The 2022 GEEP Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC) gave young people (ages 15–30) around the world a chance to come up with innovative solutions to a pressing environmental issue affecting our marine ecosystems, using environmental education as a key strategy. From our amazing finalists, three winners were chosen to receive a $1000 USD prize!
Check out our 2022 Youth Innovation Challenge Winners and Finalists below!
Reducing Debris in Akassa Marine Environment Through Social Behavioural Change
Addressing the problem of marine debris in his region, Mac-Donald Taribio Jim-Dorgu aims to organize and facilitate town hall meetings with influential community leaders—including traditional rulers, youth leaders, women groups, faith-based organizations, and leaders of African traditional religion—across 20 coastal communities in Nigeria. The goal of this solution is to use environmental education as a lifelong learning tool to inculcate awareness of the importance of marine ecosystems in relation to human health, food security, equity, and climate change. The town hall meetings will use research-based communication tools, including Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and Community Mapping (CM) to explore the causes, effects, and solutions to marine debris in these communities. Through these town hall meetings, communities will be encouraged to develop Community By-Laws against pollution and littering practices, and Community Marine Protection Vanguards to protect nearby coasts. This solution will also get community members involved through organized beach cleanups, where volunteers can sell the plastic they collect to local recycling companies.
Kyo Lee | Waterloo, Canada
The Ocean's Story: Performing Arts to Save the Sea
After noticing the vast number of audiences reached by her school's grand musicals, Kyo Lee envisioned The Ocean's Story, a school-wide theatrical project designed to mitigate the impacts of marine pollution in every stage of the production, from scripting to performance to education. In collaboration with her school's drama department, Kyo's project will include a five-step process to write and perform a theatrical piece that would educate the community about marine debris in her region. The first step of this process will involve environmental education about marine debris and then will mobilize students to collect litter through a community-wide beach cleanup. Materials from the beach cleanup that can be reused will later be used to create costumes, props, and sets. The next steps of the process include student-led scriptwriting using research on the issue of marine debris, prop and set design, and a grand performance for the community. The performance will be an opportunity to raise awareness for marine pollution within the region, imbuing thought, discussion, and action that will create a positive ripple effect for the wider community.
Muhamad Zulhairil Danial Bin Mohd Zulkifli,Nur Fatin Fitrah Binti Ahmad Kamal, Nur Syadhira Binti Mohd Razali, & Muhammad Ismar Izhar Bin Ishak | Terengganu, Malaysia
Recognizing the presence of debris in rivers and its harm to waterways and ultimately the ocean, Muhamad Zulhairil Danial Bin Mohd Zulkifli (Zulhairil) and team came up with a solution called Litter Barrier. Little Barrier is a floating litter trap made out of affordable (and glow-in-the-dark) materials that can be placed along the shoreline of river beds to collect floating debris. This is a feasible way to kickstart river management among local communities in Terengganu. With a focus on youth, this team will host workshops and lectures to provide education about the problem of marine debris and give tutorials on using Litter Barrier to local communities. Any plastic collected in the litter traps can be sold to recycling companies, providing a source of income for local community members.
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How can we involve young people in efforts to protect marine environments? Fajana Samuel Ayomikun (Samuel) is doing so through an Eco Village Bootcamp in Araromi Seaside, a coastal village in Ondo State, Nigeria. Through a curriculum curated to the local languages as well as problem-solving activities, this boot camp will provide 100 young people the opportunity to explore environmental issues related to ocean conservation and marine debris. The overarching goal of this boot camp is to increase climate change awareness and provide avenues for young community members to manage ocean debris through recycling efforts. Samuel plans to work with a local youth-led conservation organization, Elomgreenie, which is an organization he recently collaborated with to host a week-long ocean conservation awareness outreach program.
The Tranquil Tides: A Gamified Marine Debris Journey to Reestablish Oceanic Relationships
While learning about the importance of the ocean, it’s often hard for those who live away from the coast to feel connected to ocean-related issues. Addressing her own experiences as someone who lives hundreds of miles away from the coast, Mehak Arora came up with The Tranquil Tides, a choose-your-own-adventure-style simulation video game aimed at inland K-12 learners to show how seemingly unimportant actions culminate in marine debris. The Tranquil Tides will implement an environmental educational experience to challenge students to make decisions to augment marine health. Since some of the most detrimental components of marine debris are instigated from upriver locations, it is crucial to address the need for awareness in inland cities to tackle this pressing environmental issue. The Tranquil Tides would provide a tool for teachers to engage students with the issues related to marine debris through an accessible and collaborative experience and build their capacity to make informed decisions.
