People always ask Hannah Testa how she got February 15, 2017, declared as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in the state of Georgia. After all, she is just 15 years old. In short, it is due to her passion and hard work, but we wanted to share her full story.
When Hannah was four, she realized our actions today impact the world long after. She noticed trends in her family’s behavior that were not apparent in others, such as using reusable bags. Hannah was upset that others were not taking the steps to protect the world around them and felt called to educate others about their actions.
In elementary school, Hannah presented to classmates on topics such as organic gardening, and recycling. Education became an outlet for Hannah to share her passions with her peers. As she became older, her exposure to more complex issues grew. She began to raise money and awareness for various animal causes. Hannah began to speak at protests and rallies, leading fundraisers, and producing educational videos to help spread awareness of issues facing the animals she so loved. This was also a time when she began to reach out to politicians and her local government by collecting petitions and relaying them to government officials.
Hannah then began to realize a central issue that wildlife faced which became an increasing desire of hers to fix, plastic pollution. She saw firsthand the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean and participated in beach cleanups further reinforcing her passion for the issue. Hannah found it difficult to allow the issue to go unseen by others. Her work began shortly after, first starting with what she knew how to do best, educating others. Hannah completed extensive research about plastic pollution and developed partnerships with several environmental organizations. She started delivering presentations to educate whoever would listen. However, she wanted to do more.
New targets included businesses, primarily restaurants to help them reduce their plastic use. Hannah had reached thousands of people at this point in her career, however, her thirst wasn’t quenched, she felt the need to do more. She began networking with a local senator, educating him about plastic pollution and how he could impact policy in a positive manner to reduce plastic pollution. Together the two wrote a resolution to proclaim February 15, 2017, as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia. She worked with almost 100 environmental organizations as well as local and state media to spread the word about avoiding single-use, disposable plastic products such as plastic bottles, straws, and bags. The event was a major eco-success! Currently, Hannah is working to make February 15th an annual event to promote the end of plastic pollution not only in Georgia but around the nation as well. Her partnership with the 5 Gyres Institute is helping to bring this goal to fruition.
When asked what advice Hannah would give to fellow youth she encourages her peers to educate themselves on environmental matters which interest them, to discuss those issues with their peers, and share potential solutions so others can partake in positive environmental change. If everyone can join forces and use the power of our collective voice, we can force change. Together we can create a more positive future for the state of our planet.