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‘Eco the Elephant Saves the Jungle’

High Tech High School grads pen children's book to spur youth environmental action

Authors Zach Fieldman and Roxy Hreb read their book "Eco the Elephant Saves the Jungle" to children. Photos courtesy of Hreb.

Two recent graduates from High Tech High School in Secaucus have authored a children’s book to change how awareness is raised about environmental issues.

Roxy Hreb of Jersey City and Zach Fieldman of Hoboken are the 18-year-old environmental entrepreneurs who wrote “Eco the Elephant Saves the Jungle.” The illustrations were drawn by artist Zelda Jones, a 23-year-old from Jersey City. 

Hreb and Fieldman penned the book with the hopes of inspiring the next generation of kids to think about environmental science and sustainability. In an interview with the Hudson Reporter, Hreb detailed how the story of “Eco” came to be. 

“One part of it was the zeal for entrepreneurship, this sort of excitement to get into the whole business world,” Hreb said.

Hreb and Fieldman have both a keen interest in business and the environment, being environmental science majors at High Tech that founded a business club at the school since they felt there wasn’t such a space.

“We also wanted to do something that would be actually not just be a quick fix per se for environmental problems,” Hreb said of the book. “We wanted to change the mindset of kids going forward.”

Zelda Jones, Roxy Hreb, and Zach Fieldman pose with copies of “Eco the Elephant Saves the Jungle.”

Seeking a paradigm shift

The theme of the book is about recognizing the issues affecting the environment, learning how to solve them, and taking action. According to Hreb, they want to reshape how children think the environment and issues like climate change at a young age.

According to the authors, “By shifting the social paradigm surrounding environmental issues starting at an early age, we hope to make a more widespread change through the lessons voiced in ‘Eco the Elephant.’”

The first book features “Mandy the Monkey” faced with the issue of having no more trees to swing on due to the deforestation. However, “Eco the Elephant saves the day by instructing to plant new trees to preserve their habitat.

“Another part of it was just the fact that we thought it would be a cool thing to do,” Hreb said. “We called late one night and were like, ‘Let’s write a children’s book.’” 

Hreb nor Feldman have any younger siblings, but instead drew inspiration from other children’s books and series including Peppa the Pig and works by Dr. Suess. They came up with the name “Eco,” then looked for an animal that shared the letter “e” alliteration that children could find relatable eventually settling on an elephant. And once the story was written, they got the book illustrated by Jones before seeking to publish it.

The authors attended “green festivals” and other events to sell copies of the book.

Self-publishing process

Fueled by the desire for change, Hreb and Fieldman embarked on a career-altering journey through self-publication. Through the process of creating and managing an LLC committed to sustainable business practices, they also raised $5,082 on Kickstarter from 63 donors in 30 days to support the book.

The funds were used to pay to print the books on recycled board with environmentally-friendly ink and manufacturing processes, as well as develop their website. The book debuted in February and has since sold hundreds of copies, according to Hreb. They have vowed to donate a certain percentage of profits from the sale of the books to an environmental charity.

“We try to donate a dollar from every book,” Hreb said. “So it’s about 10 percent of gross profit, or about 25 percent or something like that of net profits, to environmentally charities.”

The charity would be those sanctioned by the U.S. Forestry Service’s plant-a-tree program. It is a perfect homage to the story of “Eco,” which addresses deforestation.

“It’s where you essentially donate a dollar to plant a tree,” Hreb said. “We donate a portion of the proceeds from each book to the charity. The first book is about deforestation, so we figured we would donate to a charity that plants trees.”

Hreb and Fieldman are supported in there endeavors to sell the book by their Environmental Academy supervisor, Samantha Doria, and Environmental Science teacher, Dr. Shelly Whitham. They are connecting the authors with organizers of “green festivals” and local farmer’s markets, while also seeking opportunities for local “book signings.” 

Roxy Hreb and Zach Fieldman are self-published authors at 18-years-old.

On to the next book?

Hreb and Fieldman were both environmental majors at High Tech when they crafted the story of “Eco.” Now, they are self-published authors heading to college: Fieldman will be attending San Diego State University to study Business and Entrepreneurship and Hreb will attend Harvard University with a full scholarship in Environmental Science and Economics. Jones will also continue pursuing her art career.

“We’re going to continue ‘Eco’ of course,” Hreb said. “It’s turned into a small company at this point. We have a few employees and we actually have a few interns, which I find funny because I’m literally 18 with interns… We’ve been keeping up our website. We have a really active Instagram thanks to our new social media intern.”

Hreb and Fieldman plan to create a series of “Eco the Elephant” books featuring other animals tackling relevant environmental issues pertaining to their habitat. The next book is already in the works.

“We’re going to be coming out with a new book,” Hreb said. “We actually just got the sketches back the other day. It’s going to be about ocean plastic and cleaning up the coral reefs and such. We’re still pending on a title for that, but it will probably be something along the lines of ‘Seaside Adventures’ or something like that.”

Hreb said they are also thinking of eventually expanding beyond books. She said they are looking to eventually develop toys, clothing, and television show about “Eco” and other characters.

“Eventually, we do want to get into more of mixed media,” Hreb said. “Maybe we can create something like animated shorts or maybe even an animated series.”

Jones, Hreb, and Fieldman have also had several public readings of their book.

Where to buy the book

While Fieldman studies to become an environmental entrepreneur and Hreb focuses on one day working with environmental start-ups that focus on renewable energy, keep an eye out for upcoming books by them and illustrator Jones. In the meantime, the 24-page children’s book “Eco the Elephant Saves the Jungle” retails at $10. For more information, go to ecotheelephant.com.

Copies of the book can also be purchased at local bookstores in Hudson County. Stores selling the book including Little City Books at 100 Bloomfield Street in Hoboken and Little Boho Bookshop at 164A Broadway in Bayonne.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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