Jehyung (Je) Han & Muhammad Saad Syed | Al-Khboar, Saudi Arabia
The Plastic Garden
How can citizens in desert climates help solve the issue of marine debris? Jehyung Han (Je) and Muhammad Saad Syed propose the idea of The Plastic Garden. This program will consist of three sessions: an educational session, a beach cleanup session, and a Plastic Garden construction session. The educational session will educate participants on the extent of the marine debris problem as a way to build students' capacity to make informed choices. The presenters will also focus on demonstrating individual actions that everyone can take (like using reusable bottles instead of plastic ones, reducing the usage of single-use plastics, recycling, etc.). Any reusable plastic collected from the beach cleanup session will then be used in the third session, where students will collaboratively grow a garden using plastic bottles as planters. Je and Saad will teach students to create individual plastic bottle plants using the Sub-Irrigated Planter method, shown in this infographic that they created. Not only would this program address the issue of marine debris, but it would also provide a way for students to grow a garden in a country where only 1.6% of the land is arable.
Living in the fourth largest marine plastic-polluted country, Nguyen Son Tra recognizes the importance of reducing marine debris and protecting our marine ecosystems. That's why he proposes Free the Sea, a synergistic solution that aims to empower the local community in bringing marine debris back into the circular economy and strengthening local knowledge about the impacts of marine debris on economic activities. The pilot project for this solution will be conducted in partnership with Ba Ria Vung Tau University, where students from various disciplines across the university will lead teams to address different aspects of the project activities, including training on how to clean, classify, and monitor marine debris, training on the reuse of plastic waste into ecobricks, and training on community engagement and campaigning. This interdisciplinary approach engages diverse stakeholders to protect marine environments as a community.
Ivanka Sun & Evelyne Hong | Taipei, Taiwan
Motivation of Citizens for Marine Debris Cleanup
A major problem surrounding the topic of marine debris is figuring out how to motivate citizens to take part in clean-up efforts. Ivanka Sun and Evelyne Hong aim to solve this problem by creating an app that keeps track of individuals' efforts to decrease marine debris and rewards them for these efforts. In addition to the app, Ivanka and Evelyne would construct interactive machines that can be placed near beaches. The machines will scan, sort, and register (e.g., plastic, glass, cardboard) waste, and provide the participant with a QR code. The user can scan the QR code using the app and receive online credits according to the type of debris they collect. The online credits can be used for coupons at convenience stores. The collected plastic will be recycled for educational use, such as materials for local schools' art classes or 3D filament wire. Data on the types of trash that are collected by the machines will also be available on the app, for educational and research purposes. For any waste that cannot fit into the machine, users can upload pictures and details about the waste in the app to receive credits. Overall, this solution will not only help citizens become aware of the problem of marine debris, but it will also motivate them to take action and make recycling more accessible near the shore.
Ji Oh Lee and Sai Anirrudh Venkateshwaran | Jakarta, Indonesia
Ocean Waste Protection Framework
An important part of solving the problem of marine debris is engaging and educating our communities. Exploring ways to engage more students in plastic recycling at their school, Ji Oh Lee and Sai Anirrudh Venkateshwaran propose a three-part program. The first part includes developing signs to put near the school's waste receptacles to give students guidance on how to dispose of plastic waste properly. The second part will then use collected plastic from campus to build parking sheds tailored to specific car sizes and types. The plastic parking sheds will prevent water and other damage to cars, and are a great way for plastic to be reused. The third part is hosting an art competition, with the goal of encouraging students to construct various art pieces solely out of plastic. It would also provide a great forum to further educate their community about the dangers of plastic as marine debris. Ji Oh and Sai aim to create space for educating their peers on marine debris and also create opportunities for low-cost, practical applications to reuse plastic waste.
