Youth and under 21

Youth and under 21

Emily Abrams

Cole Rasenberger

Emily Abrams

At 19, she is the author of “Don’t Cook the Planet: Deliciously Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time.” Before that, at the age of 12, she became fascinated by environmentalism. Unlike the spin out there that children are being indoctrinated by institutions like the IPCC or are being traumatized about reports about climate change and activism and being denied their childhood, many children have developed a lifelong appreciation of nature and love for it that leads to feeling protective over the environment and planet. While environmental impact may cramp people’s style, being an informed person is the intention, not “indoctrination” or “trauma.” That’s not the motivating factor.

The key motivating factor for many people is that they want to leave a better world to future generations and help them become good stewards of the planet in the process, rather than just “ride it out” or consider it an opportunity to deride those who put their concern to action. The other problem in accusing environmentalists that children are being indoctrinated by environmentalists is that it completely ignores that many physical geography science text books for decades have reported on the industrial effects of gases that create a greenhouse effect and promotes surface temperature change.

Emily wasn’t indoctrinated or purportedly traumatized at the age of 12 when her mother included her in putting together a public art exhibit. The art exhibit was called “Cool Globes.” Each globe showed different ways to fight global warming. Emily included a globe “Children Are Our Future.”  She had kids from around the world write “Stop Global Warming” in their language. Then, they drew a picture of how global warming could be stopped. Ever since then, she’s been interested in how to care for the environment. There are rewarding ways to enjoy the planet.

She doesn’t think that there’s one big bandaid that can fix the problem. Instead, she considers daily efforts as making a big difference. She grew up in a home that didn’t use styrofoam and didn’t drink bottled water. She realizes she drove her friends crazy. Still that’s sometimes the risk of staying informed and not deadening senses or dumbing ourselves down.

How did she get the book off the ground?  In 2009, a friend of the family’s, a very prominent chef in Chicago named Gabriel Viti was having a conversation with Emily when they came up with the idea for the book. They were climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro at the time. Then her mother helped her with outreach.  In her book, “Don’t Cook the Planet,” she and an all-star collection of chefs and ecoactivists share more than 70 delicious recipes as well as tips on how to minimize your carbon footprint.  With this book, she hopes to make changes that impact her generation and explains how positive food choices significantly impact one’s environment as well as one’s health. All of our choices have consequences. The book focuses on the intersection of food and sustainability.

dontcookthe planetShe celebrated the book’s release in March 2014 with Alice Waters, at Waters’ San Francisco restaurant, Chez Panisse.

“She’s the godmother of sustainable cooking so it was a real inspiration to be with her,” Abrams noted a about Waters. “It’s inspirational to see what she’s done.”

She also suggests meatless Mondays. This reduces an individual’s carbon footprint.

On average, fruits and vegetables in the United States travel approximately 1,500 miles before they reach the dinner table, so eating locally really reduces your carbon footprint. It’s also a win-win because the food is fresher and more delicious.

She thinks by making these changes we can all reduce our carbon foodprint. Since she sees climate change as her generation’s defining issue, it’s no wonder that Abrams is being heralded as a voice for her generation for following through on this amazing effort and with help from likeminded friends. Although other members of her generation might not have the available contacts she had in making this book, there are some wonderful ways to make a difference taking some of her tips and coming up with ways to best use the resources one has available or coming up with creative solutions and raising some funds. With crowd funding, anything is possible, with enough passion and motivation.

Sources: Take Part, Teen Vogue, Boston.com, bizwomen Triangle Business Journal, Head to Toe Wellness, Nob Hill Gazette

Cole Rasenberger

Busy days. You’ve stopped at a restaurant for some food to-go while driving on a road trip or dwindling down your errands list. Now, there’s a bag on the floor of the passenger side of your vehicle. You’ll throw it away when you get home. When you get home, your eight year old looks at you and says, “Mom, a friend of mine heard that they used to drop off milk on people’s front porches in glass containers to deliver milk while he was on a field trip. Now it’s all plastic. Why? And will they ever drop off fast food in glass containers on our front porch?”

Kids always have good questions. Good question, you think. Why doesn’t KFC or McDonald’s start dropping off chicken or fries for a fee, and why not in glass containers that they would pick up afterwards?

Cole Rasenberger was one of those 8 year old kids with a curious mind. Sitting at his desk in elementary school, Cole heard his teacher assign a homework assignment. His teacher asked the students to write to a government official on behalf of an endangered species. Cole brainstormed. He made a decision. Cole decided he was going to protect an entire forest ecosystem. He contacted the Dogwood Alliance.

The Dogwood Alliance is based in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. They work on protecting millions of acres of Southern forests by convincing some of the world’s largest corporations to include environmental practices in their policies to improve forest conservation.

The oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the US, American Forests, also advocates for the protection and expansion of America’s forests.

Both organizations’ advocacy is guided by science. American Forests acknowledge that given that climate change is arguably the toughest environmental challenge of the 21st century, the loss of our forests’ ability to mitigate the effects of climate change is a great loss. The loss is felt by the ecosystems that the specific forests serve, and also cumulatively since forests decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing it from the air. In turn, forests convert that into clean oxygen, which is then released. They store the carbon. Healthy forests are a reliable means to combat the effect of trapped heat when greenhouse gasses build up in our atmosphere.

Cole didn’t wait for an act of Congress to help him connect the dots that if KFC and McDonalds were sourcing packaging from mills connected to the destruction of important wetland forests along the mid-Atlantic coast, then they needed to change their procedures.

His solution to the problem dealt directly with the cause of the problem.  He wrote to the CEO of McDonald’s asking them to use less packaging and more recycled paper. He didn’t stop there. He hand-drew postcards with four different designs. The designs represented different forest habitats. He printed 2,250 postcards so that every student at his school could send in a postcard. He led a team of 24 students to all 51 classrooms at Davidson Elementary school to explain his research and the project. Students signed the postcards. Cole collected the postcards and mailed them.

McDonald’s responded. They were going to be switching their bags to 100% recycled paper.

After Cole’s homework assignment, the Dogwood Alliance developed a youth organizing program.

A few years later, in 2014, he was fortunate enough to be asked to speak in a live panel interview at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) world conference about his youth activist experiences. What a way for our youth to learn how to think globally and act locally! He has already learned that by taking action and applying his understanding to a doable task, he can help build a socially responsible world. He turned a homework assignment into progress.

Cole researched and learned that North Carolina’s coastal forests may add up to 31 million acres, but that thousands were being destroyed daily endangering plants and animals. He helped save a vital forest ecosystem that serves as a crucial mitigator of the effects of climate change.

He’s also been working on getting KFC to improve their packaging.

He and is friends are asking companies like KFC to become environmental leaders. They have hope and they are supporting each other. They want to make a big impact with post-consumer environmental fibers. They aren’t giving up.


In 2012, he was among ten winners of the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program. He received $10,000 for his college education. The folks over at Kohl’s commended Cole for making his community a better place to live and for acting as an example to others of how to make a difference.

Way to go Cole!

Sources: DavidsonNews.net, Youtube, American Forests, Dogwood Alliance, goodpurpose Edelman, treehugger.com, Mongabay.com, Dailykos.com, The Story of Stuff Project, Examiner, Charlotte Observer, Businesswire.com



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