Youth Climate Action Coalition

We are a youth-led organization, providing a platform for schools/communities to take action against climate change

Photo of Kevin Malaekeh
5 15

Written by

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers are shrinking, droughts are worsening, and natural disasters are becoming more common. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past are now occurring. We must act now in order to have a better future. As passionate high school students, we have stepped up to take initiative on climate change and hope to see schools and communities across the nation do the same.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Realizing the urgency to act on climate change, we started an environmental club at our high school. We took on numerous conservation projects and raised awareness on environmental issues. We implemented a composting program, which saves nearly twenty pounds of food waste a week from our landfill and reduces our carbon footprint by over one ton annually. We also installed faucet aerators to reduce our schools water usage by thousands of gallons and saved the school money. Additionally, we have expanded the school's recycling program by installing more bins and collecting different types of recyclable material . Currently, we are in the process of implementing a food scraps program in our local city, where residents are provided with a special bin for collecting food scraps, which will then get composted instead of ending up in the landfill. In order to expand our efforts to other schools/communities, we decided to create Youth Climate Action Coalition (YCAC), an organization that brings together like-minded youth that want to take initiative to do their part in helping the environment. We hope to spread our message to schools and communities across the world and make a big impact.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

The science behind composting material properly is very complicated. Determining the perfect combination of carbon and other materials takes lots of trial and error. At our school, we have worked tirelessly to perfect our composting process. We have created an in-depth, scientific approach to composting which is unique in that it's meant for schools. We have shared our findings with the managers at the local waste management site and they have adopted many of the practices we recommended. We have also worked with schools across the nation to implement composting programs at their schools with high yield rates due to our process. Additionally, we go to local middle schools and talk to the students about the science behind climate change and how they can help by implementing easy environmental practices in their daily lives. On the YCAC website, we talk about the importance of environmental initiatives such as recycling, conserving water, and reducing energy use and why they help the environment coming from a scientific standpoint. We are also currently working with a California State Senator to implement legislation that will incorporate climate change into the education system.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Growing up, we always loved being outdoors and had an appreciation for nature. We experienced the effects of climate change first-hand living in Northern California, including disastrous effects that multi-year droughts had on the environment around us. We weren't satisfied with the lack of initiative to help with this problem, so during our Freshman year of high school, we started an environmental club, with a mission to make our school/community more environmentally friendly, by taking on various projects and spreading awareness about pressing environmental issues. The club started out with a few devoted students, but it eventually grew to over 60 passionate students who work together to ensure their community is doing all they can for the environment and its overall future. We think that schools across the nation should adopt the standards that we have set which is why we started YCAC

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

We measure out impact through the number of schools that we have worked with, carbon emissions reduced (in tons), and social media following/partnerships. We have so far worked with 57 schools from 22 states and 5 countries, and we are growing every day. We have reduced our school's carbon emissions by over 2 tons (we are currently calculating for other schools). We have nearly 2,000 followers on social media, and we have partnered with other environmental organizations.

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

We have carried out numerous environmental initiatives both at our own school and schools across the nation. We have teamed up with the city council to implement a food scraps program this fall. On our website, we have created a pledge that environmentally-motivated individuals can sign and we reach out to them and get to know them a little better and work with them to come up with a plan on how they can take initiative most effectively. We also have multiple partnerships and campaigns.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

While there are many environmental organizations out there, YCAC is student-led and driven by youth, focussing on schools and small communities. It aims to bring change on a large scale by promoting effective sustainable practices based in science/logic. We have impacted many schools and have proven that our model for expansion works. Unlike other organizations, we focus on doing a broad range of projects, working with individuals from different locations and backgrounds to ensure that their initiatives will be most effective for their specific situation. We’re not fans of talk with no action.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

Throughout the past three months, we have had 30 more schools sign the pledge on our website, and we've worked with students from each of those schools to successfully implement initiatives to make their school/community more environmentally friendly. We have worked with students from over 50 schools from states and 5 countries, and we’ve impacted over 20,000 students by traveling to other high schools in the region to present our organization, raise awareness, and expand our efforts. We have 7 YCAC chapters in various other schools and we've received $2500 in grant funding to support our initiatives. We recently received $10,000 from T-mobile/Ashoka in the changemaker challenge to further our initiatives. With just our school compost program, we've collected over 4000 pounds of food waste. We've also added resources on our website for students to continue taking action during Covid

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We will continue to raise awareness and expand our efforts by presenting at/working with various schools. We're planning to host more climate activists speakers to promote environmental conservation in our community and across the nation. We're also planning to create more personalized climate action plans with all of the schools and communities we are working with. We'd like to partner with other like-minded organizations. We've also made numerous partnerships. Currently, we’ve partnered with "Thirst Project", working to raise money to fund a clean water well in a community in Swaziland. We're also working with school boards to pass climate resolutions and we're in the finalizing stages of implementing a city food scraps program.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

It can sometimes be hard to convey your drive and passion for environmental sustainability to others. We realized that we need to see things from the other side's perspective. We personally work with others to take initiative that will work for their best interest and benefit the environment. For example, in the case of a high school student in a poor, desert town in Southern California, we worked with her to raise money to install faucet aerators at her school, which save water and money.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We have partnered with changemakers from other organizations. Currently, we’re working with leaders of organizations such as Dual School and Stories Untold to launch the "new normal" movement. Our goal with this movement is to get people thinking about a post Covid-19 world. What needs to change? We are taking on the environmental aspect of the movement, getting people to think about how we can improve our environmental practices Covid-19. Working with others is key to create change.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Almost everyone has heard of climate change, and most people around the world agree that something needs to be done and we need to take action. Yet, it seems like time and time again, people are willing to protest and raise awareness but are not actually willing to take initiative and implement environmental practices into their lives/school/community. YCAC provides the tools to do just that. We also spread awareness about through social media and town halls to reach every side of the spectrum

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 60%

Probably - 20%

Maybe - 0%

Probably not - 20%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 40%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 60%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 0%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4 - Yes, I think so - 20%

3 - Maybe - 80%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 66.7%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 40%

4 - Yes, I think so - 40%

3 - Maybe - 20%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 75%

4- Yes, I think so - 25%

3- Maybe - 0%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 75%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 25%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 75%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 100%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 75%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 25%

Other option - 25%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 0%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 0%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 0%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 33.3%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


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Photo of Rose Velashjerdi

Hi! I was wondering how I can apply to be part of this program?

Photo of Hector Moyeton

Really exciting to see how your project keeps growing. I'm quite curious about your work with Zach and Carlitos. You have found a big pain point for young people and schools and it shows in the huge amount of participation you are getting. I wonder if your pledge could be expanded to businesses (SMBs probably) that want to become more sustainable, that could help you put pressure on other groups to follow.

Photo of Kevin Malaekeh

That's a great idea Hector. Thank you!