Matilde Bertini | Emilia Romagna, Italy
The Adriatic Plan, A Plan for Making Fishing More Sustainable
A large percentage of plastic debris in the Adriatic sea is caused by fishing and aquaculture. Matilde Bertini's solution, The Adriatic Plan, would engage with local communities and fishers to increase the sustainability of fishing in this region by limiting exploitation and pollution. Fishers would take a sustainability course and be encouraged to follow a recycling scheme for their fishing equipment. After completing the course, fishers would receive a certification, which they can use to market their products to consumers. One final step of the plan is to encourage the government to provide a tax incentive for fishers to engage in these sustainable practices, ultimately reducing the inequity of the competition between local, small-scale fishers and large companies. Education is the key to this plan, not just for fishers but also for youth, asThe Adriatic Planwould provide lessons about regional fish species and the Adriatic Sea to local schools. This plan would help the sea and the local economy, and will instill a sense of wonder in local communities.
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Deeksha Ravi | Coimbatore, India
170 Days to Sustainable Development
After noticing the growing need for quality environmental education in her community, Deeksha Ravi proposes to develop a science curriculum textbook that uses hands-on science concepts to solve the problem of marine debris. This curriculum would include application-oriented projects, such as design competitions for eco-friendly products, nature observation workshops that encourage biomimicry-based solutions, students conducting workshops on sustainable waste management, ocean-conscious business design training, developing plastic banks for low-income communities, and more. The curriculum would also dive into the 17 SDGs, exploring how each SDG is related to the marine debris crisis. Deeksha's curriculum would target middle-school grade levels, and could be taken up as an after-school program, where students would have more time and access to expand their learning through community interactions. It would also be an accessible way for homeschooled students and others not enrolled in formal education to access ocean literacy education through an open-access online platform.
Ahsan Mashhood | Karachi, Pakistan
Kleaner Karachi: TikTok Challenge to Empower Schools to Clean Coast of Karachi
Given the recent national surge of TikTok in Pakistan, especially among students, Ahsan Mashhood's solution capitalizes on digital outreach via social media (i.e., TikTok) to launch a campaign called "Kleaner Karachi" in collaboration with school communities (ages 14+). The idea is to host a TikTok Challenge with prize money for students from 20 schools and provide exceptional recognition for the winning schools. The goal of the TikTok campaign is to make beach cleanups and other marine-focused youth-led initiatives go viral as a way to increase youth knowledge about marine pollution and its consequences. Ahsan's plan would also involve partnering with Karachi TikTok celebrities to promote the campaign. For the challenge itself, Ahsan would reach out to school communities that are most devastated by coastal pollution. Once the challenge has been completed, Ahsan would use the submissions as data to analyze the campaign's impact—this involves conducting participant observation, digital ethnography, and conducting focus groups to gain a rich understanding of marine debris in the Northern Arabian Sea.
Hazman Hiwari, Laila Irvina Pramudito, Delilla Suhanda, & Adinda Maharani| Bandung City, Indonesia
Citizen Science for Marine Debris Reduction in Tunda Island, Banten, Indonesia
Education is the first step to increasing public awareness of marine debris issues and inviting the public to participate in solutions. Hazman Hiwari and his team propose a program in which the people of Tunda Island will be invited to engage in citizen science activities and monitor the distribution and composition of marine debris. In addition to this, his program will include a social awareness campaign through social media, a youth sustainability competition, and organizing and sharing the information collected by gatherings of citizen scientists.
A United Cause: Turtle Conservation and Beach Cleanup
Traditionally, turtle eggs are often consumed as a local delicacy in many areas of India. As a way to increase public awareness about this issue, Nidhi Noronha came up with A United Cause, a program that educates the community about the role turtles play in the ecosystem and ensures turtle safety during breeding season by organizing regular beach cleanups and monitoring seasonal activities. Nidhi's solution would achieve these goals by arranging regular programs, such as games and informative talks, in Karnataka to engage and educate locals on the benefits of turtle conservation and the ways in which marine debris negatively affects wildlife and the environment. Schools will be involved in beach cleanups, and youth will be able to use the waste found on the beaches to make simple, everyday objects, from plant holders to decorative items, which can later be used at home or sold during events.