Photo/Illutration Shiina Tsuyuki explains how environmental protection is important during her speech at Nitobebunka junior high school in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward on Dec. 18. (Koichi Ueda)

A 20-year-old climate activist is on a mission to inspire her generation to become more environmentally aware and make changes in their own lives to confront climate change on a personal level.

Shiina Tsuyuki made up her mind that she needed to do something after receiving a rare educational experience overseas at a sustainable, self-reliant school.

She took leave from her university studies and started touring educational institutes throughout Japan with her green message.

“It does not matter if no more than even two or three people out of a hundred (in the audience) take action,” she said. “I believe there is something that can be shared only with those from the same generation.”

After attending Keio University’s Faculty of Environment and Information Studies for one year until this past fall, Tsuyuki began delivering lectures at elementary, junior high and senior high schools as an environmental activist in November.

Tsuyuki explained in December at a school in Tokyo how she chooses eco-friendly products and services in her daily life, and how students can live more environmentally friendly lives by starting with small steps.

She never uses plastic straws, she told them. She always brings a washable bottle with her and she has signed up for a power utility that uses renewable energy.

“If each one of us takes action, we can actually change the world,” Tsuyuki told the audience.

Tsuyuki spent her childhood in Yokohama's Chinatown. She loves living being surrounded by nature, like when she studied in the mountainous village of Yasuoka, Nagano Prefecture, in the fourth and fifth grades at elementary school.

She began to struggle in junior high school and performed poorly on her English exam. So, her mother sought out other school options for her overseas.

What she came up with turned out to be far from a typical high school experience.

Tsuyuki enrolled in Green School Bali, a private school in Indonesia, where she studied in the jungle in a bamboo building. The school relied on electricity and food it produced all on its own.

There were no textbooks, and the work was not typical. Tsuyuki remembers at one point being given an assignment to create lipstick using only natural ingredients.

She became more environmentally conscious during her stay there after she witnessed firsthand a mountain of waste.

“We, consumers, must change,” Tsuyuki recalled thinking.

In 2018 and 2019, Tsuyuki traveled to Europe to attend U.N. meetings on climate change. She was inspired by an encounter with 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

To date, Tsuyuki has given talks to more than 3,000 children in total. Her goal is to bring her positive message to 210,000 people across all 47 prefectures.