Young Leaders Award recipient Mackenzie Feldman is an environmental activist from Honolulu, Hawai'i. She is the Founder and Director of Re:wild Your Campus (formerly known as Herbicide-Free Campus), an organization that works with students and groundskeepers around the country to advocate for an end to the spraying of synthetic herbicides at schools and a transition to organic land management. Her campaign resulted in the entire University of California system going glyphosate-free, and Mackenzie worked with a coalition to get herbicides banned from every public school in the state of Hawai'i. Mackenzie received the 2019 Brower Youth Award for her work and is a 2022 Rachel Carson Council Fellow. She is also co-author, with her mother Kathy, of the book Groundbakers, which was published in Fall 2022.
Mackenzie's Project: Re:wild Your Campus
Re:wild Your Campus is a women-led and youth-run organization that trains students to bring a campaign to their campus to advocate for an elimination of synthetic herbicides and a transition to organic land care.
We recently checked in with Mackenzie to learn more about her background and her plans for the conservation and regeneration of the planet.
Walking Softer: What brought you to your work in climate and environmental justice?
Mackenzie: Growing up in Hawai'i, I saw the effects that corporate agribusiness and the resulting pesticide exposure has had and continues to have on my community. I knew that one day I wanted to join the fight to end pesticide-use in my precious home state. I was recruited to play Beach Volleyball in college, and one day when I showed up for practice, our coach told us to let the ball go if it rolls on the grass because a toxic herbicide had just been sprayed on the grass. That moment felt like my chance to be part of the change. My teammate and I took action, and 6 years later we haven't looked back.
Walking Softer: What is a milestone on your climate action journey thus far?
Mackenzie: We've had some pretty big wins, such as getting UC Berkeley, where this herbicide-free campaign started, 95% organic. We got glyphosate banned from all 10 University of California campuses, and we worked with the Protect Our Keiki Coalition to get all herbicides banned from every public school in the state of Hawai'i. One of the most impactful wins for me was turning this idea into a national organization, where we now mentor and train student activists on college campuses across the country. It feels very rewarding to be able to help other young people realize how much power they have to make positive, impactful change.
Walking Softer: Who or what inspires you?
Mackenzie: There are so many remarkable community members who have become activists in their community because they were faced with a problem that was too big to ignore, and they knew they had to stand up for what's right. I think about folks like Catherine Flowers and Deanna Branch. Even if our issues are different, we are all fighting for a cleaner, toxic-free future, and that keeps me going.
Walking Softer: Any people or organizations that you would like to thank?
Mackenzie: I would like to thank my incredible team. I am grateful to get to work every day with an inspiring group of women who make all of this possible. I would also like to thank Re:wild for nominating me for this!
Follow Mackenzie's journey:
Re:wild Your Campus:
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The Young Leaders Award is a year-long program that supports passionate, young leaders who are vital agents of change and innovators of solutions for our planet.