Herts and Essex High School student Jen Zead's climate change book shows young people how they can help to save the planet
A 15-year-old Herts and Essex High School student is on a mission to show other eco-minded young people how they can play their part in helping to save the world.
The book How to Fix the Planet (When You're a Teenager) has been published under the Year 11 author's pen name, Jen Zead.
Other young environmentalists – such as Swedish Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg and, closer to home, former Bishop's Stortford High School student Ollie Nancarrow – have attracted a barrage of hostility from internet trolls and climate change naysayers. For this reason, 'Jen' wants to keep a low profile.
She settled on her pen name as a nod to her book's Gen-Z target audience – those born between the late 1990s and early 2010s.
"I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I became aware of climate change," she said. "Maybe a couple of years ago. I thought, 'Okay, this is a real issue'. So I started trying to figure out what I could actually do."
Jen looked for guides penned by environmentalist authors, but found there was a gap in the market.
"There are lots of books targeted at adults but they weren't really aimed at people of my generation," she said.
"Gen Z may be the last letter of the alphabet, but we're also the beginning of the next way of living, for a better future."
How to Fix the Planet (When You're a Teenager) was launched earlier in March to coincide with British Science Week.
In Jen's guide, she focuses on five key areas – plastic, food, palm oil, fashion and advocating activism. She provides advice and steps that readers can take to help tackle climate change.
Her hints are fairly simple, but are intended to have a big impact on the environment, from recycling to second-hand clothes shopping. She gives her readers weekly tasks and checklists and aims to stimulate a new wave of consciousness.
She also calls on her own extreme attempts to be completely green and plastic free. Through failing, Jen says, she found simple, less exhaustive solutions.
"We don't need a few people doing everything perfectly, we need lots of people doing something imperfectly," she said.
Before the pandemic, Jen took part in local protests to highlight the plight of the planet. But when Covid-19 triggered the first nationwide lockdown in March 2020, she felt she had no voice.
Writing the book, approaching literary agents and publishing her work has given Jen a chance to make a difference in the pandemic.
She has researched each chapter and had all the information fact-checked by scientists. British astronaut Richard Garriott, 59, was so impressed by her work he wrote the foreword and took a copy of How to Fix the Planet (When You're a Teenager) to the bottom of the world's deepest ocean.
In February, Richard plumbed the depths of the Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean – at 10,984m (36,037 ft / 6.825 miles), the deepest oceanic trench on Earth – and took a selection of work with him, by Jen and other youngsters, to inspire children and teenagers to think about how best to protect the planet.
"I'm amazed and in awe that he was kind enough to do that," said Jen. "Our only interaction has been virtual and email based."