In Celebration of Earth Day 2020, The Redford Center Announces National Environmental Video Contest Winners

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Illinois, Texas and California students take top honors

The Redford Center—an environmental film and media nonprofit co-founded by Robert Redford and his son James Redford—celebrates the culmination of the inaugural year of Redford Center Stories.

“Young people globally are bringing new energy and passion to the work of protecting and restoring our planet and our communities.”- Jill Tidman, Executive Director of The Redford Center

Aiming to recognize and celebrate the way students across the country are emerging as environmental leaders, The Redford Center—an environmental film and media nonprofit co-founded by Robert Redford and his son James Redford—celebrates the culmination of the inaugural year of Redford Center Stories: an environmental storytelling contest for middle school students with video submissions submitted from across the U.S.

“Young people globally are bringing new energy and passion to the work of protecting and restoring our planet and our communities,” said Redford Center Executive Director, Jill Tidman. “These students’ videos are a big bright light in trying times. Their creativity, straight-talk and concern for the planet is deeply encouraging. I also applaud our participating teachers, who invited their students to reimagine how we make, use and dispose of materials. It’s exactly the systems change work we all have to be conceiving.”

Students were tasked with producing collaborative, 30-90 second short films that interpret their understanding of, and innovations for, the contest theme: Reimagining Materials Production, Use and Waste. Participating teachers were given a Redford Center storytelling curriculum with resources on how to educate students about the principles of a circular economy.

After reviewing all the submitted videos, third generation Redford Center board member, Dylan Redford (29) shared, “It was really inspiring and honestly radical. The students had to consider incredibly complex realities and track systems that even my peers don't understand. A fun video project became a trojan horse for a deep, more urgent understanding of a complex environmental system, which is so exciting.”

Starting on Earth Day 2020, The Redford Center is making the contest curriculum available for free for all middle school teachers and homeschooling parents at

All student videos were produced using Clips editing software, Apple’s free app for iOS, that makes it easy to create and share fun videos using an iPhone or iPad.

"These students are using their voices to demonstrate a powerful truth: that every single individual has a role to play in addressing global challenges,” said Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives at Apple. “We are proud to partner with The Redford Center to share their stories and actions, in a time when they are needed more than ever.”

This Redford Center Stories Highlight Reel encapsulates the creativity and inspiration of the student entries.

The first-place winning video, “One Step Closer,” tells a well-researched story that asks the question, “Will your school be part of the solution?” and takes a look at how schools can control excess waste and make environmentally friendly policy changes. Students interviewed their cafeteria manager and district manager of their food service provider and then convinced the school superintendent to replace Styrofoam lunch trays with reusable trays and to swap plastic for biodegradable utensils. The interdisciplinary effort was led by Hinsdale, IL, 7th grade art teacher, Theresa McGee, and her colleague, science teacher, Jane Fetty, from Hinsdale Middle School. The pair created an after-school club with students meeting once a week to complete their task.

“It took the combination of each students' strengths and internal drive to educate their peers and beyond about environmental issues,” said instructor, Theresa McGee. “Along the way, they discovered they were both storytellers and filmmakers and that with less than 90-seconds they can make a big impact! The students were tenacious in their passion for finding the truth and reaching their goal of making a difference.”

“The Ocean’s Story” won second place. The video was created by 7th grade students at Coppell Middle School East in Coppell, TX, led by science teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, Jodie Deinhammer. Using clever animation and fast-paced rhyme, the video tells the tale of how one plastic straw journeys from factory to trash to ocean. By way of a beach clean-up, the straw is ultimately saved, recycled and reused. And the film ends with the line, “We only have one world, let’s make it a better place.”

The third-place winner, “The Eco-Friendly House Project,” is a 6th grade collaboration led by their teacher Rachel Davis at The Hamlin School in San Francisco, CA. The animated video tells a multifaceted story that explores greenhouse gasses, composting and rainwater use, among many other solutions, for improving homelife and helping better the planet.

Contest winners were selected by an esteemed panel of judges that included:

  • James Redford, Filmmaker & Co-Founder of The Redford Center
  • Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives
  • Jaden Smith, Actor Musician & Co-Founder of 501CTHREE
  • Coyote Peterson, YouTube Personality & Host of Animal Planet’s “Brave The Wild”
  • Andrew Cooper & Alex Shulze, Co-Founders of 4ocean
  • Chloe-Mei Espinosa, Youth Activist & Founder of Skip The Plastic Straws

The project received major support from Apple and prize partner 4ocean. Additionally, the following organizations collaborated with The Redford Center to promote the program and provide additional outreach opportunities.

  • Earth Day Network
  • The Half Earth Project
  • 501CTHREE
  • Climate Generation
  • Blue Sky Funders Forum
  • Captain Planet Foundation
  • Dhana, Inc.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • California Film Institute
  • Rootopia
  • The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture
  • Children & Nature Network
  • National Writing Project
  • Climate Emergency Fund
  • Youth Cinema Project
  • Project Green Schools
  • Children for Change
  • Zero Waste Boise, Idaho

About The Redford Center:
Co-founded by Robert Redford and his son James in 2005, The Redford Center is a 501(c)(3) organization that harnesses the power of documentary films and impact campaigns to help tip the scales on critical environmental and social issues. The Redford Center’s original productions include: Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars (2008) which helped prevent the construction of 177 new coal-powered plants. Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West(2012) which secured $10 million to support on-the-ground restoration work and obtain water rights for the delta region. The Redford Center’s current film and campaign, Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution (2017) has been viewed nearly two million times in the U.S. alone since its HBO broadcast premier in December 2017 and won “Best Environmental Film” at the 2018 NYWILD Film Festival. The organization’s next original production, The Nature Film (in production), will personalize the climate crisis by exploring the scientific and cultural links between wilderness conservation, community access to the outdoors, and human health and wellness. The Redford Center Grants program provides funding, filmmaker support, and networking opportunities to filmmakers with feature film projects in early development that are focused on driving awareness, education and tangible action on a variety of environmental topics. The Redford Center’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program extends its nonprofit status and filmmaking experience to support kindred environmental impact film and media projects. To learn more, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube.

About 4Ocean (
The story begins when Alex and Andrew take a surf trip to Bali Indonesia that would inevitably change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it. One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen's livelihood. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the 2 surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board. After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup efforts. This is how the 4ocean Bracelet was born. Made with recycled materials, every bracelet purchased funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In less than 2 years, 4ocean has removed 6,174,455 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines. 4ocean currently operates out of multiple countries and employs over 150 people worldwide.

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