Presentation on Food Waste

By Ashley Cheung and Sydney Rico, Co Ambassadors of Zero Hunger Hub with Eco Teen Action Network

On February 29th we had the opportunity of presenting a workshop called “Hungry for Change” at the annual LearnServe International Student Action Summit. We both taught students the importance of awareness surrounding food insecurity in our very own communities and gave them a hands-on experience of conducting a waste audit – a great way to create change in their very own schools. The experience didn't just give us the opportunity to teach others something new, it taught us how to better educate our peers as teen changemakers.  Here are the slides of our presentation!

At the beginning of our journey as leaders of the Zero Hunger Hub, we never guessed we would be standing up and using our experiences to inspire other teens to create change. Furthermore, our experience leading a workshop was not only a transformative one but a rewarding one on virtually every front. Specifically, we loved being able to share what we are passionate about with others, and showing them how easy it is to do something about food insecurity; especially with the impeccable support that we’ve had from each other and the Zero Hunger Hub.

We are now excited to be launching a collaboration on behalf of our Hub and the Eco Teen Action Network with DC Food Project, to help reduce food waste in schools throughout the DC area.  We are looking for teens locally and globally to join us!  Email us at

Eco Teen Action Network Intern Reflects

Working as an Intern for the Global Co Lab Network-  Sylvia Luceno, February 19th

One month ago yesterday, I moved from Missoula, Montana to Washington, D.C. to intern for Linda at the Global Co Lab Network. For the past few years, since my junior year of high school, I’ve worked on engaging young people in Montana in organizing events, rallies, and educating other young people on how to get involved; when I heard of the wonderful platform Linda has created to engage young people with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, I was sold. I bought my ticket and headed to D.C.

Reflecting on my first month, I’ve already learned so much and had previous beliefs affirmed. Here are just a few:

  1. Young People are a Force to be Reckoned With.  In the time I’ve worked with the teens in their respective hubs in the Eco Teen Action Network, I’ve been humbled by their tenacity and passion. Despite their extremely busy schedules, these teens have worked with their mentors to make great strides in pushing the use of a reusable ToGo box on National Landing, collaborating with DC Food Project to launch food waste audits and share tables in schools in DMV and release a PSA aimed at building urgency surrounding climate change. In times such as these, it’s easy to get swept up by the doom-and-gloom of recent happenings, but these teens and my partners in Montana give me much reason to be hopeful. They are not working to become leaders, they already are leaders. They have incredible drive and organizational skills, which in tandem with their passion makes them a total force for the future. I am thankful for individuals like Linda and Brian with the Smithsonian Conservation Commons and all of the hub mentors for recognizing this quality in today’s youth and working with them to ensure that their ideas reach the fullest possible potential.
  2. Give people the opportunity to say yes… you’d be amazed at what can be done if you just speak out. In light of issues such as climate change, world hunger and the harmful impacts of the use of single-use plastics, I believe we all have a part to play in their mitigation; civilians and corporations alike. Admittedly, it is not the average Joe’s responsibility alone to solve these issues, nor is that a realistic feat. However, we should hold corporations accountable where we can. We should not shy away from speaking out just because of the size or power of a given business. I’ve witnessed and been a part of engagements with a number of corporations/organizations with the Global Co Lab already, in which we encouraged partnerships in sustainability efforts. The Plastics Hub has recently presented reusable alternatives to disposable plastics to big players such as JBG Smith and soon Amazon and continue to make progress with this venture. These teens are incredibly busy as we all are, and haven’t even graduated from high school.  What excuses do we really have to not use our voices and power as consumers to promote sustainability? Let us be inspired by these teens to not remain comfortable within the paradigm that we are too small to make a change or that corporations will make these changes themselves.
  3. There is much to be done!  Working with the Global Co Lab Network has allowed me to become more familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and reinforced the notion for me that there is so much we can do, no matter your age, discipline, or time budget. You can play a role in working towards a more sustainable future and have fun! The exposure to the endless engagement possibilities that working with the Global Co Lab has allowed has been exceedingly valuable. Co-Lab makes it easy for teens, in particular, to get in contact with the right people and to stay on track if they want to become change agents, and they want as many teens as they can get! If you are wondering how you can join a network of teens to get involved or gain support for an existing project of yours, the Global Co Lab Network is committed to providing you with the support you need. I would have loved to get involved with the Co-Lab when I was in high school and would encourage students to reach out!

