Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The environment in a year – 2012.

Here's what happened in 2012: 

The 2011 winners for World Challenge were announced. The winners included Chile, who implemented the Tech Crunch initiative – the company Recycla integrates the “socially marginalized” of the country and recycling e-waste!  In India, Hand in Hand turns food waste to gas, similar to what our club at Canadian International School did right at that time. In Mongolia, Snow Leopard Enterprises helps the country’s rural sheep herders, who are constantly being threatened by snow leopards. The company gives families a few hundred dollars in an attempt to prevent the numbers of leopards in the house from decreasing any further. Log onto www.theworldchallenge.co.uk in January 2013 to see the winners of 2012!

My environmental club at Canadian International School, The Green Idea, holds a WWF Animal survey, in support of the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign to “adopt” a wild animal, by donating money to the WWF. The Snow Leopard was by far the winner, with the panda trailing close behind. By February 2012, the biogas unit at our school was ready to go. The first cup of coffee was made with this and the kitchen staff vowed to use our environmentally friendly fuel to make the teachers’ coffee and tea. The Green Idea started the idea of a monthly Green Hero, and the social studies teacher, Mr. Jayan Philip, was awarded this prestigious title for being an instrumental person in keeping the green spirit going at school. Mr. Philip was seen collecting Tetra Pak juice cartons from the trash cans so that they could be recycled.

I was awarded the Sparrow Award for 2012!  This was for my efforts in school and my community – starting the Green Idea, implementing a recycling program, the Biogas, and the sparrow boxes. The other winners were Mr. Dilsher Khan, who dedicates his time to the vultures of Madhya Pradesh. The Green Umbrella team helps Fiscus plants in Kalwa that are stuck growing in buildings. The Shri Mahatma Gandhi Ashramsala helps promote environmental awareness among children in the Kutch desert. Everyone is making an effort to help the earth become a more environmentally safe place!

The 22nd is Earth Day and worldwide, people turn off the lights and make a difference in the fight for a greener earth. CIS made an attempt to help the earth by planting a vegetable garden by the pool area. Everyone was excited, especially the 6th and 7th graders, who helped plant their own carrot and cucumber patches! In the US, the Oregon state Senate limited the amount of mercury that is allowed in CFL bulbs in the state. The American Bird Conservancy  filed a 100 page petition with the FWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) that asked for standards in operating wind farms so that birds and bats would not suffer from the harmful effects of the turbines’ blades. I think it’s remarkable that even small 11 and 12 year olds can pitch in to save the earth. There was such enthusiasm that day, when we planted all those saplings. It’s interesting to see similar actions all the way across the planet in the US. Lawmakers are seeing the importance of saving the planet – as shown with the bill passed by the Oregon Senate.

Old tectonic plates are starting to shift again! In May, an earthquake shook Northern Italy, as a result of compression by the Apennine Mountains. The Mediterranean region is seismically active because of the African plate and Eurasian plate clashing. More people are worried that increasing events such as these will result due to careless usage of the earth. Damaging tsunamis have been recorded due to earthquakes in this region. Earthquakes throughout history, dating back to 1693 in Sicily and more recently the 1908 Messina, which had a magnitude of 7.2 make up the deadliest European earthquakes that have occurred. Italy better be prepared! This should send a message to the world that the earth’s environmental patterns are beginning to change. Activists have been warning us that the following years will be environmentally rough on the earth, but we need to help mitigate these effects.

June 5th marks World Environment Day, which the United Nations Environment Program conferred the theme of “Green Economy: Does it include you?”  for 2012. The idea of this new theme was that countries will become more eco-friendly through their economies increasing the standards of living and work. From June 20th to 22nd, a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro covered sustainable development. The conference was aptly named Rio +20 due to its occurrence 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. The mission of the conference was to “rethink economic growth advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.” I think the idea of the economic growth was  brilliant, especially after the world was going through so many economic troubles. More conferences like this one should be held, where people come together to discuss problems of today and how they relate to the environment. Even younger people, like us, should try to make an effort to see where we can help. That’s where GINSING (November) comes into play!

