STUDENT SUSTAINABILITY AWARDS
The Harvard Undergraduate CBE Student Sustainability Awards program aims to encourage and support sustainable innovation and leadership in youth, through the recognition of achievements in the area of sustainability. The award will encourage recipients to continue their work in achieving a more sustainable future, through the creation of solutions, education, and advocacy.
2019 Award Recipients
This spring, HUCBE launched a new initiative, the CBE Student Sustainability Awards, in an effort to encourage and recognize environmental stewardship and sustainability leadership amongst high school students around the world. The award aids in fostering work towards a more sustainable future, through the creation of solutions, education, and advocacy. The inaugural HUCBE Student Sustainability Awards feature a diverse set of recipients who are leading environmental action in their communities.
Our recipients are advocates and changemakers on issues ranging from plastic pollution to renewable energy. Public education is a common thread demonstrated in the efforts of many recipients, who are compelled to spread messages that resonate with them so deeply.
The interaction of social activism and environmental justice is present in many of the youth’s initiatives, as they are ultimately deeply intertwined. The impacts of climate change, experienced and witnessed firsthand, has shown to disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Abhayjeet Sachal describes the heightened rates of suicide in Arctic communities and social determinants of health as related to the environment and climate change for the Inuit population. Living on the coast of Florida, Anika Naya describes the devastating impacts of hurricanes in her community, which has increased in frequency due to climate change; she emphasizes the value of putting “people from disenfranchised communities at the forefront of the climate movement” as many of the victims most heavily affected are from low-income communities.
The diverse approaches taken to help tackle and raise awareness about various environmental issues are inspiring and sheds light on how everyone can make use of their strengths to make a difference. As just one example, Connie Liu used her love for art and the environment to raise awareness with youth through art activities and art shows, starting the Art for Earth Fund to raise money for tree plantings in her community and for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
We look forward to following the progress of these young leaders in making a sustainable impact on the world and the people around them.
Anastasia Castro began her work for environmental advocacy at 12 years old where she engaged businesses, collected signatures, and conducted public education on shark finning. She has been a FinFree Victoria member for the past five years, where she has worked to obtain a federal and provincial ban on the import and sale of shark fins in British Columbia.
Anastasia founded Kids For A Plastic Free Canada with the purpose of eliminating all single-use plastics in the province and the country. She is a member of the Surfrider Foundation, an international organization dedicated to helping the world’s oceans, and helps run their Single-Use Plastic Free Schools BC Program.
KIDS FOR A
Emma Layton is a 12th grade student from Fairfax, Virginia. Compelled to advocate for cleaner energy in her school system, Emma collaborated with other students to create the Solar on the Schools Summit (SSS) and became President in 2018. SSS campaigns their School Board to adopt solar by means of a Power Purchase Agreement, an economic financing plan where solar companies bid on the terms by which they will provide solar to the consumer. In February 2018, the School Board incorporated a sustainability initiative into their 2019-23 Capital Improvement Plan, ensuring that all future school renovations and construction projects would have to account for support of renewable energy sources.
As a result of SSS’s advocacy, three FCPS schools are slated to receive solar panels by the end of 2019, and 152 more schools will be included in the 2020-2024 CIP to have solar feasibility studies conducted.
Anushka Basu, a student from Mumbai, India, worked to generate electricity from the breakdown of organic waste in the polluted Mithi river situated next to her school.
The river Mithi flowing next to her school building was always a cause of concern due to the high level of pollution. Based on the concept of the Microbial Fuel Cell, Anushka’s grade 6 project used two electrode containers and an external circuit. The anode held the sludge and the cathode held the tap water. A salt bridge was prepared and passed through a tube connecting them. A multi-meter attached to the copper wires on either sides by alligator clips completed the circuit. An oxygen pump was connected to the water container using a pipe. The lids of both containers remained covered. The power generated using 2 kilograms of sludge was recorded in volts over a period of 5 days. Anaerobic bacteria in the sludge digests the organic waste and create electrons. These electrons move out of the solution through the electrodes and pass through the external circuit generating electricity.
Anushka’s Mithi River Clean Up Initiative involves the school students as well as locals. The physical cleanup engages the local community in regularly picking up and properly disposing debris, with the help of the local municipality. The project aims also to educate the community on damage caused by improper disposal of garbage, and builds a sense of community around the Mithi River flowing outside their homes.
Celine Pham grew up in Saigon, Vietnam, witnessing plastic filled ditches, leachate-contaminated ground, and extreme UV Index Levels. Her efforts work to help drive forward a new green generation in Saigon.
Starting with the issue of food waste in 2017, Celine created her school’s first sustainability club and designed the first educational Compost Program of its kind in Vietnam. The club constructed rotating and vermi-composters from old oil barrels to recycle cafeteria waste into rich soil, trained staff, onboarded sponsors, and collaborated with teachers to create our curriculum. That year, they won a $1,000 grant in Saigon’s first Get Green Competition, which allowed them to build a Compost Center and expand the program to a local kindergarten.
She worked with environmental advocates from other schools to form the Grass Roots Network. Aiming to target early youth, Cline led her Compost Team with 35 community volunteers to launch Go Green Day 2018, her school’s first annual environmental engagement event. They designed four workshops and partnered with 9 sustainable businesses/NGOs, engaging over 200 elementary students, parents, staff.
