Particular obsessions inevitably emerge as we try to bring you the coolest sustainability-related stories from around the internet. One of those, for whatever reason, is genius kids and teens. You guys love them! And with good reason, because they give us hope for the future (or anyway, I presume they give you hope for the future, because you are a decent person; they just make me feel horribly jealous and old). Here are your favorite prodigies from the past year.

The fifth-grade girl who discovered a new energy-storing molecule

“Man, what were YOU discovering when you were 10? Masturbation and Faith No More?”

The Omaha teen who donated her ungrateful friends’ fruit to the hungry

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“Under new healthy-lunch guidelines, students need to take at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal — but the controlling socialist anti-pizza agenda stops short of actually forcing them to eat it. Technically, they’re allowed to take a fruit and throw it out, play hacky sack with it, draw a face on it and teach it to sing ‘Habanera,’ etc. High schooler Kelli Schilken found this wasteful, so she pioneered a school program called ‘Fine, You Spoiled Brats, If You Won’t Eat That Apple We’ll Find Someone Who Will.’ We may be paraphrasing a bit.”

The 10-year-old girl who made Jamba Juice stop using styrofoam


Mia and Sara Hansen

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“Usually, stories of the ’10-year-old girl vs. multinational corporation’ format are heartwarming, but only because everyone learns a valuable lesson about the importance of trying and cooperating and sticking to your beliefs even when you can’t win. But Mia’s petition got a response from Jamba Juice within three weeks. They called her on the phone, and sent her a letter promising that they would get rid of styrofoam in their stores and switch to an “environmental alternative” by the end of next year. That’s an unusually quick and decisive reaction, even for adult activists with a ton of resources. For a fifth grader with an online petition, it’s extraordinary.”

The girl who inspired IBM to make a light-up crosswalk

“OK, IBM, when it comes to making a video you want people to share, asking cute kids for road safety ideas and then making them real is basically cheating.”

The high schooler who made her prom dress out of soda tabs

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“Some people wear their commitment to reuse and sustainability on their sleeves; Regan Kerr wears hers to prom. The Colorado high school junior spent five months making her prom dress out of 5,114 soda can tabs (and no, before you ask, she didn’t drink 5,114 sodas by herself — she collected them over two years).”

The kid who built his own tiny home so he could move out of his parents’ house

“He’s been living in the house instead of in his childhood bedroom, and he has it registered as a trailer, so he can drive it to college if he has somewhere to park it.”

The teenage girls from Nigeria who built a urine-powered generator


“So next time you pee and are about to flush it away to the pee’s happy hunting grounds, think about how these girls are so young and smart and innovative. And ask yourself, would you like a lower electric bill? Would you be willing to pee to get it?”

The 13-year-old genius from Sierra Leone

“Next time you think you’re really smart because you installed your own car stereo or fixed your toilet, you might want to check your ego with the knowledge that a 13-year-old kid from Sierra Leone named Kelvin Doe is probably about 400 times smarter than you are. With almost no training, he is able to build — often from scraps he finds in the trash — batteries, transmitters, and generators.”

The 9-year-old whose blog forced her school to change lunch


“Martha Payne had some sad-ass lunches at her school in Scotland — unsatisfying food that sometimes had more hair than vegetables. So the 9-year-old decided to start a blog with photos and vital statistics about her meals. Almost immediately, the blog got international attention, including from prominent school lunch busybody Jamie Oliver. Result? Martha’s dad just met with the local council, and it announced that kids could have unlimited salad, fruit, and bread.”

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