She Created Change with homework, a dress and Malala. Please meet Erinne Paisley.

She Created Change with homework, a dress and Malala. Please meet Erinne Paisley.

TheDressIn the past year there were two huge social media sensations having to do with dresses. Remember that one – was it blue or gold? I saw #TheDress for myself at the Twitter Nestwarming and I can assure you that when I saw it in person – it’s blue. Recently there was another story about a dress that caught social media’s attention. Erinne Paisely from Victoria, BC  wore a dress to her prom dress that she made out of her math homework to support the Malala Fund. Erinne, who is a passionate youth activist for global education, donated the money she would have spent on a prom dress and donated it Malala. Like me, you probably think she’s awesome right? Well it is and so is Erinne. I had a chance to catch up with her and find out more about who she is.

Hannah: Your most recent initiative has gotten a lot of attention! But it is not the first thing that you’ve done to take action about something you care about! Like any good journalist, I did my research and I found that when you were in grade 9, you shaved your head for cancer awareness and that you co-founded a group at your school called “Action Now”. Tell me more about Action Now.

Erinne: Yes! I’ve been passionate about activism and giving back to my community for as long as I can remember. As you said, I shaved my hair for Cops for Cancer in grade nine when I first entered high school. It was a very scary thing to do, but my school was very supportive which made it a lot easier. Near the end of grade ten I realized that there were no fully student-driven leadership endeavors at my school, and I wanted fill this gap. I found in a lot of “leadership” type courses the focus was often put on fundraising (which is a very valuable thing to do) but not really on any other aspects of giving back. This is where the idea of the fully student-run activist group “Action Now” came from. I co-founded it with two older students and we based it on the three pillars of Learning, Dialogue, and Action. We wanted it to be a space where students could explore their own passions that connected to activism, learn from each other and outside sources, discuss in our group pressing topics as well as create discussion in the greater community, and make change right now! This year the topics we chose to focus on were Women’s Equality and Youth Voter Turnout.

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We also heard from guest speakers this year such as NDP MP, Rob Fleming, and leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May. I’ve been so happy to see how many students become passionate about activism when they have a space to explore and learn with their peers!

Hannah: Let’s talk about social media. What platforms do you find give you the greatest impact? Is there a network that you like better than others? Why?

Erinne: Firstly, social media is such a powerful tool so I’m very excited to talk about this! I find different social media platforms are very beneficial for different types of messages. For the story of my grad dress the message spread the furthest, and fastest, through Facebook. As well, I received a lot of professional inquiries through Twitter. I often find Twitter can also be a very good platform to get a message out in a quick and large way. I very much enjoy using Instagram as well, but I use it more for my personal life. I find Snapchat is a good way to keep people updated on your day-to-day lives, but also in more of a personal way. I also used LinkedIn often for professional purposes.

Action Now created this short PSA on feminism and shared it on YouTube.

Hannah: You and I have lots of things in common, but I want to talk about someone who we both admire. Malala. What about Malala inspires you?

Erinne: There are many, many things that inspire me about Malala! I was fortunate enough to see her speak live at the first ever We Day UK in 2014. The way she spoke was so grounded and real that it made me realize how much of a reality not receiving the right to an education is for over 62 million girls around the world. It also inspires me how outspoken Malala is and how committed she is to her causes. How she balances her life (activism, work, school etc.) is something that also comes to mind right away.

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Hannah: And now, we have GOT to talk about THE DRESS. How and when did you come up with the idea? Did you at any point think that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do it? Tell me about the process of making it. Tell me what your friends said. Tell me how you felt when you wore it to prom?

Erinne: Someone that I knew a few years ago made their prom dress out of old newspapers to raise awareness for environmental issues, so the idea of creating a dress out of recycled materials first came from that. Then, as prom began to approach, I realized how much attention and energy goes into grad. I wondered if I could re-direct some of that into creating the same opportunity for a secondary education that we had all received, for others who aren’t able to receive it.

At first I created a few drafts of the dress to see if it was even physically possible. Then, I created the draft that you see in the pictures over the course of one whole day, in my living room, with my best friend! It took a lot of trial and error to get something that could actually hold together and that looked like a dress, but it was definitely worth it.

I did have some times where I considered wearing a regular prom dress. In the beginning I actually had bought a prom dress online, but I sold it after I decided to create the paper one. Once I started to realize this could be an opportunity to support Malala and everything she fights for, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

Physically, it was quiet uncomfortable to wear in all honesty. My best friend and I kept tape in our purses to make sure we could fix it if it began to fall apart. At one point, we lost track of the tape and used wet gum to hold part of it together!

