When Ryan Hickman was 3 years old, his dad took him to the local recycling center. They live in California, which offers incentives for turning in bottles and cans, and Ryan couldn't get enough of the entire experience.
"I loved it, and I've been recycling ever since," says Ryan, now 10, talking to us from his home in Orange County, California.
Ryan's efforts started as a way to save money for college.
You can earn money just by doing something you should be doing anyway? Ryan couldn't believe it. Even at the age of 3, he knew recycling was something that helped the earth and protected the environment. So he and his dad started a little business called Ryan's Recycling Company and began collecting recycling from neighbors, family, and friends. They would walk around the neighborhood and do pick-ups to get as much recycling as possible.
The little business grew and grew. Then in 2016, when Ryan was 6, he went viral. Since then he's appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Today, CNN, NBC, Good Morning America, and many more.
Ryan had already been inspiring others, but the exposure gave him an even bigger platform to talk about the importance of recycling.
"I get emails every single day from people all over the world that say I inspire them to recycle, and that's really, really cool," Ryan says. Check out our video featuring Ryan right here.
Ryan wants other kids to know that their actions matter.
Today, Ryan keeps his business going while also educating others about recycling and just being a kid. He regularly goes into schools and has speaking opportunities to talk to people about why they should recycle and, ultimately, why it matters.
He'll be starting a nonprofit soon called Project 3R, which, he says, will be dedicated to saving the environment and cleaning up the planet.
Ryan says he wants everyone, especially kids, out there to know that even the smallest act makes a difference.
"If you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up, even if it's not yours," Ryan says. "You could be saving an animal's life."
In a time where it seems like it might be too late to help the environment, Ryan says we have to keep doing our part.
"Eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. You can help save the planet. You could be making a big difference."
Ryan Hickman is one of our featured Let Grow Kids, showing the great things kids can do with independence. Did you see our story on Jonah Larson as well? He's a crochet prodigy.