The 16 Under 16 Profiles

16 Under 16’ is a group of extraordinary young people that David Luke Schoolwear has brought together to form a collective voice to champion our passion for eco-uniform. It is our platform for the next generation to share their stories and inspire others to engage in issues that are important to them. Our amazing 16 started their journey at our Festival of Inspiration in July 2018 where we formed the foundation of our work together at a day of workshops and inspiring mentoring. In 2019 we will be working with our 16 Under 16 to produce a collection of STEM resources that link to our work with Eco Schools on our new ‘Marine’ topic. Charlie Hamilton Cooper, age 6 ‘Charlie’s Quest to Save Our Oceans’ This pocket-sized anti-plastic campaigner has made a massive impact on attitudes towards ocean conservation, inspiring a global change in attitudes towards plastic pollution. Charlie’s mission to clean up beaches local to his home in Northern Ireland went viral when a picture of all the fishermen’s gloves that he found in just one day was retweeted around the world over one thousand times! “My message ‘THIS IS NOT OK!’ spelt out with the 198 fishermen’s gloves I found in one day on a beach, was being spread all over the world! I felt very proud,” said Charlie. “I am doing everything I can to stop the plastic pollution from killing all the marine and wildlife I love! I want to also teach people what they can do to help too.”
“I find LOTS and LOTS of plastic bottles on the beaches I clean. It is AMAZING that David Luke can make these into a school uniform! It’s so cool!”
Thomas Franklin, age 6 ‘I am an environmentalist’ At the tender age of just 6, Thomas is already clear on his role in life and takes delight in describing himself as an ‘environmentalist’. He has long been passionate about being as green as possible but more recently he has been particularly concerned about plastic pollution and likes to scour his local beach collecting debris. Thomas is hands-on in his environmental efforts in the most creative and magical ways as his mum Bridget explains; “In the Gala Week celebrations in Budleigh Salterton this year he entered the fancy dress competition as an ‘eco-warrior’. He personally designed the costume himself including his own slogan ‘The sea is not a dustbin’. He then went on, with help, to make his design a reality using only recycled plastic. Thomas won the competition and in so doing, raised the profile of plastic pollution. He continued to wear this whilst promoting the cause in a local art exhibition. The costume proved to be a real catalyst for discussion. Despite the uncomfortable milk bottle shoes, he persisted, determined to reach as many people as possible!” Since then Thomas has helped to make over 80 badges from milk bottle tops depicting his slogan, so that everyone can pass the message around the world. The visual interpretation of Thomas’ eco-passions made his 16 Under 16 entry a pleasure to read and we can’t wait to see how he brings to life some of experiences of being in this group of extraordinary young people over the coming months.
“I think it was very interesting to see the little plastic beads from recycled plastic that were then made into eco-uniforms. I think it is great that David Luke recycle hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of plastic bottles to help reduce plastic pollution and what I want to do is make the whole world a green, beautiful plastic-free, pollution-free world.”
Elizabeth Gadson, age 7 ‘The Little Collector’ One of the younger members of the 16 Under 16 crew, Elizabeth proves that age is no barrier when it comes to inspiring environmental change. Known as ‘The Little Collector’ Elizabeth organises monthly litter picks in her local park, engaging young people from across her community on the Wirral to get involved and do some good. This inclusive attitude has helped her to win support from local businesses and her distinctive pink litter pickers and vests are synonymous with her own personal brand of people power. Always smiling and never stopping in her quest to clean up the parks and beaches where she lives, Elizabeth is a shining example of how one person can make a massive difference. Her Facebook group, managed by mum Faith, attracts well-wishes from around the world and is a hub for likeminded people of all ages. Elizabeth says “I have 3 main missions. To keep Leasowe Road, and other roads near my home as litter free as I can. To work with my Little Collector Crew and encourage people to keep places they love clean. Us children really care about our world and it is ours to look after. To learn more about rubbish to reduce my household litter and new ways to avoid single use plastic. Ella Turns, age 7 ‘Paddle Boarding Against Plastic’ Organising litter picks is one thing, but learning to paddleboard to that you can reach the furthest corners of your local estuary made Ella Turns a stand-out candidate in 16 Under 16. This unique approach to tackling plastic pollution proves that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. With the support of mum Anna, Ella is at the forefront of a step-change in attitudes towards marine conservation in her hometown of Salcombe. Not content with doing this gruelling route once, Ella plans to return to the stretch of coastline where her father was born, to continue her cause and will carry out a second paddleboarding mission on August 17th. Ella says “I love paddleboarding and picking up plastic litter but it was tricky to combine the two and I had to work hard on my balance! I know it can be difficult to to remember to avoid single-use plastic items but I’m working hard to help Salcombe become more plastic clever and would encourage everyone to take their own reusable water bottle out on every adventure.”