My close friends and family knew I was going to wear this dress, but the majority of people did not. When I arrived at prom I think most people were shocked and curious about what I was wearing and why I was wearing it. A lot of people approached me and asked me about it, which was great because it started a discussion about the topic of women’s rights and education. Starting a discussion is exactly what I wanted to do! I’ve also been able to raise money for the Malala Fund through donating the money I would have spent on a dress to the foundation, auctioning off my dress, and other individuals donating directly on my behalf!

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Did you know that Erinne’s Malala Paper Prom Dress is now up for auction in support of The Malala Fund? You can check it out bid on it here until June 29, 2015.

 Hannah: What’s next for you?

Erinne: This is the first time I have officially spoken about this, but very soon I am going to be launching my own blog just like this one! It will focus on integrating activism and pop culture to weave activism into mainstream media for youth. Each post will mainly focus on one topic (such as women’s rights), something that has happened recently in pop culture to support it, an organization that is working to positively progress it, and something you can do to make a difference right now! I hope it will be able to show this generation how easy it can be to make a positive change in the world as part of your every day lives.

There are a few other opportunities that I am hoping to also explore that have arise from the dress story, but more on that soon!

Also, in September I will be studying International Relations and Peace, Conflict, and Justice at the University of Toronto as one of eleven National Scholars from across Canada!

Hannah: What advice do you have to offer to young people who want to make a difference?

Erinne: I think my biggest advice would be to think about a passion you have and an issue you want to make a positive difference in. Then brainstorm ways you can use that passion to create the positive change. For instance, both Malala and you enjoy writing blogs and used that to make a positive change in the world on topic(s) that are very important to you.

Always dream big and find people who share common passions because you are even more powerful when working together!

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Here is what I have learned from getting to know Erinne and her story:

Role models are everywhere. Your role models don’t have to be famous speakers, authors, artists or activists. Your role model could be sitting at the desk right beside you.

You don’t have to do it alone. Most of the initiatives that Erinne has done have involved other people who share common interests and passions. She found a community to work to create awareness and change.

Ideas only work if you do. Erinne is a do-er. She thinks of an idea and she makes it happen. She doesn’t just talk, she acts.

The formula, Issue+Gift=Change, works.. With the dress, Erinne identified her issue – education and paired it with her gift – the creativity and skills to make the dress. The awareness that she was able to create when people saw what she was doing had a lot of people talking about why she did it – education.

Knowledge is so important to make a difference. Erinne has spent a lot of time and energy learning about the issues that matter her. In the fall, she is going to the University of Toronto to study International Relations.

Social Media can be powerful for social good. Erinne uses social media to her advantage. Erinne became a social media sensation overnight. This is because one person shared it, then more and more. Erinne and her dress it seemed were everywhere online MTV, Seventeen, Cosmopolitain, Teen Vogue, The Malala Fund and many, many more.

On a personal note: Thank you Erinne for taking the time to talk with me, share your story and photos with me. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

UPDATE ON ERIN’S BLOG: IT’S LIVE! CHECK IT OUT HERE: http://erinnepaisley.com/

You can find Erinne on Twitter: @ErinneP 

 

Girl Heart World – That’s me!

Girl Heart World – That’s me!

I’m really excited to share a special project that I’ve been working on is ready to reveal. You know that I love animals and the environment and when I started my blog, I set out on a journey to share things that we can all do to honour and protect them. I believe that this starts with knowledge. Learning about the things that we are passionate about is the first step in creating connection and change.

Enter Girl Heart World.

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Girl Heart World is a series on Youtube that I host where I answer a different question and give cool facts about wildlife each week. Want to know why zebra’s have stripes or why pandas are vegetarian. I’ll tell you…but not here. Check out Girl Heart World on Youtube.

Here’s the first one:

..and the second one:

…and the third one:

Girl Heart World is part of the Love Nature channel Love Nature brings audiences closer to the beauty and wonder of nature, inspiring them to nurture and protect our natural world.

Girl Heart World is based on the show The Big Feed, which is a documentary takes you behind the enclosures, exploring the challenges of feeding animals in the zoo. From giraffes and gorillas to penguins and pandas, every animal is part of THE BIG FEED. Each episode features three different animals, giving you a look at their day-to-day life.” It is airing on Love Nature right now.

Is there an animal that you want to know more about or a question about animals that I can answer for you? Let me know and maybe we’ll feature it on an upcoming episode of Girl Heart World.

Here are some behind the scenes photos from filming.

