Amira Odeh

Leader, Caribbean Youth Environment Network Puerto Rico

Bayamon, Puerto Rico, United StatesAge: 27

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am from Puerto Rico, and I love learning while also bringing information to communities. Since an early age, I have been interested in solving the most pressing environmental issues that I have experienced around me. At the University of Puerto Rico, where I studied Geography, I organized my first campaign to ban the sale of bottled water, called No Mas Botellas. We successfully had our campus become the first in Latin America and the Caribbean to ban the sale of bottled water.

I’m also a firm believer that everyone can create big positive changes for the environment through community organizing. That is why I have led training efforts in Puerto Rico, the United States, and Chile to support new leaders in developing their own campaigns and environmental initiatives. I have trained youth for the Sierra Club and led trainings and talks in various countries including Australia, Peru, and Argentina. I currently leading the Caribbean Youth Environment Network Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico chapter is currently working on a reforestation project to sustainably rebuild the island after Hurricane Maria. The project also focuses on food security, and we have given out seeds and fruit trees to affected families all over the island.

I also obtained an MSc in Water Resources from Universidad Austral de Chile.

What inspired you to become a champion for the environment and environmental education?

I have always been interested in protecting the environment. Since I was a child, I’ve been worried about finding myself in natural spaces that are damaged or trashed, and that interest made me want to take action. I can’t sit back imagining solutions and not bringing them to action. I am motivated to protect the environment because it is beautiful, and it gives me food, air, water, and all the things I need to survive.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders that are looking to bring about positive change in their communities through EE?

Everyone can create positive changes in their communities. Many times, people are shy to take action because they are overwhelmed by the thought of everything they have to solve. Everyone has different talents and knowledge that can bring your eco-dreams to reality. If people start by just taking small weekly or monthly steps towards their goal, they will be able to gain more support and create the sustainable place they want to see.

If you had to live in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be?

I wouldn’t mind living in Puerto Rico, or other parts of the Caribbean, for the rest of my life. It’s always warm and the natural scenery has no comparison.

What pro-environmental behavior do you think would make a big impact if everyone in the world started doing it?

We can make a big impact if we challenge our current polluting systems that are part of our society. If everyone started buying a bit less, asking companies to switch to sustainable alternatives, and motivating others to do the same, then we can create a better world.