Job Title: Co-Executive
Mason High School (MHS) senior Claire Hu co-founded Environment Plus, a nonprofit organization that mentors young activists around the globe and helps them execute projects in their communities.
Environment Plus focuses on three pillars: education, legislative reform, and service. Claire was inspired to create the organization after noticing the lack of environmental education in school curriculum.
“I went on a trip to San Francisco and I met a lot of students who were the same age as myself, and we got to talking about environmental education,” Claire says. “I realized that we had an opportunity to expand environmental education locally and around the world.”
In response, Claire connected with her former teachers to begin the process of creating a new curriculum to increase environmental literacy among local and global students alike. “We're hoping to form curricula in Mason and in local school districts, and then scale that to all the chapters that we have in different cities around the world,” she says.
Since Environment Plus has primarily focused on its international projects, Claire says she also hopes to create more of a local impact.
Currently, they are planning to combine their artistic and technological skills by painting a mural in downtown Mason and pairing it with an augmented reality application to raise awareness about pollution and conservation. “The mural depicts two koi fish in a natural environment, and we’re going to use augmented reality,” Claire says. “When you scan the mural, it will come to life on your phone.”
In addition to her work with Environment Plus, Claire is a self-published author. She utilized her passions for art and environmental literacy to write and illustrate “A Graphical Guide to the Environment,” a book she wrote to expand on her environmental literacy projects.
“I realized that we had an opportunity to expand environmental education locally and around the world.”
Job Title: Co-Executive
Katherine Hu, Claire’s twin sister, is also a co-founder of Environment Plus and a MHS senior. “I work on communicating with chapters and driving the nonprofit’s mission. I also work on sponsorships, which is how we get companies involved by tapping into their resources for our education initiatives,” she explains.
Another major aspect of their education pillar is helping teachers understand the importance of implementing environmental awareness into their curriculum, especially in areas that don’t necessarily see the direct impacts of pollution.
“In the Midwest, educators don't always put the environment into the curriculum because we don't see the effects as directly,” Katherine explains. “Using technology and virtual reality, we get students to realize not only how polluted some areas are, but how beautiful other areas are and why we should preserve them.”
One way the organization globalizes its efforts to help the environment is through establishing and mentoring chapters throughout the world. So far, there are 30 chapters in 18 U.S. states and 6 countries. Katherine says one of her favorite experiences was helping a girl in Pakistan create a chapter and increase environmental literacy in her community.
“She did a bunch of workshops with her local elementary school and got students together to plant trees,” Katherine says. “It was a cool initiative to see in action in a very different culture and a part of the world that we otherwise wouldn't have interacted with or learned about.”
In the future, Katherine hopes to expand the environmental curriculum initiative to other schools in the area, such as Cincinnati Public Schools. “We’re hoping to work with the Ohio Board of Education to expand our curriculum,” she says.
“In the Midwest, educators don't always put the environment into the curriculum because we don't see the effects as directly.”
Job Title: Outreach Director
MHS senior Naomie Gao was motivated to create positive environmental change after seeing firsthand the inconsistencies in environmental legislation throughout the world.
“I've moved around a ton, so I've lived in countries like Canada and China, which are polar opposites in terms of the environment,” Naomie says. “Two years ago, my grandpa was hospitalized after going to China for a business trip, and it opened my eyes to how much of a problem (pollution) was. That's really what sparked my interest in helping.”
As the Environment Plus Outreach Director, Naomie recruits young environmentalists in various parts of the world to start their own chapters and is in charge of public relations. In addition, she creates the curriculum and resources for the website.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with teaching kids, so I've written some of the lessons that we publish on our website for others to use,” Naomie explains. “I also write the press releases every month and contact the press to raise more awareness about what we're doing.”
The next step for Environment Plus, Naomie says, is to make use of the network of environmental activists the organization has mentored to initiate change on a larger scale.
“Besides our local focus, we're also trying to think of ways to leverage our international connections,” Naomie says. “The whole reason we started Environment Plus was because we thought international efforts of environmental advocates have been really isolated. We'd like to connect all of our chapters in the future.”
To get involved or learn more, visit EnvironmentPlus.org.
“The whole reason we started Environment Plus was because we thought international efforts of environmental advocates have been really isolated.”