The 2012 Summer Olympics begin in London! It’s imperative that people realize the environmental impact that comes with the spectacular displays and what we can do about them. Some activists think that offsetting for just for events like the Olympics don’t help, but the overall emissions for the country will help mitigate such events’ impacts. The Olympic Flame was carbon neutral! This is a really big step towards the whole environmental attitude of the games. The 24 MW of energy that supplied the games came only from renewable energy sources, like wind power. It was estimated that the games would produce 3.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, whereas the UK normally has an annual 550 million metric ton emission. A pre-games study approximated that media packs and briefings alone would account for 8,250,000 sheets of A4 size paper. This year, Britain finished its first carbon budget cut, and made the London Olympics’ carbon footprint binding to these terms. The UK government did do its part in calculating the carbon emission beforehand, setting goals to stick to, and attempting to execute its plans! I applaud the organizers of the 2012 games in London for all these efforts. I hope the 2016 Olympics will consider the green aspect of their games as well. Countries should set up a competition system for the Olympic committees in seeing how they can realistically implement carbon footprint reducing policies.

The election campaign is starting to get tough in the United States and citizens are starting to pay attention to the green promises of the candidates. The big topics included:
Clean Energy – The focus was on providing jobs and affordable energy  sources for the US. Many Americans looked at the reducing the “fracking” that goes on in the country and improving the reliance on solar power.  I think this is a really important factor to consider, since the US has historically used up coal mines after coal mines. If the US wants to continue to be the top country in the future, the government needs to be clear on becoming fossil-fuel independent.
Climate Change – Some people don’t believe in this phenomenon, which I think is ridiculous. Can’t you see the higher temperatures in the summer? The photos of the melting ice caps? The right candidate worried about the earth’s future has to believe in global warming, or the lifestyle of most Americans won’t change for the green good.
Water Quality is another main question that people were questioning candidates about. Had Superstorm Sandy come sooner, I think this would have been a greater concern for the citizens of the US.
Biotechnology, is related to America’s increasing reliance on oil that is not found in the US. Candidates that were worried about the earth’s future were made sure to acknowledge the idea of other alternative fuels. Here is where our CIS biogas really could come in handy! In Bangalore, CIS is on the right path, relying more upon the earth friendly fuel.

The world undertakes a challenge to clean up its beaches. Nations ranging from the Philippines, to South Africa, to Venezuela used the power of 598,076 volunteers to sweep the coasts clean of 9.2 million pounds of trash. Even in Singapore, the American school teamed up with the National University to clean up a mangrove that was filled with an initial astonishing 2.3 tons of trash that was collected in 4 hours. The Ocean Conservancy organizes this global initiative every year since 1987 and releases its data to the public, scientists and the powerful law makers.  At the mangroves here in Singapore, plastic bags made up most of the trash but worldwide, cigarettes made the top. 27 mammals, such as dolphins, were found entangled in ropes and other beach debris, in addition to the 49 birds facing a similar plight. Find out how you can make a difference in your community! Participate in the 2013 International Coastal Clean-Up; it was a really great experience for me. It opened up my eyes to see how every little piece of plastic that ends up on the beach could potentially hurt an animal. I think this could be implemented even on holiday beaches. Pick up whatever little garbage you see – you’re helping an animal survive.

Hurricane Sandy hits the eastern coastline of the United States as well as the Caribbean. Many believe that Sandy symbolizes the beginning of a series of environmental catastrophes. Maybe the earth is telling us something – we need to be more diligent with the way we are using our home! Flooding of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, residents are worried about toxic residue. 630 oil spills have been reported in New York City, as a result of the storm. Arthur Kill, a strait between New Jersey and Staten Island, had 336,000 gallons of fuel spilled. Due to the biodegradation of the oil, fish can die after exposure to low oxygen levels. Salt marshes could also be affected, and more wildlife habitats may have been threatened due to the deadly storm. But that’s not all; the list goes on and on. Sewage treatment plants could not control the release of sewage into local waterways.  Pesticides, contaminants, and bacteria could affect drinking water supplies in the regions that were hit by Sandy. I think that the US government needs to pay more attention to the effects of such storms. The impact for both humans and wildlife could prove disastrous. Imagine those poor creatures in the marshes panicking due to the oil spills! What will happen if the drinking water sanitation becomes extremely low? I’m sure that importing drinking water to certain states will be extremely expensive. The government must look into the environmental mitigation of superstorms like Sandy.  

