Best of America

The Twins Teaching a Coastal Town to Clean Up Its Act

Allison and Jillian SamowitzPhotographed by Jeffery Salter/Redux
Who: Allison and Jillian Samowitz, 15
What: Boosting their town’s “green IQ”
Where: Golden Beach, Florida

The images were shocking: Allison Samowitz and her twin sister, Jillian, watched the 2010 BP oil spill on TV with their hearts sinking. “We live right on the beach, and we heard about tarballs and how the spill affected the ocean’s ecosystem,” says Allison. “It was just devastating, and we were afraid it would happen here.” The coastal towns along the Gulf of Mexico didn’t feel that far away from their little Golden Beach anymore.

The sisters studied the conservation habits of their friends and neighbors. “We’re a small town of 360 homes, and we found out only 20 percent of them recycled!” Allison says incredulously.

Moved to act, they first planned a town fair with demonstrations about how ordinary people could make lasting changes to the environment. They persuaded 12 local companies to join them and attracted a crowd of about 200 people. On the scene were hybrid cars and booths where volunteers and company representatives accepted used electronic equipment, eyeglasses, books, and sneakers — all for recycling. The girls are planning another fair this year.

“It’s an education campaign,” says Allison. “People don’t know, but there are so many simple things they can do every day that can become second nature.”
Adds their dad, Harvey, “They’re basically optimists.”

Allison now reports on the environment for her school’s television station. Both girls lend their time to various recycling projects around town, such as giving old toys to children’s charities and collecting used crayons — which are often dumped in landfills — to melt down for reuse.

And should anyone think that they’re awfully single-minded, the sisters have a healthy set of other interests: ballet, tae kwon do, lacrosse, and deep-sea diving with their dad. “We, I, blink — that’s my sleep,” says Allison.

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