Madhvi Chittoor of Madhvi4EcoEthics: “Never fear criticism and failure ”

I think 5 things that one needs to know to become a changemaker are 1) Know the problem well — I researched on Plastic Pollution a lot and thought about how I can bring about change 2) Never fear criticism and failure — I had faced a lot of criticism when I wanted to get signatures and in social […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I think 5 things that one needs to know to become a changemaker are 1) Know the problem well — I researched on Plastic Pollution a lot and thought about how I can bring about change 2) Never fear criticism and failure — I had faced a lot of criticism when I wanted to get signatures and in social platforms like Nextdoor initially. But I did not give up. 3) Keep persevering to change — It takes a lot of effort to follow-up and make change happen 4) Spread awareness about the problem — I spoke in many climate rallies and environment events to spread awareness about Plastic Pollution. 5) Team up to solve — I lead two signature campaigns — one for my school district to switch from Styrofoam to compostable trays, second — to bring 3 bills in the Colorado Legislature to ban Styrofoam containers, single use plastic flatware and plastic bags from restaurants in Colorado.


As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Madhvi Chittoor, 9 yr old girl, founder of Madhvi4EcoEthics.

Madhvi Chittoor founded Madhvi4EcoEthics to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution and inspire others to do the same. A black belt in Taekwondo, she calls herself the No Styrofoam Ninja. She speaks at environmental events across the country and shared the stage with Greta Thunberg at Denver’s Global Climate Strike in October 2019. She has worked with her district Congressman Mr. Ed Perlmutter and the Governors of Colorado Mr. John Hickenlooper and Mr. Jared Polis to have April declared as Plastic and Styrofoam Pollution Awareness Month in Colorado. Madhvi spent much of the past year gathering signatures to convince state legislators to propose a statewide ban on Styrofoam take-out containers and single-use plastics in restaurants and grocery stores. She worked nearly every weekend collecting signatures for her petition and talking with legislators and mayors across the state. The petition has been introduced as three bills that will soon be signed into law.

Madhvi’s statewide campaign builds on her success petitioning her Denver-area school district to replace Styrofoam lunch trays with sustainable ones. She worked for months to gather signatures and then brought her petition and idea to the district superintendent. He set up a task force and asked Madhvi to help lead it. She attended and spoke at all of the task force’s meetings for nearly a year. In September 2019, the Jeffco Public School district — with 86,000 students across 155 schools — made the switch to compostable paper lunch trays. The move will eliminate 7.6 million Styrofoam trays from the landfill each year. A nature and animal enthusiast, Madhvi first became aware of plastic pollution in first grade, when she learned of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By age 7, she’d written and published a book called Is Plastic My Food? to educate her peers about the problem. “I’ve learned that making change takes time and requires patience,” says Madhvi. “But I know that through persistence and determination, I can create change on a large scale, even though I am young.”https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/fd1b55f806751c34fb9b5ad7e8cb4627


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I was born to migrant parents from India in Arvada, Colorado. I have a brother who has just finished college and is now working in Virginia. I am growing up with both Indian and American traditions. We celebrate all Indian festivals. My favorite festival is Diwali. I started learning music and composing since I was 4 years old. My favorite hobby is to compose music. When I was 6 years old, I received recognition from Hanz Zimmer and Lorne Balfe for one of my compositions. I released my first Album titled, “I am…Princess Genius” when I was 8 years old in Sep 2019. I got inspiration from Beyonce for that album. The Album is also so titled to inspire girls that they can be both beautiful and smart. I play many instruments including piano, violin, recorder and clarinet. I am a black belt in Taekwondo. I am also an author of 6 books published in www.amazon.com and my local library has copies of my book. My parents have supported me in all my interests. We are vegetarian as a family and I have grown up with a liking for Indian cooking. I like to help my Mom with cooking. Most of the winter breaks, my Grandmother visits us from San Diego. My brother also visits us during winter break. I like to play a lot with my brother and Grandmother. Also, I have visited, along with my family many State and National Parks in the US. I have also travelled widely in Alaska, India, Europe and Mexico.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was 5 years old in 1st grade, I did a school project about leopards and at that time I learnt about the World Wild Life Fund organization. They protect nature and animals. So, I made a small donation to them for the conservation of the endangered Amur Leopards.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

My organization Madhvi4EcoEthics, is a 501 c3 non-profit. Our mission is to usher impactful change advocating EcoEthics in lieu of non-green convenience & greedy economics to protect our natural resources and ecosystems for my generation and all future generations.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

When I was 5 years old, I watched a documentary called “Midway, The Plastic Island”. It talked about how plastic waste is going to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and are being eaten by the albatross and other aquatic animals and thereby leading to their death. That inspired me to take action.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I would like to share four memorable events. On Oct 11 2019, I was invited for a lunch meeting with Greta Thunberg. Also, on Sep 20th 2019, after my speech a group of 5th graders from Denver Public Schools rushed towards me and wanted to interview me for their school magazine. Jeffco Public School District of Colorado made a small documentary on me. ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvrVUeXHD8w&t=8s)

