Shanghai Artist's Climate Change Project Inspires Peers to Reduce Plastic Consumption
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Shanghai Artist's Climate Change Project Inspires Peers to Reduce Plastic Consumption

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program teaches students about climate change and environmental sustainability, and guides them in designing and launching a volunteer project in their own communities.

The online program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read Vina’s guest post about her experience below!


My name is Vina Zhang, a year-ten student from YK Pao High School in Shanghai, China. As a child, I had been extremely fascinated by the beauty of nature and all wild animals and plants. I liked the sapphire seas and warm, clear skies; I loved all marine animals, from colorful sea fish to graceful dolphins.

However, it struck me when I began to realize that plastic, a common material used in my life, started ending up in rivers, in oceans, and in the stomachs of sea creatures. When I saw images of dying turtles that had mistook plastic bags for jellyfish, the desperation and hopelessness in their eyes were immediately seared into my mind. I knew that I had to do something to alter this kind of destructive lifestyle.

Hence, in the Climate Leadership project, I used my art skills to promote the reuse of plastic waste items. I worked with some of my classmates that shared my interests in environmental protection. We began by collecting plastic waste from students on campus and cleaning them.

Meanwhile, I painted a huge portrait of a sea turtle swimming in the ocean and added much detail to present the helplessness in their eyes which motivated me to take action in the first place. I stuck the pieces of plastic waste onto the turtle back and on the ocean floor, resembling the plastic pollution underseas.

After everything was stabilized, we hung the artwork in our school hallway, where many more people would get to see it and hopefully be inspired by it. I realized the impact that I had made when a great number of students and teachers decided to reduce the consumption of plastic products after seeing my artwork. Surprisingly, many people really enjoyed my artwork, and more than one kilogram of plastic waste had been diverted into artwork.

In retrospect, the Climate Leadership Program was a very fun one. We had social activities which provided opportunities for me to learn about other students’ ideas. There were also many teachers that helped me develop my idea to make it better. The program encouraged me to believe that I had the ability to make great changes and I feel very satisfied about what I have learned and achieved throughout this process.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.