I remember it like it happened yesterday: the catastrophic oil spill of 2010. Economies damaged, food sources poisoned, animal species left endangered. It was a literal and figurative mess, one that has taken years to unwind and return to normalcy. Between billion-dollar lawsuits and pictures of disheveled ecosystems, there is much to celebrate from the tragedy, as well. On World Environment Day, I’d like to spotlight the efforts of a young Olivia Bouler, one of the youngest contributors to the forthcoming 2 Billion Under 20 book.

Four years ago, after the spill, a then-11-year-old girl decided to take action. An avid lover of birds, Olivia reached out to the National Audubon Society to see how she could help save some of the bird species endangered by the tragic accident. She began making watercolor paintings and selling them on her own website, with the proceeds going to support the society's efforts to rescue wildlife bird species and help them recover after the spill. Quickly, media outlets (from AOL to The Today Show, CBS, and others) caught wind of her story, and she ultimately sold 500 watercolors to raise $200,000! That’s something to celebrate.

Olivia's book

Olivia is far from finished, however. She's on a mission to continue using art as her weapon-of-choice in fighting the endangerment of bird species. A couple years ago, she released her first children’s book, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf, with proceeds going to the National Audubon Society’s efforts. This summer she plans to write and illustrate another children’s novel to continue educating kids (and adults!) about the environment and the responsibility Millennials and Generation Z have to save the planet now and in the coming decades. She also continues to travel around speaking at various conferences, promoting her first book, which was recently reviewed by About.com and put into a second printing. Besides being featured in next year’s release of 2 Billion Under 20, she has also been featured in Young Voice for the Planet Educator’s Workbook as well as Magnificent Kids!, and has been named a “Champion of Change” by the White House.

Olivia is now finishing her freshman year of high school (crazy...I know!), and she is living proof to all of us on World Environment Day that all of us can play a part in saving and improving our environment, whether we are the head of a major nonprofit or an 11-year-old girl armed with a paintbrush and a passion for birds.

Jared Kleinert

Jared Kleinert is the 18-year-old co-founder and co-author of 2 Billion Under 20, a community of Millennials redefining success, breaking down barriers, and changing the world. Find out more about their upcoming, eye-opening book at www.2billionunder20.com.