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Giving them a voice

American teen Hannah Testa has been crusading for animal rights and ecological balance for the majority of her young life.

May 30, 2018 02:35 pm | Updated May 31, 2018 10:43 am IST

“Mother Earth is sending us signals that she is struggling. Us young people will inherit the planet so we need to step up, band together, and take care of our world now — before it is too late.” Wise words, from a young soul. Meet Hannah Testa, an eco-activist and a youth leader. Since the age of four, she has been actively involved in making the planet a better place for its inhabitants — including animals, and the earth itself.

At age 10, she collected petitions to spur action against rhino poaching in South Africa. The same year, she was featured by CBS News, when she led a fundraiser for a horse rescue farm. When she was 12, she raised funds for baby elephants. In 2014, she founded Hannah4Change (www.hannah4change.org), a platform to educate people about issues affecting the planet and its wildlife. In the last few years, her work has only gotten bigger.

The 15-year-old, based out of Cumming, Georgia, the U.S., already has several achievements and awards under her belt for her efforts. She is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Captain Planet Foundation’s Youth Superhero for Earth Award, and was named CNN Teen Earth Day Hero. The teen has partnered with various prestigious organisations and has been named Ambassador of Plastic Pollution Coalition, the 5 Gyres Institute, and the Lonely Whale Foundation. She is also on the Advisory Board of 5 Gyres Institute and a Co-President of Animal Hero Kids.

Making waves

Reducing plastic pollution is one of the main causes Hannah champions. She has presented to thousands, spreading the word on what they can do starting right from home. Hannah also leverages social media channels including Twitter and YouTube to educate her audiences on the impacts that plastic pollution has on the environment. The high school student has even taken on large corporations, like Starbucks, Costco, and Chick-fil-A, pitching ideas for them to reduce their plastic footprint.

In 2017, she partnered with a Georgia senator to designate February 15 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in the state. Hannah was able to recreate the day this year. A resolution making it official (and commending Hannah for her involvement and commitment to environmental sustainability) was read on the Georgia State Senate floor. Hannah gave an impassioned speech to all 56 state senators there. The resolution also aims to educate Georgians about the harms of plastic pollution.

Her work is making waves elsewhere too — recently, American basketball star LeBron James featured a clip of Hannah, encouraging people to reduce plastic usage, in one of his Instagram stories.

For the future, Hannah is considering either marine biology or advocacy work, through the United Nations or local politics. “Whatever path I take, I still want to make a difference in the world and inspire the next generation to act,” says Hannah.

Want to start some environmentalism of your own?

Hannah tells you how: “The best way to get started in conservation is to get educated and informed: once you understand the impact of plastic pollution and other environmental challenges, it is almost impossible not to take action and help. About five years ago, I watched a documentary called “Plastic Paradise” and after seeing it, I knew that I had to not only reduce the amount of disposable plastics I use but also that I had to use my powerful voice to educate others so they could change their ways. So get informed — knowledge is power!"

One simple step she is urging people to take is to stop using plastic drinking straws. Straws are harmful to marine animals.

You might think straws are no big deal, but consider this: Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws a day. There are many alternatives to plastic straws, including not using straws at all. If you feel you must have a straw (or need one for medical reasons), there are great, long-lasting, biodegradable paper straw alternatives. There are also glass and stainless steel straws that are made by leading companies.

Fun fact: Hannah shared with us that she is of Indian descent. Her grandparents were born in Mauritius, but her ancestors are from India!

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