“I loved meeting the other children at the Festival of Inspiration and designing my own jumper made from recycled plastic bottles. In the Eco-Uniform Zone I was surprised that something made from plastic bottles could be so soft and fluffy. It’s great that some of these bottles can be reused to make clothes – very clever!”
Rachael, age 8 ‘Damers School Representative’ Representing one of our inspiring whole class winners, 8-year old Rachael has spent the last school year involved in a plethora of anti-plastic campaigns. From getting local businesses including Waitrose and parents to collect printing cartridges and toners for recycling to challenging their school to become plastic free, Rachael and her classmates demonstrated that teamwork can reap the most incredible rewards when Damers First School was awarded Plastic Free School Status by Surfers Against Sewage. They were highly praised for involving the community. The Eco Reps & Entrepreneurs group from the school are entering the Santander Young Enterprise Fiver Challenge. This year’s product is Waxtastic No Plastic. Waxtastic is a piece of 100% cotton dipped in beeswax. It is an alternative to cling film for all foods except meat. It lasts for up to a year and is 100% eco-friendly. Our judges from Eco Schools were blown away by the scope and innovation in Damers School’s activities and felt they would be able to play an essential part in the 16 Under 16 story. We couldn’t agree more! Jess Bainbridge, age 9 Creator of Bertie Bottle, the Anti-Plastic Campaigner’ What started out as a school project, has become a life passion for Jess creator of ‘The Bertie Bottle’ campaign. Now with the help of her family, she is promoting Bertie to businesses in Northamptonshire who would like to make a difference and recycle plastic to help protect our planet. Local businesses can pledge what they are going to do or are doing to combat the use of single use plastics, e.g. reduce use, replace with a suitable alternative and/or no longer provide plastic straws.” Each business who joins the Bertie Bottle Campaign will receive a personalised poster to be displayed in their business to show what they have pledged and to promotee their pledges. This will be showcased on the Bertie Bottle Campaign Facebook and Twitter pages. Speaking about her mission Jessica says “I created Bertie Bottle because of my concern about plastics that end up in the oceans and the problem litter causes to wildlife.” Tara O’Grady, age 10 ‘Europa School Representative’ Problem-solving and a passion for detail was the motivation Class 5F from Europa School needed to campaign against the use of plastic cutlery in their school. Unfazed by the barriers ahead, they talked to their teacher who suggested that the whole class worked as a team to solve this problem. Sure enough, when all the class put all their minds together they came up with amazing ways to make their school a greener place which included setting up a stall to fundraise for new recycling bins and biodegradable cutlery. Kickstarting action in their school has led to a cultural shift in the awareness of environmental issues and the summer fete even featured a quirky dustbin recycling game to get parents involved. We salute this school’s supportive and nurturing approach to their pupil’s eco-concerns and can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. Mia Aird-Marsh, age 10 ‘Founder St Matthews Food Project’ Plastic might be the buzzword for being environmentally aware but for Mia, it was witnessing the school caretaker dispose of huge sackload’s of unused food that motivated her to start trying to make a difference. Coupled with a desire to tackle loneliness and isolation in her local community, Mia’s ‘St Matthews Food Project’ encompasses group-led activities and ideas to help re-distribute school produce to those who need it most citing the elderly and low-income families as the kind of people she aspires to engage with her program. Demonstrating compassion beyond her years and a unique perspective on social change, it was instantly clear that Mia was one to watch and would be able to leverage her role in 16 Under 16 to inspire great things! Mia says “My mission is to fight loneliness and isolation whilst reducing waste by repurposing unserved school food.”