Students of South East Asia met, discussed, and planned ways to make the earth a safer place, environmentally, socially, and politically. GINSING, the Global Issues Network Singapore Conference, brought people from Manila, Dubai, and a whole slew of other schools all the way to Singapore to discuss topics like Natural Disasters, Human Trafficking, Global Warming, and rewiring taxes for the 21st Century. GANGs – Global Action Network Groups – came together to brainstorm ways to make the world more aware and how we, as mere students, could make a difference. The conference was an all-out success. Guest speakers such as Abigail Ailing contributed to the buzzing atmosphere. Delegates and Facilitators are still communicating with each other to keep the spirit of GINSING alive!

A conference on climate change was held in Qatar – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Delegates talked about extending the Kyoto Protocol; they are hoping that by 2015 there will be a new climate agreement in 2015. The World Bank released a report that investigates the effect of an increase in temperature by 4 degrees Celsius – intense wildfires, heat waves, droughts, dead ocean life, increased pests and disease. Increased dependence on fossil fuels is another big problem that the world needs to deal with soon. There are almost 1,200 new coal plants that are going to go up soon. 2011 exceeded the record for greenhouse gas, and there’s a possibility that 2012 will do the same. It’s good to see the leaders of today and tomorrow taking a stand on environmental 
awareness. The young people of today need to do the same, more often.

Reflections for the year
I really wish that in the first few months at my new school, SAS, I had gotten the chance to assimilate into the green environment faster. Now I’m thinking of a few ideas that I hope will become a reality in early 2013. My junior year has to be an environmentally filled one! Sometimes I think back to the nuclear plants of Japan. We don’t want another abandoned community like Fukushima. I hope they are secure now, because if another major tsunami hits, the whole east coast of Asia could be in trouble.

The plan for 2013
Everyone can contribute to helping the Earth become a safer, cleaner, greener planet. Regardless of your age, nationality, or political power, your little actions make a difference. In 2013, I plan to make a difference. My number one goal is spreading awareness. At SAS, SAVE club – the environmental club – is extremely popular. So many people have joined. Empowering those people to come and join one of the activities or fundraisers in important. I know that in 2013, I will definitely participate more in SAVE! The earth needs my help and I will make the effort to be there for our planet!
Keep the environment in mind this holiday season! Happy holidays!


Friday, November 30, 2012

An environmentally friendly holiday season

Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is around the corner, it’s time to consider the environmental impacts that the holiday season has on the world. In several countries around the world, Christmas is a big deal and everyone goes all out to make this holiday an amazing one. Usually people focus on the happy, joyous aspects of this festive time, but I think it’s also important to consider the decorations, the trees, and so much more that goes into putting Christmas together.
The first thing that comes to mind about December holidays is the Christmas tree! People that do not put one up are rare and especially with young children it’s always fun to decorate the tree as a family or even alone. But wait: imagine the numbers of helpless trees that are being chopped down to celebrate one day, or if you’d like, one month! Many people buy plastic ready-made ones, which are better than the real thing, but remember that when they finally do throw them away, the plastic will not biodegrade. Looking around on the internet, I found some creative alternatives to setting up a real Christmas tree. Save up aluminum cans over the next few weeks and on December 23rd or 24th, create a tree by stacking up all the cans! Once Christmas is over of course, recycle them! Another option is a reusable Lego Christmas tree? Especially if you have children, you are bound to have Legos lying around somewhere. With your child build a Christmas tree with presents underneath that will last for the next few years! There are a lot more interesting and fun ways that you could build your own Christmas tree; see this for more ideas: http://www.buzzfeed.com/melismashable/25-alternative-christmas-trees.

