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Las Vegas Student Raises Climate Crisis Awareness on TikTok

Around one-third of TikTok's 850 million active users worldwide are between the ages of 10 and 19. But those young people aren't just sharing dance moves and makeup lessons; they're also spreading awareness of climate change and what can be done about it. 

A TikTok collective that calls itself “ EcoTok" includes a senior at Southeast Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas.

“I would say EcoTok is a group of environmentalist from all over the country, and all over the world really, where we just post short video clips of anything educational or comedic, and we try to inspire the youth to take their own action, and try to get them to realize they can also make a difference,“ Alex Silva told KNPR's State of Nevada.

The collective came together over the summer when Silva started talking with Alaina Wood, who lives in Tennesee. She is also an environmental activist. 

“I really wanted to get this going and contact as many people as we could to work together on this,” Silva said.

So far, EcoTok has between 14 and 15 creators and about 67,000 followers.

Most of the content focuses on individual actions like composting, using less plastic and recycling. They seem like small actions but Wood said those actions add up.

“Individual actions show companies, corporations, and governments that they want change and especially with the younger generations, who may not be able to vote right now," she said, "It also shows the older generations that they are serious about this.”

They also introduce more complicated ideas like corporate greenwashing and industrial agriculture. Wood said tackling larger, more complex issues in just a few short seconds can start a conversation and prompt people to do further research.

While the audience of TikTok is young, Wood said it is important to talk to them about environmental issues.

“Their generation is going to have to live through the bulk of the climate crisis, unlike generations before," she said.

Another topic they cover is environmental racism. 

“This is really important to me because people of color are the most impacted by pollution and climate change and I have seen it go on," Silva said, "I think it is very unfair that people of color have to suffer when they really don’t produce as many emissions as, let’s say, white communities.”

Wood agreed and said she has seen instances of environmental racism first hand. She said she started to really understand the importance of the problem when she listened to people of color. She believes that is vital to addressing the problem. 

“We must listen to people of color when it comes to their issues, but also, stand up for them and make their voices heard,” she said.

Although the videos they put on TikTok aim to show people the things they can do to address climate change on their own, the EcoTok collective also recently had a series of 'video confessions,' where creators confessed to their missteps when it comes to the environment.

Sliva admitted he still uses single-use plastics and Wood admitted she will drive when she could bike or walk.

Silva said the idea was to show people you don't have to be 100 percent zero waste to make a difference.

“We shouldn’t feel pressured to be 100 percent perfect,” he said.

Silva said that he has been interested in environmental issues for a long time but it wasn't until he was a freshman in high school and saw a video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose that he knew he needed to do more.

One of his initiatives is to get styrofoam banned from Clark County School District cafeterias. He started a petition that has already gathered 2,000 signatures.

“My environmental club and I are going to bring that list of signatures to the district and have a presentation ready so that we can get that ban implemented,” he said.

Silva explained that styrofoam is an environmentally harmful product from when it is produced and creates emissions to when we throw it away and it becomes a pollutant in landfills and oceans.

Alex Silva, TikTok creator;  Alaina Wood, TikTok creator

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.