Hannah Testa said her jaw dropped to the floor when she opened an unexpected email from an editor at Penguin Random House over the summer asking her to write a book about her journey in activism, working to push against single-use plastics.
Testa, a senior at West Forsyth High School, said that she writes articles for different publications from time to time, sharing her take on the plastic crisis, how she has worked to change current environmental issues and how others can get involved in creating change, too.
She said she was shocked, at only 17 years old, that she would suddenly be writing a book for one of the largest publishing companies in the world.
Testa said that when she got the email, she grabbed her laptop and ran to her parents immediately to show them.
“That was — insane,” Testa said.
After months of hard work, learning how to write her first book and finishing it even through school, the book has finally come together. “Taking on the Plastics Crisis” is a 64-page journey through Testa’s life in activism and how she got to where she is today. The book was officially released on Oct. 13, and is now available through most major retailers.
Testa wrote the book as part of Penguin Random House’s Pocket Change Collective, a series of six books written by activists working in a variety of areas, including racism, gender equality and LGBTQ rights. All of the books, including “Taking on the Plastics Crisis,” are all pocket-sized. Testa said the inspiration was to fit big ideas into small books so that someone could carry that inspiration with them wherever they went.
“I feel honored to be a part of such an incredible group of people and be able to share my experiences,” Testa said.
In her book, Testa writes further about the connection between plastic production and climate change and about eliminating single-use plastics instead of focusing mainly on recycling, and she mostly writes on how to get involved in creating change in areas where readers have a passion.
Written mainly for kids ages 10-19, Testa said that she hopes the book can inspire other young people to “activate their voices” and speak up for what their generation needs, no matter if that applies to making change within the environment or any other pressing issue that younger generations face today.
“I really hope it shows them that they can tackle these issues even just as one person,” Testa said. “They can have an impact with the resources that they have where they are and with the friends and family and community they have around them.”
Testa said that often kids and young adults are made to feel as though they cannot make any real impact until they are older. She has even been guilty of the feeling herself, mentioning that writing a book originally felt like a far-off dream meant for when she was older.
“We want action now, and a lot of times we’re told, as young people, that we can’t really do anything and that you don’t really have a say in a lot of these decisions,” Testa said. “But we’re fed up and tired. We want to make sure our voices are heard. Even though we’re not old enough to vote or old enough to hold office, we can still create change and impact other people and leaders to make change for our generation.”
Testa has a passion for youth activism, aiming to always inspire others her age to get involved where she can. She said she plans to speak further about youth activism at an upcoming TedX Alpharetta Women event on Nov. 21.
She was also recently recognized by People Magazine as one of the Girls Changing the World in 2020 in honor of International Day of the Girl earlier this month. She was one of 10 young girls chosen, between the ages of 13 to 19, who are making a difference in the world through their activism.
Testa believes that if young activists come together to work and collaborate as one, they can make a huge impact on communities across the world.
“Hopefully [readers will] realize their voice is valid, and they can start taking action even if these big issues seem so overwhelming,” Testa said. “We really need everyone because the weight of the world is not as heavy if we all lift it together. It’s going to take all of us.”
Testa is currently taking donations in an effort to raise $20,000 to help provide her book to others in marginalized communities who may not have access to it. She has been working with schools in Forsyth County to try to raise donations, including Midway Elementary, whose administration chose to donate to a school in Liverpool, England.
She is also raising money to donate books to communities in Atlanta and other parts of the U.S.
“I know a lot of communities now, especially through the pandemic, these schools had huge budget cuts and a lot of these students won’t have access to a lot of books or information,” Testa said. “And a lot of kids in marginalized communities don’t get to hear the message that their voice is valid and that they can take action on issues. So I really wanted to be able to provide books to these communities in need and students I think often are left behind.”
To donate or to find out more about Testa and her work in activism and tackling the plastics crisis, visit her website at hannah4change.org.