The seven Young Champions of the Earth gathered in New York to talk at a series of events and attend a training before celebrating their win at the inaugural gala ceremony.
Louise Mabulo, chef and joint winner for Asia and the Pacific, sat on a panel with celebrity chef Massimo Bottura as part of a series of talks held at the United Nations on the sidelines of the Climate Action Summit.
In conversation with Al Jazeera, they lamented that a third of all food produced is wasted. “The food we waste is simply amazing, it’s the food we consume in our own home,” said Bottura, noting we all have a responsibility to cut food waste.
“In Brazil alone, 11 trucks full of fruit and vegetables are burned every day. It’s insane because it’s more expensive to distribute food than burn it. This is something outrageous,” he added.
But once you do something, people come together to help, said Mabulo. She built her Cacao project growing climate-resilient cocoa and restaurant business, which serves home-grown food made by farmers in the local community, following a typhoon which destroyed 80 per cent of agriculture in her home town.
“My venture was founded on research on what food is more resilient in our community—and that turned to be cacao,” said Mabulo. Once people realize and celebrate the value of food, individuals can make big changes, she said.
Before the Champions of the Earth ceremony, where they will be honoured with their awards, they spent two days in the Adirondack Mountains, getting to know each other and preparing for the exciting year ahead.
During the bootcamp, they received tailor-made training and mentoring to bring their big ideas to life during the next year. Through personality profiling, the group honed their leadership skills.
Anna-Louisa Bessera, who invented a technology which uses solar energy to make water safe for drinking, said she feels empowered taking part in activities and training in the days leading up to the ceremony.
“As we are here, we have opportunities to create contacts with people in other countries and continents with the same problem we have in Brazil. I never knew there are so many young people working to solve the climate crisis.
“So many young people around the world make me inspired to continue my work,” she said.
Omar Itani, winner for West Asia, said winning the Young Champions of the Earth prize presents a big opportunity to bring awareness to a sector often overlooked in the discussions around climate change.
“The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world,” he said.“Companies in this industry pollute as much as big oil and gas companies, yet… you don’t see protests outside fashion companies.
“People don’t understand how destructive this industry is. I have found a great opportunity through the Young Champions of the Earth prize to highlight the monstrous impacts of this industry.”
The fashion industry not only pollutes the environment but also creates tremendous social disasters in countries where clothes are manufactured, and these issues must be communicated, he said.
“It’s great to see so many initiatives and so many young people trying to make the world better. It was so motivational to see it’s not only us seven who won the award but a collective movement that is being sparked.”
During the bootcamp training, the seven Young Champions were joined by Christian Haessler, Head of Sustainability at Covestro, who noted the importance of engaging youth for innovative solutions, and later met with United Nations Environment Programme Director General, Inger Andersen.
The seven Young Champions of the Earth will be awarded for their bold innovative actions during the Champions of the Earth gala ceremony, in New York. Stay tuned for more details on their projects throughout the year.