Learn more here!:

Northern Virginia Magazine Writes on Teen Dreams


group of students
Teen Dreams Co Lab members and co-creators. (Photo courtesy of Linda Staheli)

Linda Staheli believes in the power of youth.

“We’re really into creating teen change-makers,” she says, during a recent sit-down at her workspace, the CoWork Cafe in Arlington. The former government employee saw the energy and mobilization of young people over the years, especially when others seemed to turn a blind eye to it.

“Teens have historically always had a big role [in societal changes],” says Staheli.

She’s the one-woman band behind the Arlington-based nonprofit Global Co Lab Network, an organization dedicated to helping individuals from ages 13 to 35 foster collaboration and address the tougher, bigger issues that the world is facing today.

“I really wanted to find out how we could address these global challenges, and mobilize key people to solve them,” says Staheli.

In order to do that, Staheli created an organization that would allow her to tap into the motivation of the youth by connecting them with mentors (using some of her own connections), fostering communication opportunities and ultimately making change happen as a result

After four years and over 50 local meetings, Teens Dream Co Lab was co-created with the help of local NoVA teens (from high schools such as Oakton High School and the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology), as a branch of the Global Co Lab Network that is dedicated to bringing students together virtually, to address topics from climate action to gender equality.

What a “Co Lab,” or virtual discussion group looks like for Teens Dream Co Lab. (Photo courtesy of Linda Staheli)

“A lot of organizations focused on the youth population over 18,” says Staheli. So, according to Staheli, she decided to meet the need of those looking to get involved who might be deemed “too young” or “too inexperienced.”

The nonprofit is now partially funded by a partnership with the Smithsonian and other organizations, using its platform to create virtual spaces for students all over the world to connect. There are “co labs,” (i.e. virtual hangouts and discussions) that touch on tough topics, speak several languages and mobilize into bigger initiatives when they can.

And the teens have already made their waves.

The Eco Teen Action Network, a local chapter of Teen Dreams Co Lab that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, will be honored on Dec. 6 at the sixth annual Four Generations of Leaders in Clean Energy & Sustainable Solutions Awards and Holiday Celebration for their recent initiatives.

And back in September, members of Teen Dreams Co Lab marched in solidarity with well-known, teen climate crisis advocate Greta Thunberg in Washington, DC.

Members of Teens Dream Co Lab marched during the climate marches held in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of Linda Staheli)

People like Thunberg are the perfect example of the type of young individuals that Staheli wants to get involved in Teen Dreams Co Lab.

“This is for any kid on the planet who wants to be a change-maker,” says Staheli. “It’s all about empowering them.”

For the sixth year in a row, the organization launched its annual video competition. It’s one of its biggest initiatives worldwide, having previously gathered more than 400 submissions from over 40 countries.

This year’s competition will name nine winners in April 2020. Each winner from across the globe will win up to $500 and will be sent to Washington, DC, where each teen will be honored with an award and paired with a mentor to learn and experience further the type of change they want to make.

Until Jan. 13, 2020, students can submit a two-minute video focused on Earth Optimism (a partnership and initiative by the Smithsonian Institute) and pertaining to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. According to Staheli, it’s incredible to see what national and international students come up with.

“Teens want to be a part of the solutions,” says Staheli. And she’s hoping to help them get there, one step at a time.

The organization is still in its growing phase, says Staheli. She is always on the lookout for mentors and students who are looking to get involved. No matter what skills you bring to the table, Staheli believes you can find a co lab to fit into and help propel towards action.

“We truly want to incubate initiatives and bring people together,” says Staheli.

For more information on Global Co Lab NetworkTeens Dream Co Lab or the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism partnership, be sure to check out the website. And if you know a student who may want to enter the video contest, submissions are being accepted here.

Diana from Paraguay shares Teens Dream Story

Hi everyone! My name is Diana Vicezar and I am second from right in the photo above, 18 years old and from the country known as the heart of South America, Paraguay! I am one of the winners of the Teens Dream 2018 video contest. My dream is to help the 200 million stray dogs with housing, as a means of addressing SDG #15 Life on Land. I made my video about Mymba Rayhu, a youth-led non-profit organization that I founded when I was 16 years old, and that focused on raising awareness about animal welfare and plastic pollution.

