Easing youth eco-anxiety: Meet the winners of The Earth Prize 2024

The Earth Prize. Image credit: The Earth Foundation

Easing youth eco-anxiety: Meet the winners of The Earth Prize 2024

The Earth Prize, the world’s largest environmental competition for teenagers, is igniting a new wave of hope for the future among young people worldwide. Launched by The Earth Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit, the competition has already engaged over 10,000 students from 154 countries and territories since 2021. 

This year, The Earth Prize awarded $100,000 to the top teams and their schools for their groundbreaking ideas to combat climate change. From predicting floods to creating eco-diapers, saving energy, and protecting crops, the competition serves as a platform for young people to channel their eco-anxiety into actionable solutions.

FloodGate: Pioneering flood prediction technology

This year’s winning team, FloodGate from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, developed a groundbreaking flood prediction and warning technology. Motivated by the frequent flooding in their state, the team created a scalable solution to protect communities worldwide. 

Their technology, soon to be available as an app, aims to help governmental organizations, agencies, and individuals plan for flood events, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives globally.

One way to describe The Earth Prize is unparalleled. The opportunities that you’re going to get from competing in this competition are just going to drive your passion and your project to the next level. The things that people our age are creating across the globe is just wonderful—seeing other people pursue these types of ideas are also changing the way we think about our project, pushing us to make edits and make our project even better. I think our generation is starting to really spark change and innovate new solutions, and I’m really excited to see in the next twenty years or so what we are going to do. — Sumedh Kotrannavah, from the Winning team FloodGate. 
The Earth Prize winning team FloodGate from the United States. Image Credit: The Earth Foundation.

The Earth Prize winning team FloodGate from the United States has invented a revolutionary flood prediction and warning technology that can save hundreds of thousands of lives globally. Image credit: The Earth Foundation

Innovative runner-up teams

The three runner-up teams also presented remarkable solutions. Team CocoMellow from Vietnam created eco-friendly diapers from coconut coir and banana fibers to combat single-use product waste. From Türkiye, Team Ceres used plasma technology to protect crops from environmental damage, while Team Pebble from the UK developed software that pools computer power to reduce energy consumption. Each of these teams exemplifies the innovative spirit and determination of today’s youth.

Empowering educators and mentors

The Earth Prize also recognizes outstanding educators and mentors. This year, Aashna Saraf, founder and CEO of CreatED innovation hub in Mumbai, India, was awarded Educator of the Year. The Mentor of the Year awards went to Elham Ashrafizadeh (University of Toronto, Canada), Fransisca Majala Mwaila (Kenyatta University, Kenya), and Yoong Sze Yeong (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). These individuals have played a crucial role in guiding and inspiring the young participants.

Runner-up Team CocoMellow from Vietnam. Image Credit: The Earth Foundation.

Runner-up Team CocoMellow from Vietnam developed eco-friendly diapers using coconut coir and banana fibers to reduce single-use product waste. Image credit: The Earth Foundation

The creation of The Earth Prize

The Earth Prize was launched by The Earth Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit organization based in Geneva. The idea for the competition emerged from a desire to empower and educate young people to address pressing environmental issues. Peter McGarry, Founder of The Earth Foundation, saw the need for an initiative that would go beyond awareness-raising and inspire actionable solutions among teenagers.

In an interview with One Earth, McGarry explained, “We wanted to create something that would provide young people with the tools and platform to not only understand the environmental challenges we face but to also actively contribute to solving them. Marching and protests are important, but we wanted to offer a next step—something that would inspire long-term engagement and innovation.”

Recognizing the pivotal age group of high school students, The Earth Foundation designed the competition to target ages 13 to 19. This age group was chosen because it is a formative period when young people are exploring their interests and career paths. By engaging them at this stage, The Earth Prize aims to influence their future educational and professional choices towards sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Addressing environmental anxiety among youth

The Earth Prize addresses the growing eco-anxiety among young people by providing a platform for proactive engagement with environmental issues. 

A recent study revealed that 59% of young people are very or extremely concerned about climate change, with over 45% reporting that these worries negatively impact their daily lives and functioning. The competition offers a path to positive action, enabling young people to contribute to real-world solutions and inspiring hope for a sustainable future.

The Earth Foundation Founder Peter McGarry and CEO Angela McCarthy visit Peter's former high school, Naas CBS, in Kildare, Ireland. Image Credit: The Earth Foundation.

The Earth Foundation Founder Peter McGarry and CEO Angela McCarthy visit Peter's former high school, Naas CBS, in Kildare, Ireland. Image Credit: The Earth Foundation. 

The future of The Earth Prize

Looking ahead, The Earth Foundation plans to introduce regional winners to ensure broader representation and impact. McGarry shared, “Next year, we will announce seven regional winners, ensuring that teams from different parts of the world are recognized. This will help level the playing field and inspire more young people to participate.”

As Angela McCarthy, CEO of The Earth Foundation, eloquently sums up The Earth Prize initiative:

The Earth Prize is much more than a competition. It galvanizes the world’s youth to act in a positive way on behalf of the environment. Every year, and within the span of five months, the innovative minds of young people worldwide produce remarkable solutions to specific environmental sustainability problems. Given the critical challenges facing our planet, their contributions couldn't be more pertinent. Through initiatives like The Earth Prize competition, we prioritize listening to the voices of youth, fostering a world where their ideas can shape the future.
Learn More About The Earth Prize

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