From Student Contest Participant to Eco-Conscious Entrepreneur

10th Grade Entrepreneur is Saving Coral Reefs One T-Shirt at a Time

Business doesn’t have to be all about personal gain. Sterling Hollond, a 10th grader from Kansas, shows us how we can help save Earth’s ecosystems through entrepreneurship. To support coral reef conservation, Hollond created his own business called Great Barrier Inc., an online t-shirt retailer. 10% of all the proceeds went to the Coral Reef Alliance – an organization that works with communities worldwide to protect vulnerable coral reef habitats. Talk about making some waves!

The idea for this endeavor came from a trip he took to Australia last December, when he had the opportunity to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. He recalls meeting a marine researcher on his third snorkeling trip who spoke to him about “the makeup of the reefs and how they were being negatively affected by global warming, population increase, and other human factors.” It was that experience that inspired his environmental stewardship.

Upon returning to school at Basehor-Linwood High in Basehor, Kansas, Hollond heard about the World of 7 Billion video contest in his Video Production class. The project could not have come at a more perfect time. Hollond, a fifteen-year-old film enthusiast, decided to submit a video of his own to the Ocean Health category. Drawing inspiration from his recent trip, he submitted an entry titled “Save our Reefs.”

His video speaks of the damaging impacts of a growing human population on ocean ecosystems, specifically coral reefs. As the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increases, so do the observed cases of ocean acidification and coral bleaching. These effects are exacerbated by activities such as costal development, anthropogenic pollution and overfishing. Fish species that depend on the reefs for food and/or shelter will be among the first affected. Moreover, as corals die off, beaches are left vulnerable to storms and we can expect to see a significant increase in sand erosion.

The good news is that we can alleviate the damage. As Hollond mentions in his video, everyone can help by reducing their carbon emissions—support renewable energy projects, purchase more locally-sourced food, opt for walking instead of driving, or simply use less plastic.

Motivated by the contest and his experiences in Australia, Hollond decided to take a more active approach. When the teacher for his Entrepreneurship class tasked the students with creating a business, most of his peers opted for small operations selling candy around the school. Hollond, however, saw an opportunity to fulfill his newfound sense of duty to protect the environment. And thus, Great Barrier Inc. was born.

Hollond is not alone in using business to aid conservation efforts. One of his inspirations is Ivory Ella, a two-year-old clothing company that has already donated $810,914 towards the protection of elephants. Businesses like this help make the Earth a better place just by being successful. You don’t need to be a conservationist to conserve.