“At the Festival of Inspiration I loved making lots of friends and hearing what different people are doing to make the world a better place. All the activities were super fun. I loved learning about David Luke’s Ecp-Uniform. I think it’s really cool you can make thread out of plastic bottles and make a really soft jumper.”
Heather Kent, 10 ‘Community Litter Picking’ Showing that inspiration to protect our planet can come from the most unexpected ideas, Heather Kent from the Cotswolds decided that litter-picking through Lent would be her launch into the world of environmental excellence. “I collected at least one carrier bag of litter a day and people sponsored me along the way. I raised £887.31 for three of my chosen causes, On one of my litter picks I collected three bin bags full with 97 plastic bottles. I was shocked when I found out that it would take 450 years for one of the plastic bottles to decompose. This was just in a small area in a stream near my home.” Every small action can create a huge effect and for Heather, this is just the beginning of her journey. Inspired by the reaction of her local community, she has started to take her cause direct to the big brands who are creating packaging that takes hundreds of years to disappear. The judges were impressed by Heathers ‘can-do’ attitude and look forward to seeing how her involvement in 16 Under 16 will help to take her passions to the next level. Good luck Heather!
“At the Festival of inspiration I loved meeting new people and talking to them about my passion of litter picking. Also I told them about the motivation I have when litter picking and they feel the same. When I was at the Eco Uniform session I found it interesting how a plastic bottle can be made into thread to make a piece of clothing. On one of my recent litter picks I collected 273 plastic bottles which would make 136 recycled t-shirts. How amazing is that?”
Drew Mellor, age 11 ‘Marine Enthusiast’ Self-confessed shark fan and marine biologist-in-the-making Drew is committed to making beaches in his hometown of Bishopstoke plastic and litter free to prevent pollution making its way into the oceans. Shocked at the scale of waste left behind in local beauty spots, he has worked a weekly river clean into his routine and enlisted the support of his classmates to help make light work of a big problem facing his local community. “Recently I got asked to go to the parish council meeting to talk about my litter picks and about them providing equipment to loan to people to do their own litter picks around the village,” says Drew. “Trying to decrease the amount of plastic we use at home and out and about has been a challenge but we are getting there.” Drew had this to say about his mission “I am passionate about marine life and I'm determined to make the oceans a better place for everyone. If it carries on like this the surface will be covered in plastic and it won't be as beautiful as it is now.”
“I loved that everyone had new ideas that could help our litter picking beyond what we already do. There were lots if new ideas that I want to try and I hadn't thought of. I liked seeing that other kids were doing the same sorts of things and it wasn't just me trying to stop the plastic. It’s nice to know I am not on my own. Also I loved that it was children with the ideas, not adults. We are the ones who are going to change things but the adults need to help.” I was amazed how many plastic bottles have been used to make eco-uniforms so far and that means they are out of the environment. I loved using the machine to put the logos on my own clothes.”
Nadia Sparks, age 12 ‘Trash Girl’ Nadia’s story is one of triumph. Having set about collecting rubbish along her cycling route to school, her green habits caught the attention of some bullies who took it upon themselves to try to mock her by calling her Trash girl. “Eventually I came home distraught because of the way they were treating me, explains Nadia. “They were yelling ‘Trash Girl’ at me and telling me to get down and pick up their rubbish. They said it was my job and would tell me in school that they had left rubbish outside the school for me on purpose. They even threw plastic bottles at my head.” Supported by her family, Nadia’s response was to own this catchy moniker and having caught the eye of a local creative agency, soon found herself immortalised as a superhero character. ‘Trash Girl’ became a symbol of hope and positivity. Nadia’s story went viral and inspired thousands of fans to start following her on social media. She became one of the youngest ever ambassadors for the WWF and is now viewed as being one of the most prolific young environmental campaigners in the UK. Nadia says “I’m not going to stop. Growing up now we are facing something in our lives that no other generation ever has. I will be continuing to collect the bottles and cans that line my route to and from school. I also collect rubbish anywhere that I walk.” Ellie-Mai Herbet, age 12 ‘Making Schools a Greener Place’ As the longest-serving member of her primary school’s ‘Green Team’ Ellie-Mae was no stranger to championing eco-causes to her friends and teachers. But upon starting at secondary school, she realised there was no provision for those interested in environmental change and took it upon herself to lobby the head teacher to gain the support needed to set something up. The ‘Environmental Health Team’ was created by Ellie-Mae and now has a number of projects underway to help her school become more eco-aware. These include planting raised vegetable beds, encouraging cycling by offering a better bike shed provision and championing a switch to eco-uniform. Ellie-Mai says “My mission is to help my school become a recognised Eco-School and being part of 16 Under 16 is going to help me on this journey in so many ways.”
