Brower Youth Awards

Mackenzie Feldman

Honolulu, HI

Working to ban pesticides in schools

Mackenzie Feldman is a 23 year old from Honolulu, Hawaii, and is the founder of Herbicide-Free Campus, a campaign to ban herbicides at schools. Her campaign originated at UC Berkeley, was expanded to all UC campuses and then broadened to schools across the US.

Her work is inspired by the fact that Hawaii— where she is from— is ground zero for industrial agriculture, and they do the most GMO seed testing in Hawaii out of anywhere in the country. She has witnessed her people poisoned and land destroyed by the big chemical corporations. The campaign came about after a day at a beach volleyball practice when she was a junior at UC Berkeley, and her coach told the team that an herbicide had just been sprayed around the courts. Mackenzie and one of her teammates immediately got herbicides banned from the courts, and then expanded the efforts to the rest of campus, launching Herbicide-Free Cal with the support of organizers from Food and Water Watch. 

Mackenzie achieved a major success when the use of glyphosate was temporarily banned from all University of California campuses. She has since broadened her efforts to a national level to reach as many universities as possible, renaming her campaign “Herbicide-Free Campus.” She has worked with a coalition to get herbicides banned from every public school in Hawaii, and also launched a chapter at the University of Hawaii campuses, as well as Sacramento Unified School district. Mackenzie mentors students on how to organize and cultivate relationships with groundskeepers, and has provided resources in the form of data, student support, financial support, as well as training and instruction for the groundskeepers in alternative maintenance methods. She also teaches students how to launch a campaign and train them on campaign strategy, university-wide policy, student recruitment, and digital organizing tools. 

Mackenzie hopes to have a far-reaching impact that will lead us to a toxic-free world, where farm workers, families, children, animals, and ecosystems will no longer be exposed to harmful pesticides.