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I Am Proud To Stand As An Ambassador For Bystander Revolution

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I Am Proud To Stand As An Ambassador For Bystander Revolution


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I am so excited to share the news that I am a now Youth Ambassador for Bystander Revolution! Bystander Revolution is an anti-bullying organization founded in April 2014 with a mission to inspire and motivate people to take the power out of bullying with simple acts of kindness, courage, and inclusion. Through their website, bystanderrevolution.org, the organization is a source of direct, peer-to-peer advice about practical things anyone can do to stop bullying. The site also encourages anyone to share their own perspective by submitting a personal story in the form of a video, written story, or short tip. The Bystander Revolution website is a place where you can get information and advice about the problems AND the solutions for targets, bystanders AND bullies.

I became involved with Bystander Revolution when I spoke at We Day Seattle with one of their celebrity Ambassadors, actress and activist Lily Collins. We co-hosted the segment, Social Empowerment, and we talked about equality and inclusivity. Lily talked about her high school experience as a leader for a peer to peer support group where students gathered to talk openly about issues that they were dealing with. She said, “No topic was out of bounds, whether it was grades, bullying, depression – anything. And what I found was pretty incredible…when people opened up, everyone listened. Overtime, things began to change. Barriers between different groups started to break down.” For Lily, it was all about creating a safe and supportive space and that’s what drew her to become an Ambassador for Bystander Revolution.

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But Lily is not the only celebrity that supports the mission and work of Bystander Revolution. Demi Lovato, John Green, Olivia Holt, Neil Gaiman, Jared Leto, Shaiiene Woodley, Monica Lewinsky, Ansel Elgort and Lucy Hale. The website includes videos from all of these people sharing their own brushes with bullies and they also give their advice.

I believe in the power of community, compassion and kindness. I believe that when these things have a big and active presence, there will be less bullying. I believe that through friendship and awareness, we might see a world one day that doesn’t require anyone to have to stand up against bullying. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

You might have seen my social media support recently for a the Bystander Revolution initiative #StandKind. The call to action is to be kind through social media by giving compliments with the idea that compliments are contagious. The goal is to create a ripple effect that would see more people saying thank you, you inspire me and great job. I would love to see you join us and #StandKind. It’s easy! Here’s how:

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I am so proud to be a Bystander Revolution Ambassador and hope that you’ll join me and #StandFirst #StandUp #StandProud #StandOut #StandWith #StandStrong and #StandKind

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I can make a difference. You can make a difference. We can all make a difference.

I can make a difference. You can make a difference. We can all make a difference.

I just had one of the most breathtaking experiences since I started my blog. When I got home from school today a big yellow envelope was waiting for me. It was from a school in New York that I spoke at a few weeks ago. I was the opening keynote speaker for their school’s annual Power of One day and I shared my thoughts and experiences about how we call make a difference in our communities and in the world.

I believe more than anything that we can all do something to make a difference – I talk about in this in my presentation. I give examples of all kinds of things that we can do that include raising awareness about an issue that you care about, donating your time to someone who needs some help and using your talents and skills to take action. I talk about a lot of things that you can do to create change that don’t cost money – just time and thoughtfulness.

One of the things that I talk about is how far kindness and compliments can go. When I give suggestions about acts of kindness, one of my top recommendations is always to make a handwritten thank you card for someone that has helped in some way – a teacher, a coach a friend. Today I am overwhelmed and on the receiving end of this type of outreach.

Back to that envelope.

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It was filled with personal letters written by the students who were at the assembly where I presented by keynote. They expressed their gratitude and told me what they learned and what impacted them. They said that they now recognize that one person has the power to make a difference and also that they are not too young to make a difference, no matter how small our actions might seem.

I sat on the floor with my Mom and read each one out loud to her. After I read the first few, it brought me to tears. These letters were so personal and thoughtful. It means so much that they took the time to write letters and make these beautiful cards for me. I was so amazed to hear about the actions that they took that were inspired by our time together. It means the world to me to know that I made a difference that day.

In my speech i say that when people do little things for me, it makes a big difference for me and I try to pass that on.

To the wonderful community at H.C. Crittenden Middle School, you made a big difference for me. Thank you so much and I promise you, I will pass that on.

Love,

Hannah

 

My must-watch favourite video of all time and the Mega Pet Adoption event this weekend in Toronto.

My must-watch favourite video of all time and the Mega Pet Adoption event this weekend in Toronto.

Hey Toronto! Looking for a new BFF? I think you might find one this weekend at The Toronto Humane Society‘s Mega Pet Adoption Event.

