Climate Activist, Eco-Entrepreneurs and Conservationist Win WWF's Top Youth Conservation Award – 2 from Bulgaria
A passion for a zero-waste lifestyle led Blazhka Dimitrova to form an NGO and establish Blagichka, the first zero-waste restaurant in Bulgaria. She has authored a book on the zero-waste lifestyle and devotes most of her time training individuals and institutions to reach zero waste standards. She also advocates for legislative and regulatory changes to enable and support businesses to have zero waste in their processes. Her efforts had her listed in the Forbes 30 under 30.
“What began as a personal choice to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle has turned into a movement inspiring change in my country and a source of income for many. We have seen that business as usual no longer works and being able to provide alternative solutions that are effective gives me so much satisfaction. As I receive this award, I hope to inspire more people and that they can join me as we build a more sustainable world. It depends on us.”
A great desire to provide solutions in the fashion industry led Bulgarian Boryana Uzunova to become an eco-entrepreneur who is dedicated to eliminating the environmental and moral footprint of the fashion industry through her start-up Kool and Konscious. Her hardware and software technology company facilitates the on-demand production of clothing. Her ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for mass production, mass resource use and the creation of pollution. She is also a TED speaker on sustainability of the fashion industry.
“Our impact on the Earth over the past 100 years has led to an almost exhaustion of the resources the Earth has created over the last four billion years; leading to a shift in climate and extinction of hundreds of species. Fashion happens to be the Earth’s second-biggest polluter and my genuine love for science and technology led me to find solutions towards a circular economy in the sector. I’m truly humbled to be recognised for my contribution towards saving our planet and to share this award with such talented people.”
Piotr Bednarek is the founder of Wolne Rzeki (Free Rivers) NGO and one of WWF-Poland’s River Guardians - an initiative which encourages ordinary citizens to become active stewards of the 150.000 km of rivers in Poland. Piotr is a regional coordinator leading his local community in supporting Polish rivers. As a hydrologist and conservationist, he uses knowledge and passion to protect wild rivers, educate people and engage them in action
“Thousands of years ago primitive men led to the extinction of megafauna on lands – in Australia, the Americas and most of the world. Rivers stayed generally untouched and safe throughout human history. But now they are in grave danger. We are damming rivers on a global scale since 100-200 years ago. Building dams is one of the main dangers to global biodiversity and the worst thing that can happen to riverine ecosystems. This needs to change – otherwise, our children won’t ever have a chance to see sturgeons or river dolphins. River megafauna (and several hundreds of other species) are going to be extinct in the 21st century as we are in the midst of a global hydropower boom. We need to stop this, together.”
The youngest winner is Atlas Sarrafoglu, a 13-year climate activist from Turkey who writes a weekly column and interviews change makers and fellow climate activists. The eighth-grade student has a very active online presence and draws his inspiration from Greta Thunberg.
“It's an honour to receive this award, it inspires me to continue engaging students and change-makers through my online channels as well as my weekly and monthly column on climate change. The climate crisis is the most epic challenge humanity has to face, it’s not our generation’s mess, we don’t want it, but it is the future we inherit and we are the ones to make the choice to stop it. I hope more young people understand and appreciate the important role we play in raising awareness and taking tangible action on climate change as we stand to lose the most in our lifetime.”
The 2020 WWF International President’s Youth Award was presented virtually. The award acknowledges and encourages outstanding achievements of young people under the age of 30 who are making significant contributions to nature conservation. Nominations are invited annually via WWF offices around the world.
“I am humbled and truly encouraged by our award winners this year. From 13 to 30 years old, they all use their passion to provide creative solutions to our world’s most pressing needs. Young people hold incredible power to catalyse change both from within their peers and also among business and government leaders. With the understanding of the challenges we face, these four outstanding individuals are inspiring and pushing others to act for the health of the planet and for humanity. We are in unprecedented times where the need for urgent action is clearer now more than ever.” - Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International.