Sammie Vance (age 10) is one of the sixteen young environmental activists from across the globe honored by Action For Nature as a 2019 Young Eco-Hero, an award that recognizes eco-conscious youth aged 8 to 16 for their creative initiatives aimed at tackling the world’s critical environmental challenges.

Vance received the Second Place award in the 8-12 age category as the founder of Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project, an organization that collects plastic bottle caps that are upcycled into park benches for schools.

Vance was inspired when she learned about “buddy benches” at camp in 2017. With the help of her mom, Vance discovered a company, Green Tree Plastics, that uses recycled plastic cups and lids and upcycles them into plastic benches, planters and other products. Vance wanted the upcycled park benches, otherwise known as buddy benches, at her school so no one would have to feel alone.

“You don’t just have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid too. I was able to, one plastic cap at a time,” said Vance.

Vance started collecting recycled plastic caps and lids that were later ground up, melted into molds and made into buddy benches. Within two months of starting her efforts, Vance collected 1,200 lbs of caps – enough for 3 buddy benches. As of today, Vance has donated 100 buddy benches to 75 schools in Indiana from over 15,000 lbs of caps. Vance has also worked with UPS to deliver three benches to a school in Staten Island, New York. A shipping fund in her name helped 13 groups in 12 states transport caps and benches.

Vance has since spoken to other schools about how kids can collect caps for buddy benches that will help foster friendships. Recently, she worked with schools in Australia, India, and Mexico to implement bottle cap collections and buddy benches of their own.

Vance is a student at Haley Elementary School in Fort Wayne.

The Young Eco-Hero winners will accept their awards and discuss their projects at the 2019 International Young Eco-Heroes Conference at Google’s San Francisco offices on September 14. Participants will discuss their award-winning projects and take questions from the audience via social media using the hashtag #2019EcoHeroAwards.

Awarded annually, winners of the International Young Eco-Hero Award are selected by a panel of independent judges, including experts in environmental science, biology, and education. For the past fifteen years, the International Young Eco-Hero Awards have honored global youth aged 8 to 16 who are taking important steps to solve tough environmental problems. Since 2003, Action for Nature has recognized more than 267 young people from all over 28 countries and 29 U.S. states.

To view Sammie Vance’s submission video and learn more about the Young Eco-Hero Awards, visit

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