“The Festival of Inspiration gave me lots of ideas on what else I can do to help my eco group grow. I also enjoyed sharing my ideas with other like minded people and it encouraged me to carry on.”
Zach Haynes, 14 ‘Award-winning Nature Blogger’ A lifelong passion for nature ensured that award-winning blogger Zach Haynes would never be stuck for content when he found the world around him so inspiring. “Even before I could walk I was taken out into the countryside by my parents and would be captivated by the things I’d see such as bubbling becks, butterflies, bees and birds. As I love nature so much I’ve been busy sharing my passion and encouraging other people to care for our natural world.” A visit to the BBC Springwatch Unsprung studio prompted Zach to start his award-winning blog “I was only 10 when I started it but I was already quite techy, so with a bit of guidance on how to upload photos etc. I was well away.” Drawing on his experiences to help fundraise for local community initiatives has seen Zach secure Heritage Lottery funding for the creation of a wood meadow and he also creates an annual calendar featuring his own photography to help support his own projects. In the coming months Zach will walk the Nidderdale Way to raise £2000 for the BTO Owl Appeal so it is with great delight that he found a moment to submit his entry to 16 Under 16. With such a wide and varied passion for the natural habitats on his doorstep, Zach is a shining example to us all and demonstrates with his actions and words what it is to be a young conservationist in 2018. Amy and Ella Meek, aged 15 and 12, Founders Kids Against Plastic Sisters Amy and Ella Meek are the ’16 Under 16’ campaign ambassadors and have been instrumental in us reaching the amazing young people who made it into the final 16. They are quite simply, an inspirational example of youth social action in motion. Dedicated and passionate about their cause, they launched Kids Against Plastic as part of a home-school project back in 2012 and have gone on to become two of the most influential voices in the arena of anti-plastic campaigning. From lobbying MP’s in Parliament to delivering a TEDx Talk on the importance of being plastic clever, they have set in motion a crew of committed kids who not only follow their example, but strive to do good in their communities. Speaking about their mission, Amy and Ella say “We are passionate and motivated about saving the planet from single-use plastic. Our mission is to make more businesses, cafes and people Plastic Clever and reduce their use of the Big 4 plastic polluters; single-use cups and lids, straws, bottles and bags. We also want to encourage more kids to take part in youth social action, and take action to benefit both themselves and the planet.”
“We loved meeting all the inspirational kids and learning about all of the incredible things that they have been doing! It was reassuring to know that there are so many more kids that are taking action themselves and tackling lots of different sustainability-related issues. It reassures us that the planet is going to be in safe hands in the future. Also, all of the brilliant sessions and workshops really brought all the kids together. They helped us work as a team and collaborate, sharing ideas with each other, and we certainly learnt a lot that will help us develop our campaign further.” “In the David Luke Eco Uniform Zone we found it interesting to see the process that a plastic bottle goes through to become a piece of clothing or uniform. The pots on display really helped to visualize the steps, showing how the bottle is cut into fragments, made into pellets and then melted into a thread to be made into a uniform. It’s amazing how a single-use item like a bottle can be made into something of such worth and durability, when it’s not just thrown away like usual.”
Sam Gee, age 15 ‘Excellence in Eco-School Status’ Sam Gee’s dedication to helping his school achieve Bronze status in the Eco-School’s programme demonstrates how a new teen revolution is shaping the future of our planet. “I have always cared deeply about the world, and our place within it, so when I heard about the Eco-Schools programme from one of their volunteers at a local Friends of the Earth event two years ago, I knew that my school needed to get involved.” Taking matters into his own hands, Sam sought the permission of the then-Headmaster to restart the school on the Eco-Schools programme. Gathering momentum, his newly-founded eco-team grew to the thriving committee it is today, with representation from every year group, from the Governing Body, the Parents’ Association and the school’s Finance staff. “We are on track to achieve Eco-Schools Silver Award by the end of this term, ready to get going with Green Flag in September.” Projects such as rejuvenating the school pond have paved the way for future year-groups to apply their new eco-assets to GCSE Biology studies in addition to helping Sam win funding for new wildlife shelters in the school garden grounds. Sam stakes his claim as one of our 16 Under 16 champions of change with a maturity and dedication to the cause that is humbling. When asked why he does what he does, Sam replied “Drought, flooding, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution: Planet Earth is facing challenges like never before. Humanity is the cause of these problems, and we’ve done nothing for far too long. The planet and young people’s futures cannot wait any longer; the costliest option is doing nothing.”
