Local Heroes: Allison and Jillian Samowitz
Golden Beach, Fla., is on the Atlantic coast of Florida, but when Allison and Jillian Samowitz watched oil gushing into the Gulf and spreading across the region, they wanted to do something something that would make a difference.
The only problem? The twins were busy with school middle school. At 14, they weren't even old enough to have learner's permits, let along a driver's license or a car.
They are the 2011 Heart of Green Local Hero Award winners, and this is why: They took the old green adage to think globally and act locally, and they got to work.
Their town was in the midst of a beautification campaign installing sidewalks, burying power lines, filling new parks with benches and gazebos. But Allison and Jillian saw something missing. "We saw a lot of full trash bins but not a lot in the recycling bins," Jillian told TheDailyGreen.com.
Even though their own parents had taught them to recycle, with a little research they found they could improve their own family's habits. (TDG readers, you'll be jealous to learn that Golden Beach recycles every plastic, No. 1 through No. 7.) Then, they went to town hall, where Town Manager Alexander Diaz told them the town's recycling rate was a disappointing 20%, and encouraged them to help improve it. The girls launched a comprehensive campaign including a fiscal analysis of trash hauling (no surprise: recycling saves taxpayers money) and a door-to-door townwide education campaign. Retail politicians could take a page from their playbook: They knocked on every door in the 350-home community.
From there, they launched an ambitious one-day recycling event that brought together vendors such as Best Buy, Nike and Crocs, and charitable organizations like the Lions Club and Joe DiMaggio Children's hospital. Residents were encouraged to drop off everything from electronics and footwear to eyeglasses and books and the vendors handled the recycling.
"It was definitely a lot of emails and phone calls and visits to companies," Allison said. "It was pretty intimidating at first, but everyone seemed pretty supportive of the idea; they treated us like adults."
As many as 100 people turned out an impressive turnout in such a small town and they filled a truck with electronics, several bags full of eyeglasses and 10 boxes of books. To keep people engaged, the girls also set up an art area for kids, tables full of educational pamphlets and experts for adults, and they even convinced Toyota, Lexus and Tesla to showcase some of their hybrid and electric vehicles. (Jillian: "We didn't have our permits, but if I could have, I would drive a Tesla.")
Everything they've accomplished has been under the umbrella of their fledgling organization (membership: two) Proseed2Green, the mission of which is "to develop environmental programs with community participation that will have a positive impact, locally and globally, and that are fiscally responsible."
Next steps for the organization? Now 15, and freshmen at the Pine Crest School, the girls plan to analyze the impact of their recycling education campaign, produce a recycling how-to DVD in English and Spanish for neighbors, and finish work on a primer so that other community organizers adult or child can follow their lead. In the future, they'd like to organize a medication takeback program and work on getting more solar panels installed in the Sunshine State. Then ... it's off to lacrosse practice, then taekwondo, maybe some dinner, then homework....
For making a real difference, and demonstrating that age is certainly no barrier to success, Allison and Jillian Samowitz are our 2011 Heart of Green Local Heroes. Keep up the good work, girls!
Learn about the 2010 and 2009 Local Heroes, and see all the 2011 Local Hero nominees.