Indian American Budding Environmentalists win EPA’s PEYA Awards

Indian American Budding Environmentalists win EPA’s PEYA Awards

Several young Indian Americans made it to the list of the President’s Environmental Youth Award, awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A total of 17 winning projects from 10 regions were announced, including at least six Indian American or South Asian Americans among the group.

In Region 2, Samuel, a second grader from New Jersey, is teaching his school and community about the importance of composting through his project, “Worm Tower, Earth Power.” Samuel created a composite or worm bin with the help of his second grade teacher and sponsor, as well as his parents.

He shared the information he learned throughout the community, with his fellow classmates, with other classes in the school, and with the Bergenfield Garden Club. He will continue this composting project and ultimately distribute all the worms used in his bin to the Garden Club so that these worms can continue to have a positive effect on the environment.

For his “Electronic Recycling Initiative,” Jay M., a senior from Indiana, was a winner in the EPA’s Region 5. Jay partnered with the e-recycling organization TechRecyclers to ensure responsible handling and data destruction of materials collected during multiple community electronics drives. He advertised through local news, online publications, social media, and flyers.

The electronic drives took place between 2015-2017 involving 15-to-20 volunteers per event and diverted over 30,000 pounds from landfills.

Because of his efforts electronics recycling drives are now conducted annually. In addition to the drives, he undertook an e-waste education initiative for third and fourth grade students. He noticed detrimental effects that heavy metals in broken electronics can have on both people and the environment.

Realizing the extent of these effects, he began a research project to test the protective effects of a green algae, Chlorella vulgaris, on zebrafish exposed to multiple concentrations of methylmercury (a poisonous form of mercury in electronics).

His research received an award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In addition, he has been a Distinguished Finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and has written lesson plans for Kids are Scientists Too, a non-profit organization, the EPA said.

Asvini T., with her “Save the Place Where We Are Living and Save the Planet” project, and Madhalasa I., with her “Saving the Hands that Feed Us” project, were named winners in the EPA Region 6.

As a grade schooler in Texas, Asvini implemented a city-wide battery recycling initiative diverting over 25,000 batteries (weighing more than a ton) away from landfills. Asvini did her research and conducted a series of presentations about the dangers of the chemicals found in batteries.

She made a clear connection between those dangers and associated human health risks, as well as damage done to the natural environment. Soon after, she had her school, the library, and city officials involved, placing battery collection bins in her school’s classrooms, in the local library, recreation centers, and elsewhere.

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