On Sep 14th 2020, I was thrilled when I received a call that I was selected as the winner of the Gloria Barron prize for Young Heroes, a national award that celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from across the U.S. and Canada.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

My advocacy and signature campaign made the whole of Jeffco Public School District to switch from Styrofoam containers to compostable containers in all of their 155 schools impacting 86000 students thus eliminating 7.6 million Styrofoam containers from the landfill, annually. This is a big win for the health of all the students and also a big win for the ecosystems. I consider this as a big achievement for me and my advocacy and I am very pleased about it.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define “Making A Difference” as being important or matter to somebody in their life-it could be humans or plants or animals by doing small and big acts of kindness. For eg: everyday, students were taking lunch in Styrofoam. A small amount of Styrene a declared carcinogen was leaking in their food and posing a threat to their health in the long term. I stopped this. I really made a difference to their health in their lives.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

One of my projects was to get awareness about Plastic Pollution at a large scale. The first step I took was asking the question to myself, “What can I do to spread awareness about Plastic Pollution?”. I immediately decided to write a book titled “Is Plastic My Food?” when I was 5 years old. It got recognition from National Geographic and is available in www.amazon.com. Then, I wanted to do more. So, I talked to my Mom and she suggested that I reach out to my district Congressman Mr. Ed Perlmutter. I spoke to him and then reached out to the Governor of Colorado and convinced the Governor to declare April as Plastic and Styrofoam Pollution Awareness Month for the whole of Colorado. It happened when I was 6 years old.

I think 5 things that one needs to know to become a changemaker are 1) Know the problem well — I researched on Plastic Pollution a lot and thought about how I can bring about change 2) Never fear criticism and failure — I had faced a lot of criticism when I wanted to get signatures and in social platforms like Nextdoor initially. But I did not give up. 3) Keep persevering to change — It takes a lot of effort to follow-up and make change happen 4) Spread awareness about the problem — I spoke in many climate rallies and environment events to spread awareness about Plastic Pollution. 5) Team up to solve — I lead two signature campaigns — one for my school district to switch from Styrofoam to compostable trays, second — to bring 3 bills in the Colorado Legislature to ban Styrofoam containers, single use plastic flatware and plastic bags from restaurants in Colorado.

What are the values that drive your work?

Our organization values are Do not Fear and raise your voice for the sake of the conservation of our natural resources and other non-speaking wildlife.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

One daily practice that I have is to set aside sometime for my cause after I complete my school work and extra-curricular activities. That helps me stay focused. Sometimes when things, don’t go the way I want it, I just breathe deeply and sit for a few minutes of meditation.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

I want a world where there is equality, no discrimination, where everyone has access to clean water, air, soil, food, where we coexist with wildlife and nature and where we live in a zero-waste economy. In nature, the waste of one species is consumed by another species thus bringing balance. For example — we exhale carbon-dioxide and the plants use that for photosynthesis. But humans have gone on a rampage of our natural resources polluting everything and causing climate change in the name of economic development. Climate justice is social justice and inter-generational justice.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

I would work towards finding a solution for this Plastic Pollution crisis –1) Educate all people to “SAY NO TO PLASTICS” 2) Find ways to recycle or get rid of all the existing plastics 3) Put an end to any new production of Plastics 4)invent a product that is like plastic but biodegrades and that does not pollute our waterways, soil, air and food and that will not harm the plant and animal life

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I like Science. I would like pure Science to be introduced as a subject even from K to 5th grade. Also, science must include lessons about Plastic Pollution in every grade from K — 12. The students should go on field trips to places where there is lot of Plastic Pollution so that they can really witness it directly. Additionally, the schools must partner with a conservation organization like us to do river cleanups, etc.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that they should consider making a positive impact on our environment because we are all connected and we all share this only home, Planet Earth. One group of persons action affects everybody including wildlife in some way or the other, far or near.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with 3 people — 1) Sir David Attenborough — because he is a voice for biodiversity and I too am working towards that. I have launched a campaign to plant 1 million native trees in the next 5 years. 2) Prime Minister of India- Hon’ble Narendra Modi — because he is the leader of the largest democracy and I would like to discuss with him about many climate change issues. 3) President of the United States — Joe Biden — because I want to discuss with him climate change issues and US can be a world leader again in climate policies.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow me on my website — www.madhvi4ee.com, in Twitter @Madhvi4EE and @ChittoorMadhvi, at Instagram @Madhvi4EE, at Facebook — @Madhvi4EcoEthics,

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    Big Ideas: “Replace all single-use plastics with plant-based equivalents” with Rhea Singhal, CEO of Ecoware

    by Christina D. Warner, MBA
    Community//

    Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “We can stop using single use plastics” With Wendy McArthur

    by Amine Rahal
    Community//

    “Sustainability and the environment” With Penny Bauder & Ry Russell

    by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.