Victory for 'the Lorax': Change.Org Helps Students' Petition Reach Hollywood

PHOTO: Ted Wells fourth-graders in Brookline, Mass., launched a petition at Change.org to get Universal Studios to add environmental tips to its "The Lorax" movie website.
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The fourth-graders in Ted Wells' class were thrilled to find out the Dr. Seuss environmental tale, "The Lorax," was being turned into a movie, but when a visit to the film's website uncovered not one mention of trees, the students headed to Change.org.

"I am the Lorax, and I'll yell and I'll shout for the fine things on Earth that are on their way out!" says the Lorax in the book.

The Dr. Seuss character "spoke for the trees," so in mid-December, Wells' Park School class in Brookline, Mass., decided to speak for the Lorax and environmentalists everywhere.

They launched a petition online at Change.org -- a social media website where supporters post petitions in hopes of getting change from governments or corporations.

Last year, petitions on the site won battles over Bank of America's bank fees and Verizon's online payment fees.

'Green Up' This Website

The kids aimed for the same success -- asking that Universal Studios add an environmental message to the film's promotional website.

"We're encouraging Universal to make an improved 'Lorax' movie website that Dr. Seuss would be proud of," read the students' petition on Change.org.

"This movie can show the world we should not take our sky, water, trees and animals for granted," it read. "We think Universal Pictures needs to 'green up' this website."

Word spread about the petition and more than 57,000 people added their signatures. Then Universal took notice. Alongside the movie clips are now tips on saving the planet and, specifically, the trees.

Universal told ABC News that although it had planned to add environmental tips, the petition had expedited the marketing campaign and gotten the tips added to the website more quickly.

"Mr. Wells and his [fourth-grade] class are wonderful messengers for the Lorax and we're pleased to have them as allies in raising awareness to the important message of Dr. Seuss's beloved children's book," a Universal spokesperson said in an email.

Ben Rattray, Change.org's CEO, told ABC News that thanks to the power of the Internet, his site allows regular people to rally against governments and organizations.

"We're surprised every single day," said Rattray, 31. "We don't know what's going to take off. Campaigns will absolutely go viral. ... I think it's an awesome, overall demonstration of what we call 'people power' -- the power for everyday people to come together and effect a change they previously couldn't change."

Change.org Explodes in Popularity

Change.org has exploded in popularity in the last year, with 10,000 new petitions posted every month. Rattray said the start-up -- which he co-founded in 2007 with a fellow Stanford University graduate -- boomed from two employees in 2007 to more than 100.

"It's remarkable," he said. "It's exciting to wake up and every day realize that real lives are being changed because of that platform that we built."

Its victories include several Major League Baseball teams agreeing to make anti-gay bullying "It Gets Better" videos after petitions on Change.org netted thousands of signatures, as well as a petition posted on Change.org pressuring the South African government to establish a task force to end the practice of "corrective rape" for lesbians.

Change.org, which turned a $5 million profit last year, has opened new offices in Madrid, London, Melbourne, Australia, and Delhi, India -- with plans for offices in 15 more countries.

Change.org: From 'the Lorax' to Sallie Mae

Stef Gray, a 23-year-old New York college graduate, got a response from Sallie Mae, the nation's largest private lender, after posting a petition on Change.org asking the lender to stop charging the unemployed a penalty fee for deferring payments.

"I was absolutely stunned," Gray said. "I can't believe that it's blown up like this. It's made me feel empowered and optimistic."

Although Sallie Mae did not stop charging the fee, it did agree to apply it to the balance of the loan if on-time payments were made in full for six months in a row. Gray vowed to keep fighting -- along with the more than 120,000 people that signed her petition -- until Sallie Mae does away with the fee all together.

At the Park School, Wells' students said they were proud of their successful petition and already had their sights set on other causes.

"I think it really made me think that we're not just kids," Mikayla said. "We can be really powerful in many different ways."

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