“The Festival of Inspiration was an amazing day, and it was a real privilege to be a part of it. It was both inspiring and energising to be able to meet so many like-minded young people who are all doing incredible things to protect and enhance the environment. Sometimes it can feel as though you are standing alone in your campaigns, so to spend a day with others who share your vision for a greener, brighter future was very special. “During the Festival of Inspiration, I saw how Eco Uniform is an exciting way to engage young people with the realities behind where, how and with what their clothes are made. By providing a positive solution, Eco Uniform is a powerful educational tool, and I am hoping that I can bring it to my school, and others in the area, as a way of cutting back the environmental footprint of uniform, and as a means of sparking a wider conversation about the impact of the clothes we buy and wear. The fashion industry is of huge interest to me, because of its enormous environmental and social consequences. I believe that sustainable clothing is a key part of a sustainable future for everyone.”
Helen Kaye Bourne, age 15 ‘Conservationist and campaigner for sustaining biodiversity’ Life is busy when you’re one of the UK’s leading youth conservationists but luckily Helen Kaye Bourne found a moment in her hectic schedule to apply to be part of 16 Under 16. And we couldn’t be more thrilled. It was the incredible breadth of involvement in local organisation's that made the judges sit up and take notice. Helen currently volunteers for a number of conservation groups, including The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust Youth Rangers, and Butterfly Conservation. She is also on the committee of a local project aiming to develop a disused forge site into a nature reserve. “It is so exciting to be involved right from the start and to see the project develop,” says Helen. “My role has included everything from species counts and habitat management, to creating a children’s nature trail and a site information leaflet. The project hopes to encourage community support, and I am currently helping to develop social media sites to improve communication and publicity.” Not content with her far-reaching work within the local community, Helen is about to embark on work with a local primary school on an Eco -Schools initiative which she hopes will encourage the children and their families to appreciate and look after the wonderful nature reserve on their doorstep. Furthermore, she has been selected as an ambassador for a charity called Action for Conservation as a result of her work. Speaking about what motivates her on this awe-inspiring mission Helen said “I am a passionate conservationist and I campaign to sustain biodiversity. My mission is to encourage community involvement in local conservation projects and to help reduce pollution and climate change by encouraging everyone to lead more eco-friendly lives. I believe that my generation is the key to making a huge leap in lifestyle. I believe we can take the research of older generations and put this knowledge into practice. We do not have years of environmentally destructive lifestyle choices imprinted upon us, so we are capable of taking on change and innovation. To do this, we need strong, and passionate leaders to raise awareness, and encourage everyone to embrace change. My aim is to be one of these people.
“It was so inspiring to hear about the work that other young people have done in their communities. The opportunity for all of us to meet together and share our stories created a brilliant feeling. Everybody was so positive and enthusiastic about making an impact – I have never met a group of young people so passionate about saving the planet! We all had different areas of interest but were united by a common aim to create positive change. After the Festival of Inspiration, I am filled with hope that if people like us work together, we can make a big impact in reducing pollution and climate change and preserving our natural environments. The Festival of Inspiration was amazing and beyond all my expectations; it was packed with exciting and informative activities. I loved every aspect, from learning about how to lead eco schools, to developing interview skills. Many of the things that I learnt have already been very helpful to my conservation and campaign work. Thank you David Luke, for organising such a wonderful experience for the 16 under 16. “I was so interested to learn how the David Luke eco-uniform range is made using post-consumer waste plastic bottles. I think it is amazing that one of the biggest school wear brands in the UK has championed sustainability and has put such effort into preserving our planet by reducing impact upon natural resources. David Luke provides inspiration for us all and is an example that change for the better is possible.”