Doorae Shin

During her first semester at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Doorae Shin took notice of the styrofoam waste products scattered around trash bins and littered in congested areas, tainting Hawaiʻi’s natural and man-made landscapes. An East Coast native, this visible affliction in Hawaiʻi inspired Shin to make a change. In 2012 in conjunction with the Surfrider Foundation, Shin gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition to ban styrofoam eating products at UH Mānoa, an effort that eventually resulted in a campus-wide ban of single-use foam packaging at any of the campus’ several dining locations.

A steadfast advocate for sustainability and environmental stewardship, Shin was honored with a 2014 Brower Youth Award for her commitment to Hawaiʻi’s environmental movement. The award recognizes youth leaders from around the nation who have made significant strides towards environmental preservation, conservation and restoration.

“With thousands of amazing young leaders around North America working on incredible environmental projects, I feel so blessed and honored to be recognized by such an inspiring organization,” said Shin of receiving the award. “I hope that the campus community and especially students feel empowered in their ability to move our campuses towards increased environmental stewardship.”

Efforts such as Shin’s move UH towards a more sustainable university model in line with environmental movements that are taking place around the world. “The ban on single-use foam products is incredible, but there is no single campaign in which the environmental movement can claim victory and stop there,” she said. “I will continue to organize the community and advocate for the changes we need if we want to sustain ourselves and the planet that sustains us.”

Shin is currently working as student sustainability coordinator, a role that calls for multi-campus collaboration in campaigning for and eventually implementing environmentally and socially friendly practices. Divest UH is one such campaign that aims to divest the university from fossil fuels and redirect the university’s investments away from oil and gas stock.

“Everyone has the power and the responsibility to be an activist whether it is through personal action or community collaboration,” said Shin. “With Hawaiʻi being one of the most vulnerable places for the impacts of climate change, it is time for us to all choose to be a part of the solution.”

—By Kapiʻolani Ching