Young Environmentalist of the Year

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control honors young Delawareans each year who have put their passions into projects that benefit our environment. Young Environmentalist of the Year Award winners are honored in a special ceremony at the Delaware State Fair.

Four people pose together in an awards ceremony. One, a young adult, is holding an award certificate.
Left to right: DNREC Sec. Shawn M Garvin, Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Chris Runde (winner of special recognition) and Delaware Gov. John Carney.

In a ceremony at the Delaware State Fair on July 27, 2023, Governor John Carney and DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin recognized three students from schools across the state as Delaware’s Young Environmentalists of the Year for 2023.

The 2023 Young Environmentalists of the Year

Elementary School: 

Spencer Tuxward, age 10, of Wyoming, 4th grade, W. Reily Brown Elementary School, Dover

As an active member of his school’s Eco-Team, Spencer is a role model for his fellow students, and is involved in recycling, feeding birds, growing vegetables in the school garden and promoting good stewardship of the school and grounds. Described as a “self-made environmentalist,” he also creates video presentations that reflect his love of nature. Spencer is especially interested in marine life, volunteering to rescue sea turtles and making and sharing videos about his work.

Special Recognition:

Chris Runde, age 17, of Milton,12th grade, Cape Henlopen High School, Lewes

On his own initiative, to help his community learn more about recycling, Chris looked into options for recycling cell phones and other rechargeable devices with lithium-ion batteries. He found Redwood Materials, a company that produces anode and cathode components from recycled batteries, and they sent Chris the materials to host a recycling initiative he launched on April 22, Earth Day 2023. In one day, he collected more than 300 pounds of old batteries and rechargeable devices and plans to do more community collections.

High School:

Iveena Mukherjee, age 16, of Wilmington, 12th grade, Charter School of Wilmington

Going into her senior year, Iveena is known for her “unwavering dedication to environmental conservation, advocacy and activism,” and has been recognized nationally and internationally, including honorable mention for the President’s Environmental Youth Award and a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Volunteer Award. Described as “a leading voice in youth activism,” the young scientist is actively seeking solutions to mitigate climate impacts, such as exploring the potential of biochar and epoxy resin to reduce plastic use, as well as leading a team that earned funding to continue a project studying RECON, a sustainable building material for carbon sequestration. Iveena has also been an integral part in her school’s Science Olympiad team, as well as creating five workshops for Delaware’s annual Youth Environmental Summit (YES!).

A young girl holds her hand up to the camera. Five butterflies hang from her fingers.
Caroline Nacchia, a 2019 Young Environmentalist Honoree

The Awards Program

The Delaware Young Environmentalist of the Year Award was established in 1993 by DNREC staff and interested members of the public.

The award program is open to Delaware students in grades 1 through 12 whose actions have resulted in the protection, restoration or enhancement of our state’s natural resources. Projects must have been completed between July 1 and June 30 for awards the following July.

Teachers, parents, classmates, club or group leaders submit nomination forms and include letters, reports, photos or other documentation of the project. Winners are chosen in three categories: elementary grades 1 through 4, middle school grades 5 through 8, and high school grades 9 through 12.

For more information, contact Young Environmentalist Awards Coordinator Joanna Wilson, in the DNREC Public Affairs Office, at 302-739-9902.

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