Top idea: beach glass

Student's business venture wins Caring for the Kenai

While she was on a beach in Hawaii, Jenna Hansen saw that sea glass was being used for landscaping she thought was beautiful. She took the idea back home to Nikiski with her, and thought there could be a way she could use the same materials.


“I was thinking about landscaping, you go on the Internet and research sea glass, you see mainly jewelry, and that gave me the idea for jewelry,” Hansen, 14, said.

That’s when the process started for Hansen, a freshmen at Nikiski Middle-High School. She decided to form her own business — Kenai Peninsula Seaglass.

Hansen won first place at the Caring for the Kenai competition on Friday, earning her $1,600 toward her business. 

Caring for the Kenai is a competition for high school students throughout the Kenai Peninsula to propose ideas to better care for the environment of the Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster. There were 400 students that participated this year, which is the 22nd year of the competition. 

“This is more than I ever imagined, this is great,” she said.

Hansen doesn’t get her materials from the beach itself, she uses discarded glass. She said she gets her glass from the transfer site. From there, the glass is put into the ocean for beautification.

“I put it in our tide tumbler and let the waves agitate them,” Hansen said. 

The tumbler is a mesh box that is put on the beach with a stake.

“Then the waves just agitate the glass and the salt in the water smooths down the glass’s edges,” she said. 

Hansen admits owning a business at a young age gives her a different type of feeling. 

“Well, it kind of makes me feel old,” she said. “Usually 14-year-olds aren’t getting orders from companies for their processed materials.”

The order, from Peninsula Stone and Tile, is for her glass that will be used for showers or counter backsplashes, as well as landscaping needs, Hansen said.

“As far as my store is concerned, I liked her mosaics, and that’s why I want to buy it,” Alexis Calder, owner of Peninsula Stone and Tile, said. 

Calder said Hansen’s glass can be used as trim pieces, as crown molding and as decoration on landscaping boxes.

With the success she’s garnered so far, she is already thinking about branching out.

“Eventually I’m hoping to recycle all the glass on the Kenai Peninsula, or at least most of it,” Hansen said. “Maybe start something like this up in Fairbanks.”

Even though Fairbanks doesn’t have an ocean, Hansen said the rivers could still help tumble the glass.

As for her favorite piece — it’s a necklace.

“It’s just a bottleneck, and it was broken that way,” she said. “It’s a really pretty green. That one is my favorite.”

Calder said Hansen is among the students coming out of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that add a fresh take to the community.

“I just am very excited that the schools are producing young kids like this,” Calder said. “Their minds are fresh and (they) approach business with ideas that are clean and fun. I think some of the changes are very beneficial.”

The second-place finisher in the competition was Allison Ostrander of Kenai Central High School. Ostrander’s plan is to have weekly Salmon Runs at the Tsalteshi Trails over the summer in order to raise money for the Kenai Watershed Forum. Ostrander took home $1,100 for her efforts. 

Rounding out the top three was Courtney Stroh, also of KCHS, with her idea to “R.O.C. the Kenai,” which stands for respect our community, an ongoing youth program that is partnered with groups such as the 4-H and Boys and Girls Clubs.