The award-winning Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) programme recently held its Litter Less Campaign, inviting young writers from across the world to submit investigative stories on local waste issues to raise awareness and improve litter literacy. Since its implementation in 2011, this popular competition has seen more than 4.6 million students from over 35 countries participate, posting articles, photographs and videos.
For Year 10 student Amelia Lee, the initiative was an ideal opportunity to combine her passion for ecological protection with her love of writing. The budding journalist entered her article on the increasing loss of biodiversity she had witnessed in West Auckland and was thrilled to be awarded first place in the 11-14 years category.
She shares her inspiration, enthusiasm, and ultimate success, with this incredibly worthwhile project below.
"It is no secret that the eco-challenges we face both throughout New Zealand and as a global community deserve all the attention they can get. That's why a competition like this one was the perfect way for me to write about an issue I thought was important but wasn't achieving the limelight it deserved—biodiversity loss.
"I didn't enter this competition to win, nor did I expect to; I simply wanted to get my point across on how some of the hidden environmental issues are the most threatening. I first heard about the Litter Less competition through Ms Tyler, one of my teachers at my school. Recently, we started a journalism group called The Student Voice, where I am the editor. We write articles which are published in the school newsletter weekly, and this year, our theme was environmental issues.
"We introduced a column called 'No Planet B', and Ms Tyler, who helps organise The Student Voice suggested that several of us enter this competition. So I made the time to write a well-researched and written piece, which was first published in the newsletter. After that, I took some time to refine it, add images and bibliography and talk to the people around me about the topic to gather some first-hand research.
"I really enjoyed taking the time to write this article amongst the challenges of school and extracurriculars. It was a great experience researching a topic I was so passionate about for myself rather than for an assignment or other school-related project. Although tackling such a wide-reaching and important issue in one article was a struggle, I was very happy with the result after some pointers and feedback from the people around me. And I think I summed up a simple explanation of biodiversity loss well.
"I welcomed an excuse to send my article to a network of web pages and organisations that could publish it, and it was included in Kiwi Kids News as well as the YRE Hub. I believe that educating the people around us is extremely important to solve any issue. And I was delighted to know that my article could be found on sites where young people would be able to learn about biodiversity loss and then contribute to halting it.
"Winning this competition meant a lot to me, not only because more awareness would be brought to this issue but also because it proved that young people's voices could be heard. There are many opportunities to be heard; you just have to take them and hope for the best.
"It was a huge joy to compete in the YRE Litter Less Competition, take a stand on an environmental issue I feel strongly about, and be listened to. I highly recommend that everyone pay attention to every opportunity that comes their way so that you, too, can discuss an issue important to you."