Ann Arbor teen wins prestigious environmental prize

13-year-old Izzy Sutton is trying to reduce plastic waste by making her own biodegradable line of jewelry, greeting cards and ornaments.

a teenage girl wearing a protective face mask smiles in front of a machine with wooden cutouts of figures like birds, hearts and ice cream cones

Izzy Sutton working on some biodegradable ornaments.

An Ann Arbor teenager earned a national honor while trying to positively impact her community.

13-year-old Isabelle Sutton received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize selects 25 honorees out of 500 applicants in the United States and Canada. The focus is to honor young people who are making positive impacts on their communities and the environment.

Izzy Sutton holding her Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes Award.

Sutton began her mission in the fifth grade when she learned about recycling and the pollution of plastic and the harm it contributes to humans, animals and the planet itself.

“I’m really honored,” says Sutton. “I’m so excited. It’s a great opportunity to meet and learn about other kids my own age or similar to my age, who are also making a difference with the environment or just making a difference in general.”

Sutton raised awareness by creating her own brand called JustIZZY. She makes products like biodegradable bracelets, greeting cards and ornaments. The proceeds go to animal rescues like The Detroit Dog Rescue and The Bird Center of Washtenaw County. So far, she has raised $8,000.

“There’s so many small nonprofits and I think sometimes they get overlooked when people are making decisions on where to donate to,” Sutton says. “So, I really wanted to shine a light on some special nonprofits that I think are important and interesting.”

Sutton says right now, the focus of the JustIZZY project is to have the Ann Arbor School Board limit the use of plastic single-use water bottles in the cafeteria and at school events. She has even reached out to Governor Gretchen Whitmer in hopes to reduce plastic usage statewide.

To support Sutton’s project, you can purchase items on her Etsy store called JustIZZYs.

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  • Russ McNamara

    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.