I am Avalon Theisen, and am currently 14 years old. When I was 8, I started taking environmental classes at a local homeschool co-op. I was really interested by herpetology and conservation. Through this co-op and citizen science classes, I learned that frogs and other amphibians are indicator species because they indicate the health of their environment: if frogs are plentiful in an area, it is healthy. If the frogs are disappearing or dying out, then we must do something to help. Unfortunately, frogs and other amphibians, are dying out at a very fast rate around the world. I heard of SAVE THE FROGS!, America’s largest and only non-profit dedicated solely to amphibian conservation. They created SAVE THE FROGS! Day to spread awareness about amphibian conservation and action. That year, I made a speech for the Tampa Bay Area SAVE THE FROGS! Day for 2009, and I continued to host SAVE THE FROGS! Day events in the following years.
Eventually, I learned more of how our small actions made big changes, but I wanted to do more. At 9 years old, I founded Conserve It Forward, an organization to inspire small acts in everyone. Our original focus was of course frogs, as helping them helps all of the environment. I was invited to set up booths and presentations at events to help educate the public learn about these important indicator species.
At this point, my parents told me that if I kept up with Conserve It Forward for 2 more years, they would help me find an attorney to get the paperwork needed to make my project an official non-profit. In 2012, Conserve It Forward became a federally recognized non-profit organization, and we now have 3 main focuses.
The first is frogs and amphibian conservation. Since frogs are found on 6 of 7 continents, everyone can relate to seeing them. I still host presentations, booths, and events centered around this topic.
The second is a kindness project I thought of almost 2 years ago. When people feel sick, being in nature helps them heal. The problem is most people in nursing homes or hospitals cannot go outside. This is where I got my idea for Care Can Cards, which are filled with positive messages and nature artwork from people around the world. This March, we met our goal of getting cards to people in all 50 US states plus Canada, a total of 3,537 people! What was great about this project is that people can participate from anywhere in the world, simply be sending in photos of nature near them.
Lastly, our third project area relates to our food and its impact on the environment. Many people do not realize that what we eat has a significant effect on the world around us. According to the United Nations, 18% of greenhouse gasses can be traced to animal agriculture. When I was 7, I choose to eat plant-based when I heard it was one of the best actions I could take to help the environment. I have been trying to find a way to incorporate my own personal beliefs into a Conserve It Forward project for a while now, and this new project area will help people learn how eating more plant-based foods, and less animal products, can significantly lift our carbon footprint.
I continue to speak at events and set up my CIF booth. My main message for people who want to help is start small. We may not all be able to do these big projects, but every small act counts. If we all do small things to help the environment, and the world, such as building frog habitat in your yard, clean-ups, and eating more plant foods, then together we will make a great difference. Change is not just a couple people doing big things. Change is the collection of our efforts to help the world. Please learn more at ConserveItForward.org, or follow my journey on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConserveItForwardWithAvalon.