Stockholm – A team of high school students from Indonesia has picked up a major international environmental award for a project that promotes alternative food sources and livelihoods for fishing communities impacted by the degradation of coral reefs and coasts.
The ‘eco-garden’ initiative by students from Senior High School No. 1, in Sumbawa Besar, Indonesia, was awarded first place in the 2013 Volvo Adventure prize, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The students had observed that marine litter and other waste from their island community were damaging nearby coral reefs; an important habitat for some commercial fish species. With dwindling fish numbers, fishing boats were forced to travel longer distances out to sea, raising safety concerns due to an increase in extreme weather in the region.
The young people set about to promote alternative, sustainable food sources for local fishing communities. They established an ‘eco-garden’, using organic waste collected during coastal clean-ups to make compost. The garden is open to the public, so that islanders can learn horticultural techniques from the students, and grow and sell their own food.
The students picked up a winner’s cheque of US $ 10,000.
“The winning project tackles a host of environmental challenges – including extreme weather events, overfishing, and marine litter – and has resulted in a successful sustainable development initiative that can be easily replicated throughout the local community, and beyond,” said Naomi Poulton, Deputy Director of UNEP’s Division of Communications and Public Information, and chair of the jury.
More than 400 teams of young people, between 13 and 16 years old, entered the 2013 Volvo Adventure prize, which promotes environmental solutions designed and implemented by young people.
The winners were selected from a shortlist of eight finalists from Bulgaria, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Peru, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The second prize, along with an award of US $ 6,000, was picked up by Newland House School, Twickenham, United Kingdom, for a research project on the link between tyre pressures and fuel emissions.
Despite the fact that correctly-inflated tyres can reduce fuel consumption by 4 per cent, and extend tyre life, most vehicle owners neglect to check their tyre pressures on a regular basis. The students set about changing this, by testing tyre valve caps that illuminate when the pressure is too low, and encouraging their use, through an awareness campaign, run in cooperation with the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain. The group also lobbied political leaders in the UK.
Camden Hills Regional High School, from Maine, USA, won third prize, and an award of US $ 4,000. The school raised funds (US $ 516,000) for a wind turbine to help power their school with clean energy, and worked with local residents to encourage them to back the project. The turbine now supplies 10 per cent of the school’s energy needs, which students hope to raise to 20 per cent in the next five years. The students have also initiated a school-wide energy efficiency drive.
The Tunza Small Beginnings Award – designed for replicable projects that have the potential to make a considerable difference to sustainability – was presented to Sishu Griha Montessori and High School of Bangalore, India. Student at the school demonstrated that reducing the brightness setting of a computer screen or monitor can, when magnified across the world, can significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.