HOMETOWN: Calgary, Alberta
TRADITIONAL TERRITORY: Blackfoot and Peoples of Treaty 7 including Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. It is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.
These young environmentalists, Mya Chau and Eve Helman, may be the most iconic sustainability duo of 2018. Mya and Eve have accomplished outstanding achievements by the age of 12 as classmates, friends and change-makers. Their on-going passion for the environment stemmed from a fourth-grade science project about single-use coffee cups.
At nine years old, they decided to survey their community about single-use coffee cups for their science project. Their research showed that out of the 167 people they surveyed, on average 155 cups were thrown away each year. This information would later inspire them to create a change.org petition in February 2018, “Starbucks, we know you can make a #Bettercup”.
The #Bettercup petition quickly grew, collecting over 343,000 signatures. Both very concerned over the amount of cups failing to be recycled and the harmful effects they have on the ocean, they knew they needed to aim big. They began collaborating with different organizations, many media networks helped amplify their message. The pair worked with the Calgary Herald, Calgary Board of Education, CBC, Huffpost and National Geographic.
The attention from the media successfully caught Starbucks’ eye, Mya and Eve were invited to Starbucks headquarters in March 2018. In Seattle, they met with CEO Kevin Johnson and the Starbucks global social impact team. There they raised their concerns over the plastic and wax lined single-use cups, and that they are not recyclable in many parts of the world. And they were heard.
Kevin Johnson and his team were inspired by Mya and Eve. Motivated by the words of these young environmental advocates, Starbucks announced that they will be investing $10 million over three years to invite innovative minds to create a fully recyclable and compostable cup.
To ensure Starbucks stays true to their word, Mya and Eve have also suggested policy changes to reduce waste. Their ideas range from offering more in-house options to discounts for customers who bring their own cups. To continue the pressure for change, they are making a video to increasing awareness and hold the organization to their promise for funding a #Bettercup.
Mya and Eve recognize the importance in their personal choices while also influencing an international organization with over 27,000 stores. In 2018, they spoke at Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in front of thousands of people to ask Starbucks to serve their coffees in reusable mugs at the same event next year.
Mya and Eve’s story shows that passion can make waves. They will continue to live their own low-impact lifestyles, anything from using reusable water bottles, stainless steel straws and beeswax wrapping paper, while also working on larger projects.
To share their story further, they are currently working with filmmaker Brendan O’Brien for change.org and are also working with Facebook’s podcast team to find new ways to talk about their story.