Another thing to consider about Christmas is the gifts! Wrapping paper, packaging, and transportation of all the presents can add up. Why not consider newspaper wrapping instead, or simply placing the present in a reusable paper bag? I think newspaper is a lot easier to use too, and it takes less time to wrap neatly over the present. Simple, everyday actions can make a difference too. When buying presents, don’t take plastic bags; simply hold them. Shop locally, where you will not have to drive too far and where the product will not have to be transported over long distances. Consider gifting something good for the environment. I remember when I was young I really loved gardening. Now that I think about it, a Christmas present with seeds or a plant to nurture would have been perfect. And it doesn’t have to be only the youth that receives such gifts. My grandfather enjoys gardening too, so there’s another person I can grant something environmentally friendly. If you don’t give plants or seeds, that’s okay too. Try to investigate a little more and find out whether your present is ethically good for the earth. Running out of ideas? Visit Ethical Ocean  for more eco-viable options!

While you keep the environment in mind, remember that no matter what you decide to do, have fun and relax! It is the holiday season, after all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Global Issues and the environment

Global Issues Network Singapore Conference in South East Asia.

What an amazing experience. Meeting several schools from all around the region discuss their passion for helping the world become a better world.  Being a facilitator in the conference was such an eye-opening experience. I got to see the work of NGOs and passionate young leaders focus on the issues of the world, thus expanding my small realm of knowledge about the environment. Our Global Action Network Group zoomed in on Natural Disasters – a now increasingly common phenomenon that is hypothesized to be the dangerous result of global warming and changing environments. Especially Hurricane Sandy just passing us, natural disasters was a really nice topic to discuss. We discussed tsunamis in particular, since all of the delegates hailed from South East Asia, and tsunamis, triggered by earthquakes, are a very big problem.

We emphasized the mitigation aspect of natural disasters. How could people in developing nations be more aware of the dangers presented? What steps can be taken to ensure that the government is responsible for the dealing of the tsunami? The human response aspect was very interesting to me. Rarely had I thought about the humans involved in environmentally caused natural disaster. While it’s well known that global warming and such changing weather patterns are the most probable cause of such frequent disasters, I had not glanced at the people affected by tsunamis and earthquakes as a part of the environmental equation. In grade 2, unknowingly, I felt moved to help the distraught victims of the 2003 tsunami. I collected money for the victims, standing in the aisles of my neighborhood grocery store. At the time, I didn't fully understand why aiding these victims was so important for the environment. But now I know. Helping the people survive, I realized in GINSING, would help the environment survive. Educating the public about the dangers of such disasters and what causes them is really useful in attempting to make Earth a more environmentally sound place.

Several keynote speakers sparked my attention too. Abigail Ailing’s presentation on “Biosphere 2” was especially intriguing. In an effort to explore five different biomes in one area, Abigail Ailing and a team of seven other scientists dared live inside a glass ecological laboratory for two whole years. This was absolutely beyond me. As she went into discussions of living in the biosphere and getting accustomed to the environment, I was enthralled. I wanted to know more about her lifestyle in Arizona, where she had spent from 1991 to 1993 just observing and making a sacrifice for science. The five biomes that were controlled by a computer were a marsh, desert, savannah, ocean and rainforest. Ms. Ailing told us stories of how she had to dive into the ocean biome several times a week to clean algae off the glass walls, so that the marine plants could receive sunlight. At the end of their two year experience, all of the ecologists emerged with orange skin, because of the high content of beta-carotene in their food. There had been no outside interaction with the rapidly evolving world. No money, no internet, no computers (other than the controller for the biomes), all for the good of science. I loved her talk at the GIN Conference. Now Ms. Ailings next project is to help the corals of the world. She’s quite an inspirational person! Learn more about her experiment in an alternate world here: http://www.bigdeadplace.com/stories-and-interviews/embracing-the-experiment-interview-with-abigail-alling-of-biosphere-2/.