A fierce advocate for sustainable policy, Celine co-founded a faculty Sustainability Coalition, attended Food Committee meetings, and worked personally with the Head of School to implement concrete policies: banning all plastic straws and bottles, switching to compostable packaging, and “zero-waste” cutlery/mug sets for all meetings and events.
Caroline Choi founded CASA Youth, which worked to advise local officials and draft out her city’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan (to be implemented in 2020), helping to persuade the city council to pass the Climate Emergency Declaration unanimously.
Caroline Choi started her school’s first active environmental club, leading the club in restoring Least Tern habitats, teaching hours of drawdown, and coral restoration education. They screened the documentary “Chasing Coral” so many times that the “Chasing Coral” team commended us in a personal email. In keeping of underwater life, to reduce the plastic pollution from boba packaging, the club created a product to sell reusable boba “kits”. Complete with a stainless steel boba straw and a 16-oz glass jar, our kits were soon backed with grants from Rethink Disposable and Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA). Across the span of four days, 200 boba kits were sold to students, parents, and government officials. The campaign reduced trash and aided in the enforcement of a new Foodware Ordinance Law that bans all plastic in restaurants.
FOR A SUSTAINABLE
ALAMEDA (CASA) YOUTH
Connie Liu started the Art for the Earth Fund in 2017, where she has sold over forty nature themed watercolor works to raise over 300 dollars to plant trees in her community as well as raise money for the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the spring of 2018, as part of the initiative, she founded an annual art show that highlighted modern environmental problems through over forty works from students at her school. She also held informational booths at her local theatre, farmer’s market, and Chinese language school and raised environmental awareness with the youth through art activities.
Refocusing these awareness efforts on plastic pollution, her second art show featured pieces from large plastic sculptures to a mini can robot. Surveying members of her community on their disposable plastic use, she was able to convince the borough to start planning to pass a plastic's ordinance and they have recently passed a resolution.
ART FOR THE
As a Florida Native living on the coast of Tampa Bay, Anika Nayak has lived through multiple hurricanes. Hurricane Irma destroyed homes, flooded boats, and caused great damage to her community. After experiencing one of the disastrous effects of climate change, Anika became motivated to advocate for natural disaster and climate change prevention.
As an organizer for the Tampa Youth Climate Strike, Anika mobilized hundreds of youth in Tampa, emphasizing the declaration of climate change as a national emergency and demanding local officials to support the Green New Deal legislation. She engaged local congresswoman (Rep. Castor D-14) to discuss her role as the chairwoman on the Climate Crisis committee.
Anika is working with Future Coalition to develop innovative strategies to build the Juliana v. United States court case into a landmark case people will remember for generations to come. One such strategy to campaign at the intersection of social advocacy and politics is to put people from disenfranchised communities at the forefront of the climate movement. She believes it is vital for our government officials to listen and hear people who have been tremendously negatively impacted by climate change through mainstream media.
Saanika Kulkarni from Princeton Junction, New Jersey, is committed to developing solutions for an environmentally resilient future. As an intern at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University, Saanika worked on the Spherical Motion Average Radiant Temperature (S.M.A.R.T) Sensor to improve thermal comfort for indoor occupants and minimize energy loss. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating, cooling, and lighting systems account for over 35% of the electricity consumption; her projects aim to maximize energy savings and adjust electricity use.
To spread her enthusiasm for sustainability, Saanika presented her research at technology events such as the #LEADLIKEAGIRL Conference and competed in the Google and Intel Affiliated Mercer Science and Engineering Fair. She received the Ricoh Sustainable Development Award, the Intel Excellence in Computer Science Award, and the U.S. Air Force Award for an Outstanding Project. She publishes her projects on Cornell University's CollabSpace platform to share innovations with and promote environmental education to a larger audience. As a National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) award recipient and a FIRST Robotics student, she uses her platforms to actively promote environmental progress.
From Mansfield, Massachusetts, Sethu Odayappan co-founded her school’s environmental club and Tree-Plenish to support her mission of replenishing the environment with the amount of paper resources used in her school. After reviewing the financial data to see how much paper used in the past school year, calculations showed her high school used about 220 trees worth of paper. They accepted orders for trees on our website and allowed volunteers to sign up to plant trees. A local group called Keep Mansfield Beautiful partnered with them to give us the initial funding needed to purchase the trees and helped them spread the word. After garnering significant interest from the community, they were able to exceed their goal and will be planting 330 trees around the community.
From Delta, British Columbia in Canada, Abhayjeet Sachal works at the intersection of social activism and environmental justice.
During an expedition to the Canadian Arctic in 2016, Abhayjeet witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand and delved deep into social determinants of health as related to the environment and climate change for the Inuit population. He believes that, derived from apathy and a lack of dialogue between communities, socio-economic issues continue to impact the lives of thousands in the Arctic.
To break down racial, geographic, and socio-economic barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada, Abhayjeet created a non-profit organization called Break The Divide Foundation (BTD). BTD began by connecting youth living in Inuvik, NWT, and Delta, BC through video calls to converse about community issues and brainstorm solutions. As students consistently talked to one another in the electronic pen-pal program, they became friends. Students in Delta were shocked to learn about the heightened rate of suicide in the Arctic community and the impacts of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples through the perspectives of their new friends. Following these conversations, students in Delta became passionate about creating social change and increased their involvement with community environmental and activist organizations. Read Abhayjeet Sachal’s paper on the correlation between arctic community suicide rates and climate change here.