Mega Pet Adoption Event happening all weekend – June 5-7 at the Queen Elizabeth Building (200 Princes’ Blvd.) from 10am to 6pm.

All adoption fees are $25 and the goal is to find homes for 600 pets in need of homes and families.

We got together with family friends last weekend and their dog, Griffin, that they adopted a few years ago. We happened to be there for dinner the night that they brought Griffin home as a surprise to their kids. It was so cool to be part of that moment and even better to see that Giffin has found his people.

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Do you have a story to share about pet adoption? I’d love hear it.

Adopting a pet could be the best day of your life, and theirs.

Hey Toronto! NEW Items Accepted In Your Blue Bin!

Hey Toronto! NEW Items Accepted In Your Blue Bin!

I’ve got something to tell you.  I LOVE JUNE!  And it’s only the third day of the month!  As much as I love school, I love summer, so that’s reason #1. On June 1st, I had an awesome time participating in Pinball Clemons new initiative #JustGive (read more about that here), that’s #2. I’m looking forward to participating in the #ExploreGTA Twitter Party tonight at 8pm. We’re going to be celebrating and talking about conserving our green spaces in and around Toronto (read more about that here). And now, #4.  I’m pretty excited to tell you that as of June 1st, Toronto has added a huge list of things that are now being accepted in your blue bln for recycling.

Toronto’s Blue Bin recycling program, one of North America’s largest residential recycling programs, is now even bigger and better with the addition of new types of soft plastic material. Starting June 1st, Toronto’s recycling program accepts plastic film – the soft, stretchy type that includes bags used for dry cleaning, soil, sandwiches, bread, milk, bulk food and produce, frozen fruit and vegetables, as well as overwrap from toilet paper and paper towels. Full list and instructions are below.

“Every addition to our recycling program results in less garbage ending up in the City’s Green Lane Landfill,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West), Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. “We’re moving closer to our waste diversion target, and that’s great news for Toronto.”

Adding these plastics to Toronto’s Recycling Program will result in approximately 3,500 tonnes of waste being saved from landfill.

As of June 1, 2015, the following soft, stretchy plastics can go in recycling:

  • milk bags (inner pouches and outer bag)
  • bread bags (non-foil)
  • sandwich bags (e.g. resealable type bags)
  • bulk food bags
  • produce bags
  • dry cleaning bags
  • newspaper/flyer bags
  • diaper and feminine hygiene outer bags
  • frozen fruit bags
  • frozen vegetable bags
  • transparent recycling bags
  • over-wrap from toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, water and soft drink packaging
  • garden soil, manure or compost bags
  • road salt bags

Instruction on how to add the above to your recycling routine:

  • Just like your cans and bottles, empty and rinse bags to remove residue before recycling.
  • You may either bundle your bags inside one bag and ties handles or put bags in loose.

Still NOT accepted (types of plastic film):

  • Biodegradable plastic containers and film (e.g. compostable plastic bags)
  • Any type of black coloured plastic
  • Laminated plastic film (e.g. chip bags and stand-up resealable pouch bags)
  • Snack food bags (e.g. potato chips, peanuts, cookies)
  • Meat and cheese bag packages
  • Household cling wrap
  • Cellophane
  • Cereal liners
  • Candy bar wrappers
  • Plastic bubble wrap
  • Shower liners, pool covers, boat wrap

Good news Toronto eco-warriors, it’s happening. While there is a still a long way to go, we’re moving in the right direction for the city and the earth.

More details are available at toronto.ca/recycle

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(Photo Credit: Post City Magazines)

Kindraising with #JustGive

Kindraising with #JustGive

This morning I joined Pinball Clemons and his team at The MPCF (Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation) to kick off their week-long campaign #JustGive. #JustGive is not a fundraiser, it’s what I like to call a ‘kindraiser’. All week Pinball, his team and volunteers will be at different locations sharing kindness in different ways all over the city. Today we held doors open and wished commuters at Union Station a good morning.

I am a big believer that the power of small actions can change the world. When people do nice things for me (big or small) it makes a big difference to me. This inspires me to do nice things for other people. Sometimes those people are family and friends and sometimes they are people that I don’t know – people that I might not ever see again. Today, holding doors open for #JustGive, was an example of that.

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Sometimes we think that the biggest and most effective change we can make in the world is by donating money. It seems that this is the change that we hear about the most. But not all of the change that we wish to see can happen with money. Some changes are better served by giving your time, energy and smiles. Today, as we held doors open and said “Good to see you”, “Have a great day” or “Good morning”, we made a difference and changed the way that a Monday trip to work or school would normally be.