GIN was a great experience for me. I really am looking forward to next year’s conference. I think I’ll try to be a delegate for the global warming group, or another environmental GANG. If not, I know that there are plenty of other world issues that are worth brainstorming about!

Think green, think big, think world! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coastal Clean Up in Singapore and Beyond!

Trash bags from the event! 
On September 8, students from our school, SAS, as well as from the National University of Singapore teamed up to help save some coastal land. It was an interesting (if not absolutely enlightening) experience. I had no idea what we were in for. Honestly, I presumed that we would be cleaning up trash on a nice sandy beach, doing our work slowly and appreciating the beauty around us. Instead, we ended up at a wooded mangrove full of mosquitos, crabs, and trash. Lots and lots of trash, ranging from plastic bags (these were the most!) to clothing, oil barrels. Name one item and we guarantee it was under some branches, wrapped around some gnarled roots, and would eventually suffocate a poor, defenseless animal in the sea.
It was heartbreaking to see how much trash flooded the mangroves. At first, the task seemed impossible. In teams of three to four, we kept record of the items we threw into our trash bags and dug up bag after bag after bag, pulled fishing nets from the roots, and cut oil barrels free from the hardened mud.

With the aid of 150 people, we picked up a total of 2.3 tons of trash, within 4 hours. I thought that was an incredible feat. We had succeeded in making the ocean a cleaner, safer place, for that day. The very next day new debris would land on the coast, so the job is never complete. 

For pictures of the event see http://www.flickr.com/photos/86865218@N07/

An infographic by the Ocean Conservancy:
The Marine Life threatened by Coastal Debris
An event organized by the Ocean Conservancy, several countries worldwide participated. A week later, on September 16, 2012, California performed a similar coastal cleanup! With volunteers from over 850 locations, they managed to pick up over 290 tons of trash. Many volunteers claim to have found Japanese products that got washed away during the 2011 tsunami.

Just imagine, if every single country in the world had actively participated in the International Coastal Cleanup. I really do wish one day the world can come together to perform such an important task. Just imagine the number of lives we’re saving, doing this one simple act. It doesn’t take much.

Keep thinking and acting green! 

Visit http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/2012-data-release.html for intriguing infographics on the items collected worldwide. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Green in Singapore!

I’ve recently relocated to Singapore. Moving takes so much time, not to mention resources. 

Singapore’s a very environmentally friendly country with so many initiatives. In addition to its plentiful greenery, the country’s public transport system has to be one of the best in the world. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be discovering and exploring Singapore’s environmental friendliness!

If you had asked me if it was possible to have a 50 dollar iPhone compatible speaker made of bamboo a few years ago, I would have shaken my head a definite no. How about one that requires absolutely no power?

Eco friendly and music friendly, the iBam was sold out online in a few weeks, proving that people are interested in such inventions. After all, who doesn’t want to reduce their carbon footprint?

The creators of the iBam, Kampung Innovators, run the 100 square meter “Sustainable Living Lab,” here in Singapore. They reuse old materials to create projects and welcome everyone to come join their fun projects on the weekends. The Kampung Innovators also provide courses and amusing activities like “makerthons” that promote green living for Singapore youth as well as corporations. Personally I think it’s brilliant! What better way to interest the general public into creating eco-friendly products?  Take a look at their website: http://www.sl2square.org. Perhaps I’ll visit the lab one of these days and make an amazing invention. A relatively inexpensive green product that appeals to everyone: a dream come true!

