Teen Hero Abby Abrahamson and Her Fight Against Litter

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Meet the young leaders of Roots & Shoots and learn how they’ve grown through the program! Click here for more profiles like this.

ABBY ABRAHAMSON, 16

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  • Hometown: Rehoboth, MA
  • Involvement with Roots & Shoots: Joined in 2014, National Youth Leadership Council member since 2015
  • Fun Fact: In her free time, Abby is teaching herself how to play the guitar!

Rehoboth, Massachusetts is known as the birthplace of public education, the site of the end of King Philip’s War, and the hometown of Abby Abrahamson, the creator of a litter prevention campaign and the youngest person ever to hold an official position in town.

Abby always had a desire to make a difference but struggled to know where to begin, until she found Roots & Shoots almost five years ago. She was empowered by Roots & Shoots’ message that young people don’t have to wait until they’re “grown ups” to make a difference. For her first Roots & Shoots project, she sold milkweed seeds as a fundraiser for monarch butterflies and certified her garden as a monarch station. Once she joined the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council, Abby held a book drive to increase literacy in her area. The book drive was a great success – her goal was to collect 100 books, but by the end of her campaign, she had collected 1,137!

Growing up in Rehoboth, Abby was surrounded by natural beauty. Her passion for the environment was sparked on walks through the woods with her grandmother. Unfortunately, growing up in Rehoboth, Abby was also surrounded by litter. One day, while walking on a trail near her house, Abby’s golden retriever, Genevieve, started to eat a chip bag that had been discarded on the ground. Thankfully Abby was able to prevent Genevieve from swallowing the bag, but this made her think about the effects that litter can have on both domestic and wild animals in her community and inspired her to do something about it.

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For the past three years, Abby has been working tirelessly on a litter prevention campaign in Rehoboth. When she first met with the town’s board of selectmen to propose her campaign, she realized it was going to be a lot more complicated than just placing trash bins throughout town. But Abby did not give up! She returned to the board with funding, a design for trash barrels featuring a local artist’s designs, and a collaboration with the highway superintendent. The selectmen voted unanimously in approval of her initiative and even gave her the special title “Litter Prevention Coordinator,” making her the youngest person ever to hold a public position in Rehoboth.

In this new role, Abby successfully implemented her litter prevention campaign, and litter barrels were placed along walking routes in Rehoboth. Thanks to the help of other dedicated citizens who pick up and properly dispose of trash in these barrels, her neighborhood has become significantly less polluted since the start of her campaign.

Abby’s project has been such a success that she was enlisted to chair the “Keep Rehoboth Beautiful” campaign as part of Rehoboth’s 375th anniversary celebration this year. Between April 22nd and April 28th, Abby will lead her town in a week-long litter cleanup starting on Earth Day and ending on the designated Great Massachusetts Cleanup day.

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Since the campaign takes place over an entire week, Abby thinks it has the potential to significantly impact Rehoboth’s community pride and environmental health in a positive way. She is thrilled to see her town coming together to solve an issue that hits so close to home. Abby will be out there this week getting her hands dirty with her community, except when she’s at school of course!

The protection and conservation of this local environment that I treasure is incredibly important to me.  I love the feeling of coming together as a community to solve this issue.”

Here are some tips from Abby on how to start your own litter prevention campaign:

  • Research the litter prevention programs already in place in your community. Contact your local DPW, Safety Department, Keep America Beautiful affiliate, etc. for recommendations.
  • Make a plan!
    • Decide on a barrel and lid that will work best in your community.
    • Seek funding from local businesses/organizations.
    • Decide how many barrels to distribute and where to distribute them.
    • Determine who will service the barrels and how often they will be serviced.
  • Meet with your city council, mayor, or board of selectmen to pitch your idea and work with them to finalize your plan.
  • Visit local groups and organizations to discuss the consequences of littering and how to solve this issue.

 

Photo by Kevin Hebert

Photo by Kevin Hebert

You can also play a part in keeping your community beautiful on Earth Day and every day! Check out our 1-Click campaigns, our Earth Day blog series, and our project database to find out what you can do to help.


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With support from the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), members of the NYLC receive leadership training and guidance from Roots & Shoots staff, which they then share with Roots & Shoots members across the U.S. as youth representatives of JGI.

Educators and Roots & Shoots groups can invite members of the NYLC to visit or Skype with their classroom/group to talk about their work with Roots & Shoots and share tips for future service campaigns! Click here to learn more.

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