Eco-warrior, 5, collects plastic pile to save seas

19 May 2019 - 00:00 By TANYA FARBER


Jennifer Kenyon-Wimbush is only five but she is on a mission: recycling plastic to make houses for rescued owls, and saving penguins and turtles in the process.
By the end of the month, when she turns six, Jennifer hopes to have collected the 30m³ of plastic waste that will take her to her recycling target of 200m³.
The plastic goes to the Owl Rescue Centre in Hartbeespoort, in North West province, which turns it into conservation products.
"All that stuff in my garden is plastic," says Jennifer, pointing to bags of waste stacked under a carport at her family's Cape Town home.
"It is from people who give plastic to us. If they don't it will go into the sea and the penguins and turtles will get sick."
Her passion is part of a worldwide trend in which young eco-warriors are taking climate change and environmental issues into their own hands. They are personified by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired children around the world to march against climate change.
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Jennifer's mother, Kath, says: "I think we as adults are a lot more blasé about it because it was all so new when we were growing up, but this generation is more aware of the environment and keen on saving it."
A new study from North Carolina State University in the US found that when children are knowledgeable about climate change and other environmental issues, it increases their parents' awareness.
"There's a robust body of work showing that kids can influence their parents' behaviour and positions on environmental and social issues," said Danielle Lawson, lead author of the study published in the journal, Nature Climate Change.
"But this is the first experimental study demonstrating that climate education for children promotes parental concern about climate change."
The Wildlife and Environment Society of SA has spent years teaching children about the environment in a way that filters into all aspects of their lives.
"We believe that not only are children the future decision-makers around key issues affecting the environment but that they have a powerful voice that can and does influence adults," says spokesperson Sarah Alcock.
Jennifer fell in love with penguins and turtles on a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town and has been focused on her goal ever since. "It makes me feel sad when people throw plastic around because it goes into the sea," she says.
"My message to others is, 'please don't get balloons and please don't drop plastic in the road or near the sea'. It gets blown into the water. It stays as litter for years and years."
Jennifer's mother says: "It was at the aquarium when she learnt about Bob the Turtle and how much plastic he had eaten and how it had affected him."At first she gave up balloons and straws but then she asked if she could be an ambassador for the aquarium and they kindly invited her to swim with the turtles."Jen is now so militant about it that sometimes, at friends' parties, I have to take her aside and tell her not to reprimand the birthday boy or girl for having balloons."Danelle Murray, the co-founder of the nonprofit Owl Rescue Centre, says the plastic collected by Jennifer is "first granulated into a workable product"."It is then put through an extruder," she continues, "which melts it down to be pressed into moulds for conservation products, which include owl houses, bat houses and beehives."

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