Speaking of innovation, the Singapore Mini Maker Faire will be held from August 4 to 5th this year at Singapore’s Science Center. Several workshops conducted at the Faire aim to promote a DIY (do-it-yourself) culture in Singapore. Just a thought: in conjunction with environmental friendly materials and the concept of recycling, reusing, and reducing, DIY is a great way to get people involved in eco-friendly initiatives. So many people are at a loss in terms of how they can help the earth. With DIY eco-friendly projects (there are so many of them!), those lost in today’s rapid paced modern society may be able to relax and find a way to give back to the earth. Here’s an interesting story involving DIY and the environment: Anna Garforth from the UK helps disaffected youth get on the green track with her Mossenger; she creates graffiti with moss! It looks beautiful and is certainly less harmful than the usual graffiti paint! Against a pale wall in the middle of a busy city, it’s bound to catch the attention of a passerby. There’s an idea for you! Here’s the recipe for the moss graffiti: http://www.instructables.com/id/Moss-Graffiti/. Enjoy!

If you’re in Singapore next weekend and happen to be a fan of eco-friendly and DIY products, dig around at the Mini Maker Faire and see what you can find! For DIY green projects in general, visit http://planetgreen.discovery.com/feature/green-diy-projects/.

Keep thinking green!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy World Environment Day!

June 5, 2012.

 It has been 40 years since the United Nations General Assembly created “World Environment Day,” a day for people all over the world to come together to get creative and do something for the Earth.

Each year, the UNEP – United Nations Environment Program – suggests a theme for countries to work on and hosts a conference at one country to discuss this issue. Previous topics have ranged from “Forests: Nature at Your Service” in 2011 to “Time to Act” in 2000. This year’s theme is one that reflects on the world’s attempt to bounce back from the global recession that has affected us all badly: “Green Economy: Does it include you?”

The World Environment Day theme for 2012 not only focuses on how to make countries’ economies more eco-friendly, but also covers the idea of economies improving “human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” according to the official website for the 2012 World Environment Day. The theme fits this year’s United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from June 20th to 22nd, named “Rio +20” which will cover issues on Sustainable Development. The conference is an opportunity to “rethink economic growth advance social equity and ensure environmental protection,” 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.
Worldwide, schools, NGOs, and individuals are setting up activities for their community to celebrate World Environment Day. This is being done all over the world – from the US and Canada all the way to India, China, and Australia. Take a look at the projects being done at http://www.unep.org/wed/aroundtheworld/activitymap/. Iyou are doing something special this World Environment Day, register your activity and let the world know you’re making a difference!
World Environment Day is one time when we can make a difference on a global scale. Let’s keep this green international community growing!
Visit these websites for more interesting information on World Environment Day: 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Sparrow Award 2012

I didn’t think that there was so much green space in the busy, financial concrete jungle of Mumbai. The venue of the Sparrow Awards was so refreshing in Dharavi. Maharastra Nature Park sprawls over 37 acres; it’s hard to believe that it was once a dump yard. It’s the home of 10,000 plus species of trees and a haven for wild animals and migratory birds. The constant, cheerful chirping of the birds is evidence of the green Shangri-La that pops out of the city.

I’ve seen sparrows on and off in the backyard but a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that my tiny, fluttering friends would be disappearing in front of my eyes. Most of us today know the excitement of a little kid watching a sparrow in the garden. It’s a horrid thought that future generations may not experience this pleasure. That’s where Mr. Mohammed Dilawar and the Nature Forever Society, based in Mumbai, are making a difference in all our lives. Nature Forever Society strives to help the sparrows. They make nest boxes for sparrows to live in – the same type that we’ve installed in school – and recently launched the “The Common Bird Monitoring” program. Hopefully this program will not only help sparrows get back into our homes, but also other birds. I’m sure that Salim Ali, the birdman of India, would be so proud to see India’s ornithology studies come this far.

Now coming to the awardees, including myself, of the 2012 Sparrow Award: http://natureforever.org/result3.html

To me, a vulture has always been a creature that sits in zoos, watching us humans speculatively. This is because they are listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the brink of extinction in the wild and if something is not done about it soon, I’ll have no hope of looking up at the sky and spotting a vulture. Thanks to Mr. Dilsher Kahn, a spark of hope has been lit. His work with the vultures of Madya Pradesh is a remarkable initiative, aiming to make their diets diclofenac free and conduct long term monitoring thereafter.

