A $200,000 global environmental sustainability competition for young people launches today with the aim of unearthing great ideas and making them a reality.
The Earth Prize is a global initiative that connects young people and schools with a worldwide eco-system of experts, university students, sustainability experts, and change-makers, to develop ideas into solutions that can make a genuine difference. The prize is part of the Earth Foundation, a Swiss non-profit that aims to gather great ideas from young people and give them a platform to share them to effect change.
Open to ages 13 to 19, the prize gives schools and their student teams access to bespoke sustainability education content to help champion learning and inspire young talent. Schools and colleges participating in the competition will have free access to sustainability education materials to support their students and mentoring from university students and guidance from sustainability experts, and change-makers will give teenage students the opportunity to explore and build upon their ideas while they gain vital, real-world skills. A panel of world-renowned sustainability experts is being assembled to adjudicate The Earth Prize, along with a cohort of high-profile ambassadors to provide a springboard for each young innovator’s game-changing ideas.
Lesein Mutunkai, footballer, youth climate activist, 2020 eco-hero and founder of Trees4Goals is one of the young change-makers being profiled during the competition to encourage young people to get involved.
“When you want to see change the important thing is to act now," said Lesein.
"The planet needs us to. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how small of an impact you may think you’ll have, we can all make a difference. One of my heroes is Professor Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan professor who won the Nobel Peace Prize. She told the Story of the Hummingbird, a bird who didn’t want to sit by and watch a forest burn and it’s what inspired me to start Trees for Goals. The Hummingbird was small, but the story shows that even a small bird can make a difference. We should all be part of this. We don’t need to wait until we finish school, or until we’re 20, or 30. The important thing is to take that first step and start making a difference.”
For schools and colleges taking part, Philip Clegg from Bradfield College pinpoints the ability to apply sustainability education to authentic issues as a major benefit.
“For young people, being able to take action, create something and have the potential for financial as well as emotional reward is a powerful combination. I think The Earth Prize has come at exactly the right time. It’s an opportunity for different schools and different people from across the world to work together and bring about real change.”
The winning team and school will receive $100,000, divided between the school and students, for environmental projects and scholarships, respectively. Three finalist schools will receive grants of $25,000 each. The remaining $25,000 will be equally divided between The Earth Prize Mentor of the Year, chosen by participating students, and The Earth Prize Educator of the Year, selected by Professor Mario Salomone, secretary general of the World Environmental Education Congress Network and founder of the original Earth Prize. The Earth Foundation Alumni Association, a community of inspirational individuals and organisations, will then be available to all participants in The Earth Prize, offering further mentorship, networking, internships, and professional placement opportunities.
Asked about the main driver for the competition, founder Peter McGarry, highlighted the role he believes young people can play in finding solutions to some of the issues facing the planet.
“The world needs fresh, unpolluted ideas, and young people’s capacity for creativity is a huge, untapped asset. We want to help bridge the gap by supporting and inspiring students to imagine real-world solutions, then connecting them to mentors and experts to accelerate positive change.”