“Turning trash into treasures is just like magic!” - Justin Sather, age 8
Justin has loved frogs for as long as he can remember. So when he learned that nearly one-third of the earth’s frogs species are in danger of extinction, he sprung into action and began raising money for his long-legged friends. But frogs were just the beginning. Justin’s mission to save amphibians led him on a crusade against plastic pollution. Now eight years old, Justin has become interested in recycling and has set his sights on turning the planet’s plastic trash into treasures—and he’s inspiring other kids to join in.
In Justin and his mom Sheri’s words, the story of For the Love of Frogs:
J: I like frogs because they can jump really far, and they get to go on land and stay in the water for a long time. I like poison dart frogs the best because they have a bunch of beautiful colors.
S: Justin has always loved frogs. He even chose to have a frog-themed birthday party when he was just two years old.
J: I learned that frogs needed help when I was in kindergarten. They’re going extinct because people are cutting down their homes and farmers spray stuff on their food to keep the bugs off of it. And frogs breathe through their skin, so they are sensitive to pollution.
Justin’s love of frogs from a young age sparked his interest in recycling and helping the planet.
S: We read a book together called What Do You Do with an Idea?, and I told him that one day I’d help him with his own big idea. Soon after, he started selling little toy frogs around the neighborhood and set off on a quest to save the frogs.
J: I started by selling little frogs for $1 and medium frogs for $5. I told the author of What Do You Do with an Idea?, too, and he bought $70 of frogs.
In first grade, I started telling other people about my frog project. They helped me raise $1,000 for a group called Save the Frogs, and because of that, I got to help build a wetland pond at a school.
After raising his first $1,000 for the organization Save the Frogs, Justin helped them build a wetland pond at a local school and in Las Plumas National Forest.
S: That’s when we decided to start a GoFundMe, which would allow us to do our own projects. All of the money we’d raised before had gone to Save the Frogs, but I wanted Justin to be able to see the impact of his work firsthand. From there, we started studying pollution and landfills and learning about other kids like Justin who are doing projects around the world.
J: I was featured in Bravery magazine, and through that, I met Dr. Jane Goodall and some kids like me who are changemakers. Ryan is recycling plastic bottles and doing beach cleanups. Aliah is making rainbow rocks and hiding them so that people can find them when they’re having a bad day because it might make them happier.
Justin’s recycling projects have helped him connect with other kids around the world who share his passion for helping the environment.
S: We also learned about a little girl who melts down and recycles spent crayons and another little girl in Australia who turns old fishing line into bracelets. It’s been really great connecting with this network of other kids who are doing similar things. Justin and I decided to start doing more to help the planet and teach others around our community how to recycle, too.
J: A school in Kenya sent me a letter because they have a lot of trash, and they asked if I could help them turn it into treasures. I’m going to teach them how to make eco-bricks. You get a bottle and put melted plastic in it, and when it gets hard, you can build something out of it. Through my GoFundMe, I also raised money to buy reusable snack bags for my school and pencils made out of recycled newspaper.
Taking used plastic and making something new is what Justin calls “turning trash into treasures.”
S: Then, Justin started his toothbrush project. He had just lost his front tooth, so teeth were a big topic in our house. He ended up getting a $200 grant from Dr. Goodall, and he spent it on Preserve toothbrushes, which are made from recycled yogurt cups. He’s trying to convince friends, classmates, and local dentists to switch from plastic to eco-friendly toothbrushes.
We would love to raise money for more toothbrushes and find a way to turn more trash into treasures.
The latest project on Justin’s radar is collecting and recycling used plastic toothbrushes and encouraging everyone he knows to use an eco-friendly alternative.
J: I’m also collecting used plastic toothbrushes and caps to recycle. I have a pen pal named Sammy from Indiana, and she gave me the idea to make a buddy bench in California. I collected 200 pounds of plastic caps that were melted into a buddy bench for my school.
After collecting 200 pounds of plastic caps, Justin mailed them to a recycling facility so that they could be melted down into a buddy bench for his school.
S: Every single day, Justin and I went around the city to the YMCA, the Staples Center, and his school to collect caps until he was ready to get his bench melted down. We mailed all the caps to Indiana and flew all the way out there to meet Sammy. We can’t wait for the bench to arrive at his school!
Justin and his mom flew to Indiana to meet up with Justin’s recycling pen pal and watch his plastic caps be transformed into a buddy bench.
J: It can be hard to make change because there could be people who don’t agree with you or don’t want to help your project. That makes me feel sad. But I want to keep turning trash into treasures because I don’t want to let the frogs or my friends down.
In order to change the world, you have to be brave and tell the world about your project and let them know that you want their help.
Justin continues to raise money through his GoFundMe to turn plastic trash into treasures and educate other kids about helping the environment.