How many times have we spotted a tree and just walked by? The Green Umbrella Team from Mumbai actually endeavors to save fichus trees growing in construction zones and old buildings. It would be nice if the team spread their wings to other cities and save a few more branches.

Finally, the Shri Mahatma Gandhi Ashramsala in Gujarat’s program of having each student grow up with a “pet” tree is such a good idea. In fact, I think that implementing this sort of a program in my school in Bangalore – Canadian International School – would make a real difference in our garden city.

It’s comforting to know that there are ordinary people out there, like me, that work hard to make a difference in the environment. Everyone has their own day jobs, their hands full with normal, daily life, yet they still make an effort to create some time solely to help the environment.

I’d really love to meet the Nature Forever Society team again and perhaps even work with them in the future!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Environmental Initiatives Up Close: The World Challenge 2011

Everyone knows that saving the planet is a big project, but hats off to the people that actually make a difference, even if it’s small contribution! Under the World Challenge initiative from the UK, countries from every corner of the globe make it a point to try and make a difference in their environment. The projects are one of a kind!

For 2011, there were 12 finalists; each mission was unique in its own way – from the USA’s ‘Vertigo Farming’, to Uganda’s ‘Burning Concern’, all the participating countries tried their best to make a considerable difference to help the world.The runners up, Chile and India, and the winner of the year, Mongolia, were quite special!

Tech Crunch

E-waste is a problem for the environment as well as human wellbeing: soil and water is polluted with chemicals like lead and mercury, from the millions of gadgets thrown away every year. “Tech Crunch,” based in Chile, is a project that focuses on separating and retrieving materials such as copper from the e-waste, under a company called Recycla, the first (and only!) electronic waste initiative in Latin America. They’ve already recycled more than 6000 tons of waste and are aiming for more, with the help of several who have been “socially marginalized” – those that are left on the ‘fringes’ of society. Recycla seems to be a well-rounded company – helping the environment and the human community!

Trash to Gas

The Indian organization Hand in Hand is doing something equally remarkable – turning food waste into gas, through a project called “Trash to Gas”. In the historic South Indian town of Mahabalipuram, many hotels and restaurants produce up to 3 tons of organic waste per day and what used to end up in landfills, is now being collected by local people, and converted into methane. This gas powers a lot of the town, keeps it clean, and therefore, reduces the chances of diseases spreading. It’s a win-win situation! 

Interestingly enough, the Green Idea at Canadian International School, the environmental club that I run,  is doing something very similar. We’re using food waste from the cafeteria to produce biogas, which will in turn, be used for cooking. The unit finally got set up, and hopefully soon, we’ll be on the way to reducing the cafeteria’s carbon emissions!

Changing Spots

The winner of the 2011 World Challenge was Mongolia’s “Changing Spots”, a task taken up by Snow Leopard Enterprises, makes an attempt to better the lives of the country’s rural sheep herders, as well as increase the numbers of the endangered snow leopard in the area. The wild cats have long been enemies of the nomadic herdsmen, often killing the livestock. As a result, the communities are driven to poach the leopards for survival. The alternative offered to families allows them to make an extra $600 to $700 per year, by selling handicraft products made of wool to an international market. In return, they promise not to kill the snow leopards.  As of now, 28 villages and 350 households have caught on to the idea and it seems to be working – the numbers of the cat have increased. 

Surprisingly, something similar has been going on at school; we’ve been busy trying to ‘adopt’ an endangered animal through the World Wildlife Fund’s program. A quick lunchtime survey proved that the snow leopard was the most popular and the school has successfully pledged to ‘adopt’ one. Whether an intriguing coincidence, or meant to be, this is a sure sign that the snow leopards need help!

There are several more projects that you can see for yourself at www.theworldchallenge.co.uk! It’s amazing to see the number of initiatives that have sprung up to assist the environment; perhaps you can help in your country, in your own way!