I found out about Teens Dream through a website of opportunities for young people. When I read about the competition and the work that Global Co Lab does to help young people from different parts of the world fulfill their dreams to make the world a better place, I realized that I needed to get involved and send my video and share what I had been doing with my nonprofit organization Mymba Rayhu.

After submitting my video, I did not imagine that I could be selected among so many applicants from all over the world. To my surprise, I received the great news on March 31. I remember crying because I was very happy that they chose my organization as one of the 9 winners this year. Since that day, Linda Staheli, founding director of the Global Co Lab Network, and all team members helped me get ready for the BIG CELEBRATION.

Little did I know that amazing things were waiting for me after joining this Global Family. As a winner of the Teens Dream competition, I was assigned a mentor who would guide me on how to make my dream come true. Jennifer Katac is the Director of Community Programs at Animal Welfare League of Arlington, an organization I was interested in even before I met Jennifer.

I traveled to Washington, DC last October to attend the annual celebration. After 17 hours traveling from Paraguay to DC, I finally met the other winners of this year and past years, my mentor and all the people who work with the network. Linda and her team introduced me to the host family that made me feel at home since day 1. I can say that one of the best parts of this experience was to share my dreams and projects with this family.

My second day in DC was full of great moments. In the morning I met my mentor Jennifer Katac, who took me on a tour around her workplace, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. She introduced me to all the people who work there, including CEO Samuel Wolbert. I learned about all the services they offer, and the ways they help animals and promote adoption in the city. It could not have been a better way to spend my first morning in DC than meeting amazing people and cute animals ready to go home.

After the meeting with my mentor, I went to the United Nations Foundation Headquarters, where I had the opportunity to present my nonprofit and talk about my dream; a milestone I never imagined achieving. During a special meeting on Youth working for the Sustainable Development Goals around the world, I met the other 9 winners whose innovative videos inspired me to continue working hard to make my dream come true. This meeting with Anna Mahalak, current Youth Engagement Manager at the UN Foundation, was a unique and perfect opportunity to share not only my story leading Mymba Rayhu but also about the reality of many other young people leading projects related to the 15th Global Goal: Life on Land.  When I was at headquarters, I could not stop thinking about how life puts us in the right place at the right time to make the most of all the opportunities. When I applied to the Teens Dream competition, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to be in such a great place as the UN Foundation Headquarters.

The day was getting even better. After having lunch, we all went sightseeing downtown. Arlington Independent Media was the next place to visit. There we had some presentations lead by Brian Coyle from the Smithsonian Earth Optimism and Eco Teen Action Network, and the Teen Co-Creators. My day had a perfect closing dinner with all the other winners, who in just a couple of hours became my friends.

On Saturday afternoon we had a big celebration where our videos were presented and all the winners received our award certificates. My mentor and I spoke in front of an audience of more than 130 people. I talked about why I created the video and why the topic matters to me. My mentor made a brief presentation about why the topic is important, what they do in the Animal Welfare League and the reasons why youth activism is important. After the celebration, we all went to the reception at Linda's house, where we enjoyed great food and had good conversations before returning to our cities to start working to make our dreams come true.

This wonderful experience made me realize that we need to believe that everything we are doing right now has a purpose in our lives, nothing is a coincidence. Don't give up on the things you love! Some of our goals may seem impossible to achieve, but we must never stop dreaming of making them a reality.

I want to thank Global Co-Lab for giving me the opportunity to be part of this network of young changemakers and open new doors for me. Thanks to Linda Staheli, Suzanne Wells and her family, Pat Sartorius and the winners for all their support before and during my stay in DC. I can’t wait to engage with the Hubs and help make the change in the world.

Eco Teen Action Network Leaders Engage in Fridays for Future Protests

Matthew Capuano-Rizzo, Eco Teen Action Network Leader

Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion participate in a “Die-In” on June 28 in front of the Washington Post building to advocate for increased coverage of the climate crisis and to specify its connection to other issues. 

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and founder of Fridays for Future, told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in January: “I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday and then I want you to act.” After striking from school for three weeks to protest the Swedish Parliament's handling of the climate crisis, her imperative to act on the climate crisis spread through social media around the world. 

