Registered: August 2016
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From a young age, I have always had an inclination towards the environment, this is even before I understood anything about it. My favorite movie at the age of two was Pocahontas, and when I discovered what recycling was during environmental summer camp the summer before fourth grade, I could not quit. Recycling and helping the environment had become such a strong aspect of my life that I eventually started a marker recycling program at a local elementary school, as well as partnered up with the University of California, San Diego to create a joint marker recycling program with their school and mine.
An example of one of the letters I wrote to the UCSD Blink team:
To the Faculty and Staff of the Blink team of UCSD,
Hello, I’m Natasha from Granite Hills High School in East County. I have partnered with TerraCycle for the ‘Writing Instrument Brigade’ just like you; however, there is a problem I’m facing. Currently, I am being waitlisted and I don’t know when I’ll be able to get off it. I think it’s a terrible shame. Because of the circumstances, Evelyn, my partner, and I decided to find other brigades in the San Diego area. Upon our searching, we found you! We wanted to know if we could help you guys out for the time being? We are very eager to start this recycling program because there is too much waste at our school, and we would actually like some of the proceeds to go to a good cause, like UCSD’s sustainability program, instead of just sending them into TerraCycle and getting nothing in return because we’re on a waiting list. By establishing a partnership, this would benefit both Granite Hills and UCSD. However, if we do this, Evelyn and I would like to have recognition on your ‘Writing Instrument Brigade’ page. We would like for it to say Granite Hills High School and both our names. We would also need a collection method that recognizes us when our instruments are dropped off.
And one I wrote to my former high school
Hello teachers and staff,
I hope you're all enjoying your school year.
We have discovered a problem here at Granite Hills High School - we don't recycle any of our writing supplies. We would like to change that.
As part of an IB service project, Natasha, Evelyn and Mr. McKenzie would like to start a ‘writing instrument brigade’ in which writing utensils are recycled! This will be done through Expo, Sharpie, Paper Mate and TerraCycle, but any brand can be recycled. Wooden pencils are accepted as well. We ask that every teacher, instead of throwing away their expired writing utensils, set them aside in a receptacle to be picked up weekly by Natasha Beepath and Evelyn Ponce. You are also welcome to have student aides bring them to Mr. McKenzie’s room.
Thanks for your support,
As aforementioned, the protection and stewardship of Gaia is what guides my earthly actions. Often times, when I watch an environmental documentary, I feel inspired to instill change in my world and partake in monumental feats, while simultaneously realizing that I need to pursue my education so I can be an informed citizen about environmental issues and have great credibility when presenting or defending an argument. Even though this is the case, I know that I still want to make a difference, even if only in my backyard. With this passion I decided to not only upcycle old writing utensils, but to start a campaign where children without reusable water bottles get one, which, in turn, instills within them a passion for a reduction of plastic consumption. Reusable water bottles are given to low income elementary schools or schools in general to promote not using plastic bottles. The bottles are gotten from the lost and found on campus (the bottles that have been sitting there for long periods of time with nobody claiming them are taken). I also know a couple of teachers from my former high school who have a ton of old reusable bottles that they line up on their shelves that no one claimed or took back. They are more than willing to give it to me for this cause. Of course, all the bottles are cleaned before distribution.
I was really inspired to do this after watching Before the Flood, which was even more motivational after the results of the elections and what that means moving forward for environmental protection. While watching the movie I was so moved to pursue more environmental issues I texted my mother right away about my aspirations and she was more than willing to help! Thanks to her I really got a move on with my project.
I started these projects because they are so simple to do and they promote a healthier environment. What stands out to me is that they also have so much potential. For example, with a school of 20,000 students each person can just recycle one marker, pencil, or pen and that results in 20,000 of those kept out of landfills; 20,000 kept out of the bodies of animals; 20,000 pens, markers and pencils combined to be made into a new upcycled product. Whether it be a new flower pot, a picture frame, a clipboard, or even a new bench for a playground, there are just endless possibilities. Same goes for the reusable water bottles. If 20,000 people drank from a reusable water bottle at least 20,000 plastic bottles would be kept out landfills, etc. I started these projects at a local elementary school and these have proven to be so incredibly simple, yet so effective. I like to say “if a kindergartener can do it, then a high schooler [or college student] can do it,” and just last year alone we collected over 15,000 writing utensils.
It may seem as if one pencil or one bottle is just a drop in the ocean, but as the saying from the film Cloud Atlas goes, “what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” Something so small has the potential for something so grand.