The 14-Year-Old Building an International Network of Youth Climate Advocates

The 14-Year-Old Building an International Network of Youth Climate Advocates

Greener is Cleaner is a youth-led organization that runs an international network of youth climate advocates. 14-year-old Cherry Sung founded the organization in 2019 to show youth they can get involved in the fight for climate justice and make a difference. Based in Seoul, South Korea, the organization now has members in ten different countries around the world. Read Cherry’s story below!

All images provided by Greener is Cleaner.

Founding the Organization, Greener is Cleaner

In 2018, I suffered from an eating disorder of anorexia nervosa and was hospitalized for three weeks. During that time, I was exposed to television documentaries, most of which were about the environment and threats like plastic pollution, wildfires, and climate change. The specific documentary that moved me was called “1.5 Degrees,” which depicted the crude effects of climate change, such as the fading of seasons, disease outbreaks, and destruction of coastal areas, in my home country of South Korea. There, I reached a tipping point where I realized that environmental issues affect my future, and that I should be part of the solution.

After being discharged, I turned to environmental action, creating the initiative Greener is Cleaner. I was determined to be better aware of the critical issue that I am facing and spread this awareness in my community. After several months of researching and writing website articles, I was empowered to take action as an individual: adopting low-carbon and low-waste lifestyles, participating in climate strikes, and picking up trash in the city. This continued individual action brought others into the movement, growing my initiative.

The Greener is Cleaner Mission

Greener is Cleaner is a youth-led organization propelled by “people power” to create change in the economic market, public policies, and citizen action. The aim is to empower youth worldwide to take action for the environment and therefore their futures.

As an international organization, it connects youth around the world online, and it has 15 young members from 10 different countries. In my school Chadwick International, Greener is Cleaner is a student-led school club for Grade Pre-K to Grade 12 with around 45 members in total.

Greener is Cleaner in Action

In the first campaign called “Return the Unnecessary,” I targeted Maeil Dairies Corporation to return plastic straws attached to their products. The influence of over 100 people returning a total of 1062 plastic straws convinced the corporation to eliminate the straw from their drinking yogurt product. In the following campaigns targeted at other corporations, I negotiated with the leaders about changing the product design to produce less waste.

With Greenpeace Korea Green New Deal Civilian Action, I led a group that monitors both the Korean National Assembly and the media, reporting on their activities and messaging around environmental issues.

To promote civilian action, Greener is Cleaner raises awareness about environmental issues by initiating an international virtual conference called Eco Loci, where anyone anywhere can tune in to discuss global agendas on the environment and share advice. Over the past two editions of Eco Loci, a total of 271 youth participated to gain and share insights on environmental issues and solutions. As such, Greener is Cleaner has been making an impact at various levels, involving more youth to environmental action.

Founder Responsibilities and Time Management 

As the founder of Greener is Cleaner, I am responsible for internal and external communication, goal setting, social media management, and representing the organization. Following the organization’s expansion, internal communication becomes more complex and important because the common goal should be instilled among the members. To guide the new members and set a pathway for the entirety, I set monthly goals and long-term goals.

I also reach out to other organizations such as the Global Green Growth Institute(GGGI) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for partnerships or collaborations. I upload all Greener is Cleaner initiatives and activities on the various social media platforms to share ideas, inspire people, and record impact. Most importantly, as the founder of the organization, I represent my organization as a spokesperson in conferences, interviews, and other external events.

I manage my time by creating daily priority lists several days in advance. I plan almost everything that I do and stay flexible to any unforeseen circumstances. When prioritizing, a tip to remember is categorizing activities: school, environment, extracurriculars, entertainment, health, etc. This way, I can allot at least an hour to invest into Greener is Cleaner activities.

Biggest Challenges and Rewards

The biggest challenge for me was building a sense of common goal within my team and new people I meet. Since environmental issues are interconnected with various social and economic issues, raising awareness of such concepts and happenings was difficult. The members spent a long time to better understand what they are fighting for. We were open-minded to new ideas, but negotiating and trying to find neutral solutions to debatable issues such as renewable energy and the international transfer of technology were not easy. For such reasons, I had a lonely journey of environmental activism.

However, my continued effort proved successful after multiple years of campaigning, speaking and presenting, writing, policy-proposing, and adopting sustainable lifestyles. People realized that individual action is significant if it combines with others and creates collective action. They joined Greener is Cleaner and shared creative ideas about making the school, community, and education more sustainable. The expansion of Greener is Cleaner’s impact and organization is most rewarding, as it clearly shows the growing and opening mindsets of people.

Advice to Students Looking to Launch an Initiative 

Before anything, I would like to assure them not to be discouraged by lack of support and immediate action because it is the solidarity of individuals that brings greater impact. My advice to these students is to investigate the issue in various aspects including economic, political, social, and ethical aspects, and to sustain the initiative with authenticity to increase support and sustainability.

Free Time

In my free time, I enjoy researching and participating in Model United Nations (MUN) conferences, where I get to negotiate problems regarding and solutions to global issues with representatives of different countries. I also like socializing with friends and getting inspired by unique environmental actions on social media.

Looking to the Future

Greener is Cleaner will continue its initiatives and active environmental actions no matter what. As the organization is expanding globally with keen-minded members, more collaborations with organizations and institutions are on our agenda. I am excited to get more involved in national and international youth decision making in environmental education, resource circulation, and carbon neutrality.

Visit the Greener is Cleaner website. Read more  Rustic Spirit stories.