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What made it so fun was that it was unexpected. We were like a flashmob of kindness that made people smile and I hope that they spent the rest of the day paying it forward!

If you want to get involved with #JustGive (and of course you do), please check their website and follow them on Twitter @TheMPCF, @JustGive31 and #JustGive. There are different actions going on all week long.

If you can’t make it to any of the official events, don’t let that stop you – Mrs. Beckett’s grade 3 class at Bruce Trail Public School didn’t let it stop them. #JustGive.

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And when you #JustGive please share it. This morning, when Pinball greeted the volunteers, he said “when you rise up, WE rise up.” So, #JustGive and inspire everyone around you to #JustGive too.

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Join me for the #ExploreGTA Twitter Party, June 3rd.

Join me for the #ExploreGTA Twitter Party, June 3rd.

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I’m really looking forward to participating in the #ExploreGTA Twitter party on June 3rd at 8:00 PM! I hope you join us! Are you passionate about the environment? Do you enjoy the outdoor spaces in and around Toronto? Join us and celebrate our conservation areas. 

The #ExploreGTA Twitter party will help you learn about hidden gems in the GTA. We will also discuss important conservation issues, and share favourite memories of being outdoors. You will have the chance to win awesome prizes! (Canadian Residents Only)

Green spaces are vital to life in Southern Ontario. We’re going to talk about how we can protect our green spaces.

Why #ExploreGTA? With 535,000 acres of green spaces, our city’s backyard is important to everyone who believes in a healthy future and incredible access to the outdoors. Love hiking? The region is home to Canada’s largest trail network, with more than 10,000km to explore. But nature walks are just one wonderful benefit of our green spaces. There’s everything from fishing and camping to family friendly festivals, tree top treks and playgrounds.  To learn more, visit conservationparks.ca

Our 36 provincial conservation authorities protect rivers, streams and environmentally sensitive areas. It’s our green space; it’s our quality of life for generations to come. 

Join the discussion. Celebrate your conservation areas. Protect your green spaces.

I hope you can join us! My friend Spencer West will be there too!

To RSVP, go here.

Tweet you there!

Video: What really happens to the plastic you throw away

Video: What really happens to the plastic you throw away

We’ve all been told that we should recycle plastic bottles and containers. But what actually happens to the plastic if we just throw it away? Emma Bryce created a video showing the life cycles of three different plastic bottles, and the dangers they present to our world.

Help the WWF save critically endangered species by tweeting emojis #EndangeredEmoji

Help the WWF save critically endangered species by tweeting emojis #EndangeredEmoji

The WWF launched a really cool emoji-based campaign to help support their mission to protect precious species and their habitats. The launch of the campaign, which will be run on Twitter, is in honour of Endangered Species Day on Friday May 15th.

Did you know that the WWF has identified 50 endangered species and that 17 are listed as CRITICAL.

The idea for the #EndangeredEmoji campaign was sparked by the discovery that 17 characters in the emoji alphabet represent endangered species. WWF is wants to use the popularity of these characters and turn them into donations. Emoji have been used over 202 million times on Twitter since they were introduced in April 2014. The number is increasing daily. Just like the increased risk to these endangered species.

What is really cool about this campaign is that it is raising money, but it is also raising awareness. I believe that awareness is key when working to create any kind of change. If people don’t know that something is an issue, they won’t care about it and if they don’t care about it, they won’t be moved to take action.

Here’s how the #EndangeredEmoji campain works:

  1. #EndangeredEmoji will be run through the official @WWF Twitter account and at http://endangeredemoji.com.
  2. WWF will tweet an image showing all 17 Endangered Emoji. To take part in the campaign all twitter users need to do is retweet the image.
  3. For every Endangered Emoji the user then tweets, WWF will add the local currency equivalent of €0.10 (about 15 cents Canadian) to a voluntary monthly donation.
  4. At the end of each month, users will receive a summary of their Endangered Emoji use and can then choose how much to donate.

The emoji alphabet, the standardized set of digital pictograph characters used in communication globally, contain the following characters which represent endangered species:

Spider monkey
Giant panda
Asian elephant
Galapagos penguin
Antiguan Racer snake
Bactrian camel
Tiger
Sumatran tiger
Green turtle
Amur leopard
Siamese crocodile
Bluefin tuna
Blue whale
Western gray whale
African wild dog
Lemur leaf frog
Maui’s dolphin

Ready. Set. Tweet. #EndangeredEmoji

You can learn more about this campaign and the endangered species at http://wwf.panda.org and http://endangeredemoji.com

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