intensive training and tailored mentoring to amplify their incredible efforts.
UNEP’s Young Champions awards aim to identify, support and celebrate outstanding individuals aged between 18 and 30 with big ideas to protect or restore the environment.
The winners – chosen from a total of 845 applicants across regions – were selected for their fresh approach to tackling the world’s most pressing environmental crises, with ground-breaking, scalable and innovative ideas. With solutions to harvest water from the air, recycle plastic into paving slabs, and motivate fishing boats to haul tonnes of plastic out of the ocean, these change-makers show how innovative ideas coupled with ambitious action can help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
The seven 2020 Young Champions of the Earth are:
Fatemah Alzelzela, West Asia (Kuwait, 24)
Fatemah started Eco Star, a non-profit recycling initiative that exchanges trees and plants for waste from homes, schools and businesses in Kuwait. Since launching in early 2019, Eco Star has recycled over 130 tonnes of metal, paper and plastic.
Lefteris Arapakis, Europe (Greece, 26)
Lefteris founded the start-up Enaleia, through which the team trains, empowers and incentivises the local fishing community to collect plastic from the sea, allowing both fish stocks and the ecosystem to recover. Enaleia is also prototyping recycling the plastic into fashion merchandise like socks and swimsuits.
Max Hidalgo Quinto, Latin America & The Caribbean (Peru, 30)
Max founded Yawa, building portable wind turbines that harvest up to 300 litres of water per day from atmospheric humidity and mist.
Nzambi Matee, Africa (Kenya, 28)
Nzambi, a materials engineer and head of Gjenge Makers, which produces sustainable low-cost construction materials made of recycled plastic waste and sand.
Niria Alicia Garcia, North America (USA, 28)
Niria coordinates – alongside a community of indigenous activists – the annual Run 4 Salmon event using virtual reality to bring to life the historical journey of the Sacramento chinook salmon along California’s largest watershed, raising awareness of this invaluable ecosystem, the species and
people it supports.
Vidyut Mohan, Asia & The Pacific (India, 29)
Vidyut co-founded Takachar, which builds affordable and portable biomass upgrading equipment, allowing farmers to earn extra income and prevent open burning by converting crop waste into fuels, fertilizers and activated carbon.
Xiaoyuan Ren, Asia & The Pacific (China, 29)
Xiaoyuan leads MyH2O, a data platform that tests and records the quality of groundwater across a thousand villages in rural China into an app so residents know where to find clean water. The platform also educates communities about sources of contamination and connects villages with potable water companies.