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Local teen receives national recognition for “Skip the Plastic Straw” initiative

Chloe Mei Espinosa, age 15, of Newport Beach, has been named an honoree of the 2021 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring young leaders – 15 top winners and 10 honorees – who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities and the environment. This year’s Barron Prize honorees are an outstanding group of young heroes chosen from more than 700 applicants across the U.S. and Canada.

Espinosa created Skip the Plastic Straw to raise awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws and to discourage their use. She has convinced five Orange County school districts – a total of 245 schools – to eliminate plastic straws in their cafeterias. The move keeps more than 15 million straws out of landfills and oceans. 

Two local hospitals and 1,600 visitors to her website have also pledged to ditch plastic straws. 

Espinosa has also served on Delta Air Lines’ Green Up Youth Advisory Board to help make the airline more sustainable and serves as a youth mentor for the Ocean Heroes Network, which supports young changemakers. 

Local teen Chloe Mei Espinosa

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Courtesy of the Gloria Barron Prize organization

Chloe Mei Espinosa

She started her campaign in sixth grade after researching plastic pollution for a school project. Since then, she has spoken to more than 14,000 students at schools, camps and youth organizations. Determined to continue her outreach during the pandemic, she and her sister Ella Lin launched the Sustainable Sisters YouTube channel, where they review eco-friendly products and share ways we can all protect the environment. 

“I’ve learned that it’s possible for one person, whether you’re age 8 or 80, to make a difference for our oceans and environment,” said Espinosa. “All it takes is passion and the will to start the journey to make Earth a better place.” 

The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T. A. Barron and named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Since then, the prize has honored more than 500 young people who reflect the great diversity of America. All of them demonstrate heroic qualities like courage, compassion and perseverance as they work to help their communities or protect the planet.   

“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” said Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes – people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”

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