How North York youth are fighting invasive species
From organizing local protests to challenging leaders on the world’s biggest political stages, young people are driving climate action. Bullfrog Power partnered with Youth Challenge International (YCI) to help fund youth-led sustainability projects like advocacy groups and circular economy initiatives.
YCI’s Youth Climate Leadership Program is helping young people from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area design and grow a sustainable project, mobilize other youth, and encourage community development. The Program also helps youth deepen their understanding of climate science and traditional ecological knowledge.
After completing the Program, participants pitch their climate solution for the chance to win one of four cash prizes from the bullfrogpowered community. This round, Mandy Huynh took home a $500 prize for her project, Invasive Plants Be Gone.
The seed of an idea
Invasive Plants Be Gone is a youth-led project that raises awareness about invasive plants in North York and encourages participation in community science
to limit their spread. Mandy and her team connect to the local community by leading nature hikes and sharing their knowledge virtually through social media and their website.
Mandy’s desire to root out invasive species began when she was in elementary school. “There was this plant in our garden that had hundreds of fluffy white seeds inside its pod,” Mandy told Bullfrog. “I was fascinated by how the seeds would spread after I blew at them.” Unfortunately, that seed pod belonged t
o the dog-strangling vine, a notoriously hard-to-remove invasive plant that significantly hurts the growth of other plants in its vicinity.
“Our garden is still suffering from the consequences of my lighthearted invasive plant bombardments,” Mandy lamented. “This issue could have easily been prevented had there been better education and awareness regarding invasive plants in our community. And with climate change increasing the rate at which invasive plants spread, these instances will only become more common.”
A project taking root
To date, Invasive Plants Be Gone has led several nature hikes to teach community members about invasive plants and how to limit their spread. “Projects like ours greatly benefit from live interaction,” Mandy said. “When you walk around the neighborhood and someone points out an invasive plant and shows you how it’s damaging the local ecosystem, it’s very impactful.”
COVID-19 significantly limited the number of people Mandy and her team could bring on hikes around the community. Nevertheless, they continue to raise awareness on Instagram and other digital platforms. The pandemic has also pushed them to find new ways to attract community members and keep them engaged with the topic.
Invasive Plants Be Gone isn’t just about eliminating invasive species – Mandy also wants to promote biodiversity and help native species flourish. Her project provides seed bombs packed with native Ontario flowers that community members can plant to increase biodiversity in their home gardens or local parks.
Nurturing the venture
YCI’s Youth Climate Leadership Program played a big role in the designing phase of Mandy’s project. “Through the program, I’ve gained many insights from my peers and staff on what should be considered when designing the project. I think the biggest thing I’ve gained is the connections I’ve made with the YCI staff and other climate leaders,” Mandy noted.
“I plan to use the prize money from Bullfrog Power to host more nature hikes and give out more native seed bombs,” Mandy said. “I’m also planning to run educational Zoom sessions for youths during the winter and early spring of 2022, while most invasive plants can’t be seen in person.”
Mobilizing other youths is important to Mandy because the younger generations will be most affected by climate change. “As we can see on the news, more frequent and intense natural disasters are occurring because of climate change,” Mandy said. “Unfortunately, geopolitical dynamics and economic interests currently overshadow these issues. I feel like young people better understand what’s at stake and what should be prioritized – and as our voices build, we’ll become the leaders of the fight against climate change.”
You can follow Mandy’s project on Instagram @invasiveplantsbegone.