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12-year-old's 'Water Watcher' nets top eco-prize

For the "Going Green Challenge," young inventor Elizabeth Rintels created a smart device designed to monitor and measure water usage.

Water Watcher drawing
11th Hour Action Network

Those worried about the future of the planet needn't look much further than 12-year-old Elizabeth Rintels and friends for reassurance that young people aren't just aware of eco-challenges, they're putting their minds to solving them.

Rintels, of Keswick, Va., created a smart device designed to measure and monitor water usage in the shower. On Thursday, youth marketing and media company By Kids For Kids announced that her invention nabbed the grand prize in BKFK's "Going Green Challenge," which called on America's youth to come up with new eco-ideas for a changing world.

The young innovator was driven to create the "Water Watcher" after learning that cutting her shower time by one minute would save approximately 1,000 gallons of water per year. The product can be fastened to any faucet, signaling a red light and sounding a beep every time a half-gallon of water is used.

By Kids For Kids, based in Stamford, Conn., sponsors all manner of creative competitions. It launched the Going Green Challenge in October 2007, with The Weather Channel as a sponsor and actor Ed Begley Jr., a green activist, as a celebrity judge. The contest drew thousands of entries.

In addition to a $10,000 cash prize, Rintels also will get to spend a day "shadowing" one of the eco-experts from Leonardo DiCaprio's 11th Hour Action Web site, which, inspired by the actor's movie, advocates sustainable-living practices on the local, regional, and national levels.

Other inventions in the "Going Green Challenge" finalist category include:

•  The "Recycle Frog," a large, amphibian-shaped plastic recycling bin that can be programmed to convey encouraging messages to kids about reuse.

•  "Trash Duo," a portable, reusable, washable bag that has two, built-in compartments: one for trash and one for recyclables. That way, people can recycle on the go more easily.

•  "Take The Bus! Reward Tokens" that kids can exchange for prizes, or even a party, whenever they take public transit to school instead of hitching a ride with mom and dad.