Elementary, high school, and college students around the nation are making improvements in their surroundings with inspiring and innovative environmental projects. A 5th grade group called Bragg Green Team has eliminated half of the single-use plastic bottles at their elementary school. High school senior Harshal Agrawal has done a 5-year study to find a sustainable solution to combat Harmful Algal Blooms in his community. A group of college biology and engineering students has designed a food digester, which is being used across the campus network. The food waste is being used to create fertilizer for use on campus and by agricultural partners in the community. Finally, Mackenzie Feldman has successfully implemented Herbicide-Free Campus at UC Berkeley, and is working to bring her campaign to schools across the nation.
Bragg Green Team — Single-Use Water Bottles
- The Bragg Green Team is a group of 5th grade students at Bragg Elementary in Cerritos, California. The group wanted to do a recycling project and improve their school environment. The group took action to reduce the number of single-use plastic water bottles on their school campus. To raise awareness at the school, the students did outreach on campus to inform students and staff about the issue. The Green Team did a trash audit, researched the impact of water bottles on the environment, and surveyed students and staff. In a few months, the group was able to cut the number of single-use water bottles brought to school by half, from 28,000 to 12,600 per year.
- Additionally, the school began selling reusable water bottles branded with the school mascot, with the $5 proceeds going back to the Green Team for use in future projects.
- The Bragg Green Team was inspired by the Grades of Green's Water Campaign — Reduce Plastics program. The Team won an Eco-Grant Award from Grades of Green as a result of their efforts.
- Contact: 5th grade teacher and supervisor Kerry Flores, email: email@example.com.
Harshal Agrawal — Innovative Water Quality Project
- As a high school senior, Harshal Agrawal won the 2019 EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Harshal's project was entitled, "Large-Scale Field Testing of Stropharia Mycelium Buffer Strips for Harmful Algae Bloom Prevention, Year 5."
- Harshal's project has a "long-term goal of developing a low-cost, eco-friendly, and efficient way of preventing Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)."
- Harshal was motivated to do this project when there was a harmful algal bloom at his favorite local greenscape. Harshal designed a project to test "whether mushroom mycelium, a mat-like root structure of mushrooms that has been shown to effectively remove bacteria in water, would be effective in addressing nutrient pollution by removing nitrogen and phosphorus." He was able to conduct an extensive field test, including installation at a local golf course.
- To address sustainability, Harshal used materials such as corn husks and other organic material that are usually waste as the substrate for the mushrooms.
CGCC Food Waste Recycling Project
- The Food Waste Recycling Project began as an idea presented to third graders by a group of college students at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) to raise awareness of food waste. The project was awarded a grant and became a campus-wide initiative.
- The biology and engineering students designed a "unique organic waste digester machine that will recycle food and green waste into a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer, which will be used to maintain campus grounds." Students are also studying the impact of the fertilizer on plants.
- Long-term goals for the project is for it to be incorporated into the Maricopa Community College District, and for the fertilizer to be used in the surrounding agricultural community with partnerships established by the students.
- Students have also been running a "sustainability mindset" marketing campaign across campus in collaboration with biology, art, English, and communications majors to educate the campus about food waste.
Mackenzie Feldman — Herbicide-Free Campus
- Mackenzie Feldman is a 23 year-old student at UC Berkeley. She founded Herbicide-Free Campus, which is a campaign to ban herbicides at schools.
- Mackenzie is originally from Hawaii, and witnessed damage done to her people and land from large chemical companies. She was motivated to start her campaign at UC Berkeley when a coach at beach volleyball practice informed the team of herbicides that had just been sprayed around the courts. Mackenzie and a teammate were able to get herbicides banned from the courts, and she expanded the campaign across campus.
- Mackenzie now works to bring Herbicide-Free Campus across the nation, mentoring other students on organizing campaigns, and providing data and training to students and groundskeepers.