In the DC Metro Area, the Extinction Rebellion, a United Kingdom-based group, has increased support for weekly protests organized by teens such as Kallan Benson and Sofia Geiger. Through a megaphone, Geiger led shouts “Hey hey! Ho-ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” down the streets of DC as our group of 30 protesters marched from Farragut Square to the Washington Post building. An organizer from Extinction Rebellion blasted a dance version of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” from a portable DJ system as protesters played drums. Painted signs read “Climate Crisis,” “Mass Extinction,” as well as blunt rebukes of media coverage of the issue such as “There is no debate, this is ‘R’ future,” pictured above. The Washington Post Climate Editor received Extinction Rebellion’s three demands, focusing principally on the first; tell the truth. 

An Extinction Rebellion activist from the United Kingdom briefed the small crowd on our reason for protesting. Mentioning the record heatwave in India, she stated that “we have been profiting off of their economies for over a century and they [developing countries] are the ones suffering the most from the climate crisis. Forty percent of the Indian population will be without water by 2030.” Youth from around the world citing climate change statistics and dancing with their signs underscore how the transformation of the environmental movement from a group of men sailing into a restricted area in Amchitka Island to halt nuclear testing to diverse compilations of youth, organizing for our collective present as well as future. 

In the face of rising populism, with leaders such as Javier Bolsenaro of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States, who continue to roll back environmental legislation, while questioning its founding science, Fridays for Future and its partner movements serve as a reminder of our capacity to unify in the face of this growing crisis. Increased destruction and displacement of people and ecosystems caused by increases in severe weather, sea-level rise, and ocean threatens our current world order. Recognizing climate change’s threat to peace underscores the necessity of cooperation between citizens, businesses, policymakers, and nations to confront the gravity of the crisis. 

Despite current questioning of the efficacy of international institutions such as the United Nations and European Union, these forums may be our best chance to coordinate global solutions to the climate crisis. The African continent’s anticipated implementation of a continent-wide free trade agreement is hoped to foster such cooperation, albeit environmental, logistical, and human rights concerns. Due to inconsistencies in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are falling short of halting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, a level that would ensure many island nations’ existence. Action at an international level must thus be paired with increasingly bold local action to match the scale of our crisis. We must ‘panic’ and then we must act.

Left to Right: Kallan Benson (Fridays For Future), Sage Stretch (Earth Uprising), Serena Moscarella (League of Conservation Voters), Soven Bhaget (FFF), Matthew Capuano-Rizzo (FFF/Sunrise), and Sofia Geiger (FFF) at a Fridays for Future Protest on July 19th in front of the United States Chamber of Commerce urging the organization to halt its support of the fossil fuel industry under its new American Energy: Cleaner, Stronger Agenda, proposed as an opponent of the Green New Deal. Protests so far have thus led groups previously unconcerned with environmental issues to develop plans to address the consequences of our development. Prior to the taking of this photo, students protested in front of the Plastic Industry Association as well as the Coca Cola Government Affairs Office. While the protest remains focused heavily on climate action, youth climate strikes occasionally include other issues such as plastic pollution.


SDG Hub on Climate Change to be Launched!

Written by Maria Llauger from Spain

Being aware of the short period of time that is left to address Climate Change, the Global Co Lab Network and Smithsonian Conservation Commons started a new initiative together with teens from all around the world to fight climate change. To start this new adventure, a Co Lab or small gathering was organized on March 29th with teens and adults including three teens skyped in online.

This was the first of a series of Virtual meetings called SDG Hubs that will focus on global warming. Different scheduled virtual chats will be held occasionally to keep in touch and bring more teens into the network to encourage change locally. At this Co Lab 6 teen activists (from Spain and the US) and a group of adult activists met to start planning a new project whose aim is to design the SDG Hub site to encourage teens to join to help change this world issue. On this SDG Hub teen Ambassadors will lead efforts working with an adult mentor to empower other teens and to share their experience about fighting climate change.

Climate change is the change that are suffering the global climate patterns, which appeared during the mid-late 20th century onwards with the appearing of industrialization. The main cause is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

The youth are the best to make this change, since that we are so familiarized with technology and all these new tools to spread information and raise awareness. If we don’t start acting now, the main damage will be us. This is a matter that is going to impact our generation primarily, thus we are the ones that need to help step up to make a change.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please email us at

Going to the United Nations!

