Tampa Youths Internationally Recognized For Environmental Initiatives - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

Tampa Youths Internationally Recognized For Environmental Initiatives

Zach Hartman, 11, of Oldsmar won Honorable Mention in the 2020 International Young Eco-Hero Awards for his trash reuse projects. Courtesy: Kim Parrish

Zach Hartman, 11, from Oldsmar, launched “Zach’s Planet” a few years ago.

It’s a community service project aimed at reusing items found in the trash.

Zach has collected more than 65,000 books and donated them to schools and Little Free Libraries. He’s also put squeakers inside of 3,000 discarded stuffed animals for humane societies and animal shelters, performing more than 250 hours of community service.

“I love to volunteer. It makes me feel amazing. And I like other people to feel good about what they do, so I encourage a lot of people to do their part,” Zach said. “Plus, since this is the only planet we have, we should definitely not take advantage of it.”

His mom, Kim Parrish, said that when Zach was 7, she gave him a few chores around the house, including taking out the trash.

He started asking questions and eventually became obsessed with garbage.

“It’s wonderful to see Zach so passionate about the environment,” Parrish said. “We only have one planet. It’s the only place we live, and we have to make it last. And for him to be 11 years old and to be able to have that concept of respect for our Earth, that makes me very proud.”

Zach is not the only recognized Eco-Hero.

He’s joined by Demetri Sedita, 16, of Harbour Island, who created the Bead Free Bay campaign, sponsored by the city of Tampa.

Demetri became disturbed at the number of plastic beads he witnessed falling into the water during the annual Gasparilla Flotilla, as it has become tradition to throw beads from boat-to-boat and along the shoreline.

“It’s definitely surprising when you see anyone really, but especially adults I guess, kind of completely ignoring the sort of long-term effects of their actions,” he said.

Demetri hopes to partner with the Florida Aquarium for another diver cleanup in the coming months, but it won’t be a public event this time due to coronavirus restrictions.

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