I am Ellie Hart (far right) and a high school student from Washington DC.  I am also one of the Youth Ambassadors with the Teens Dream Responsible Consumption and Production SDG Hub, which focuses on engaging teens globally in virtual rooms to reduce plastic pollution. This project is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Commons and the Global Co Lab Network to build a network of teens on earth optimism and sustainable development!

On Friday February 22 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Global Engagement Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.  This year, UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit gathered 1,800 change-makers from across the country, representing 45 states, DC, and Puerto Rico to attend sessions with expert panelists and plenaries.

I arrived early to the opening plenary, having been advised that UN security can take a long time, and had the opportunity to talk to a few graduate students and people working on veteran’s rights. The opening plenary was delivered by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The Secretary-General devoted most of his speech to discussing the pressing threat of climate change. It was inspiring to hear the Secretary-General speak about an issue so important to me, and one related to our work at the plastic hub, since plastic production and waste impacts climate. Throughout the day, I went to sessions on human rights, climate change, and food security. I enjoyed hearing from diplomats, advocates, and ambassadors about the work they are doing to make a difference in the world.

The highlight of my day however, had to be the meeting I had with Michael Scott Peters, the U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N. Peters travels around the country talking to youth leaders about what is important to them and educating them about the U.N. I met with Peters, along with people from the International Orchestra of Refugees, which aims to connect displaced musicians, and ImpactEd, which gives college students real world problems to solve for companies in exchange for credit. I got to share about my work and hear about what others are doing in their fields. I felt inspired by the great strides others are making, since they are all relatively new groups as is mine. Talking to Peters and the others gave me hope that everyone’s work will pay off over time and helped me feel like the U.N. is listening to those it serves. Overall, I had a wonderful time at the 2019 UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit!

What is sustainable consumption and production?

The United Nation’s Twelfth Sustainable Development Goal aims to promote responsible use of natural resources for goods, energy, and infrastructure. As the world’s population continues to increase, there will no longer be enough resources for people to continue to consume as they have until now.

In order to address the negative environmental consequences of overconsumption, the UN has adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. This plan focuses on reducing consumption by creating multi-stakeholder partnerships that will incentivize reusing and recycling, rethink food and water systems, and improve renewable energy technology.

The part of this wide-reaching goal that we have chosen to focus on is decreasing consumption of plastics by ending the use of single-use plastics, promoting recycling programs, and researching viable alternatives.


Infograph provided by Plastic Oceans



Interning for Teens Dream

Hello! My name is Hannah Jensen, and I am the fall intern for Teens Dream. My experience here at the Global Co Lab was not what I expected but in the best way possible. In high school, I learned about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); however, I did not realize at the time how much they would eventually change my perspective on the world. Working at the Co Lab has taught me that these goals are reachable, and after meeting all these incredibly passionate teens, I am confident that the next generation will make it their priority.

Because of this focus on the SDGs, the Co-Lab works with all areas of interests. Regardless of what I was working on, I felt that my interests were actively engaged. For instance, as a sophomore at Pepperdine University on the health tract, I was originally drawn to the Co Lab for its work with the UN SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being. During my time here, I was given the opportunity to explore this passion in many ways. I attended a luncheon on the dangers of plastics towards health which made me much more cautious about plastic use. One of my most memorable experiences was attending a symposium entitled, “Implications of Conflict and Emergencies for Global Health” held by the Global Health Interest Group at the NIH. I heard fascinating talks ranging from the spread of disease to the need to train mental health specialists in war zones. In addition, one of our teen winners is working with her mentor from the National Alliance of Mental Illness to open up a dream hub on mental health. I am so excited to see what the mental health dream hub accomplishes and am truly grateful for being a part of it.

Each day at the Co-Lab is different. It teaches you to be flexible and proactive. The beginning of my time here was largely focused on the annual celebration. This meant making sure that the winners had travel to DC, had host families to stay with, and mentors to meet with. After that, I worked on getting the next video contest out and helped build the platform for the incoming dream hubs; however, my favorite part of this internship had to be working with teens committed to making the world a better place. I learned that teens have really great ideas on how to improve the world, but they do not often have the resources to do so. The focus of Teens Dream is to encourage teens to pursue their passions and make sure their voice is heard. I am really proud of what this organization is accomplishing.