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Vapes of Wrath

2023, Ohio, USA
Vape and E-Cigarette disposal bin
Vapes of Wrath was a project done by Cullen Batsel and Ethan Hatcher that was focused on fixing the problems that vaping creates for health and the environment.

As high school students, they found evidence of vaping as an issue from firsthand experience. Many of their classmates were engaging in the behavior and it was an obvious issue. After doing research, they too realized that vaping was an environmental concern,
considering discarded e-cigarettes are hazardous waste and can contaminate local watersheds and ecosystems. E-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals and lithium batteries which are considered toxic and hazardous waste and pollute water systems and soil. They wanted to address this issue first on a local level, in their communities. They implemented a two-fold program, including an educational and collection component. First, they educated people about the health issues and lesser-known environmental issues associated with vaping. They accomplished this through posters and through their website and referred to the FDA, NIH, and Truth Initiative.
Then they established several vape collection containers, locking sharp containers, and placed them in strategic and popular places in their community. This was a cost effective method that could be easily replicated throughout the state and nation. There are no public vaping disposal services available, so they were filling a complete void. Their project addressed several sustainable development goals as set forth by the United Nations: Good Health and Well-Being, Responsible Consumption and Production, and Climate Action.

This project was interesting for them because it was an opportunity to tackle something that is not often talked about. Because of the stigma that surrounds vaping, it is a topic that is often ignored. But Cullen and Ethan believe that ignoring a problem will only make it worse and that something needs to be done to solve the impacts of vaping.

Students standing beside disposal bins

Students standing beside disposal bins and signs

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The Impact of Styrofoam

2023, Loveland, Ohio, USA
Sign of the impacts of styrofoam
“The Impact of Styrofoam” was created by students, Olivia Reighard, Wyatt Scarberry, Sophia Reimels, and Jake Hester, at Loveland High School. The project focuses on the switch from
styrofoam lunch trays to all paper products in the school’s cafeteria as well as the process of educating the students and staff on the harmful effects of styrofoam.

Styrofoam is estimated to take over 500 years to decompose and is known to leach chemicals into the environment, while on the other hand, paper only takes 2-6 weeks to fully decompose. While the paper trays have a much better impact on the environment, their project illuminated some interesting problems when used in a cafeteria setting. For example, on days where the
cafeteria serves spaghetti, the sauce tends to seep into the material and make the meal less appealing for the student; the styrofoam does not have this behavior. The styrofoam trays,
however, are less sturdy than the paper trays. This switch, while there are pros and cons to both sides, is important for the sake of the Little Miami River Watershed.

Their biggest takeaway from doing this project was the amount of thought and consideration that goes into making decisions, such as, the kind of tray students’ bought lunches come on.

Sustainable Development Goals this project hits:

    Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.

  • 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.
    Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption.

  • 12.6: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to
    adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.
    Goal 14: Life Below Water.

  • 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

Caring for our watersheds logo on food freezer Paper packaging replacing styrofoam

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Fast Fashion

2023, Ohio, USA
Clothes drive sign

Margot McPhail, Callie Hilton, and Hollis Hays focused on the negative impacts that are caused by fast fashion. The problem was identified in their watershed, with the vast environmental impact that fast fashion poses. Fast fashion produces extensive air and water pollution, with extremely negative environmental impacts. Margot, Callie, and Hollis knew this was something that needed to be fixed, and fast.

The group narrowed their focus by reviewing the UN’s Sustainable development goals. Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, with a focus on waste management and implementation. Goal 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns with a focus on reducing waste generation, procurement, and information. Their final goal was Goal 13 to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts specifically to improve education and awareness.
Donate here sign with bags of clothes in front of itbag in box
In order to combat this problem they decided to organize a clothing drive through their school. Their two-day event consisted of a donation day on Saturday and a thrift event hosted on Sunday. Over 1,050 items of clothing were donated on Saturday and for every item donated participants received 1 credit to shop with the next day. In order to increase turnout, they allowed community members to donate canned goods and toiletries as another opportunity to receive credits.

There was great turnout on Sunday with people coming from all over Wyoming and surrounding communities. The bathrooms were open, so that way everyone had the option to try on each item before purchasing. This lowered the chance that items would immediately be taken to places like goodwill following the drive. Majority of the donations received were taken, but they then took the few remaining items, as well as the donated canned goods and toiletries to Matthew 25 Ministries. This made the impact of their drive global, with Matthew 25 shipping the donations to countries in need.

With such a successful drive, the group received countless compliments from community members. Several were shocked and impressed that they collected so many donation items in only one day. Others requested that the project continues down the line. With all of the positive feedback, Margot, Callie and Hollis decided to implement the project as a yearly tradition. They took it up with Project Lead, a volunteer group at their school. Project lead agreed to host the drive every year, meaning that the impact of the drive can continue for years to come.
Students sorting clothes into categories on tables
With fast fashion being such a prevalent issue resulting from the rise of social media, the trend of fast fashion is not projected to slow down any time soon. The group hung up posters at the drive with several links of sustainable online businesses to shop at, as well as nearby environmentally friendly thrift stores. The ability of this drive to start a cycle of clean shopping will be increasingly beneficial for the community of Wyoming, Ohio as well as surrounding communities. A major takeaway from the experience that Margot, Callie, and Hollis got was how such a small project can end up making such a big impact. Wyoming is a very small community, but they were able to make a global impact that will continue to serve as a way to help the environment for as long as the drive continues. It makes them wonder, if such a tight knit small community can make such a drastic impact, what even bigger impact can the surrounding big communities do?

On one of the final days in class before summer break, the students gave a presentation to their class using the same slideshow used to present at the Ohio Caring for Our Watersheds competition where they placed 3rd in the state.

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Community-Based Clean-Up Station in Polluted Parks

2023, Loveland, Ohio, USA
trash pickup station outside
Zachary Peebles and Ryan Werne are both students at Loveland High School working to protect the Little Miami Watershed. For their project they conceptualized, planned, built, and installed 3 trash pickup stations at key locations of popular local parks with a lot of trash pollution. At these stations, members of the local community who spend time at the park will grab a container from inside as they enter, fill it with trash as they walk around the parks, and throw the bag away as they are leaving to remove this trash from the park on a regular basis. Additionally, by using repurposed coffee bags that would have otherwise been thrown out by local coffee shops as these containers, the group was able to simultaneously reduce the trash in their watershed and give these non-recyclable items another chance. Through the commitment of their school’s Green Team to maintain the project by checking in on the boxes and resupplying them with coffee bags as they are used up, even as the students move forward, the project will
continue serving their community far into the future.

The project addressed sustainable development targets 6.3 to “improve water quality by reducing pollution”, 14.1 to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds”, and 15.1 to “ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems” by removing trash (and the dangerous toxins/microplastics associated with it) from the park that otherwise would pose a threat to the water quality, underwater life, and terrastrial life both in the park itself and downstream. Additionally, their project involved the “participation of local communities” as stated in target 6B. Every bit of trash removed by those attending the park, according to the students, is a small but important step towards reaching these development goals, and inspiring others to take the similar steps in their own backyard.

Throughout the last 6 months, Zachary and Ryan took the opportunity to help their watershed and created a solution that is simple, easy to maintain, and most importantly, effective. By coming up with a strong plan before moving forward, receiving the necessary support and permission from their local government for the project was not an issue. They learned about protecting our environment and its importance, developing and proposing realistic solutions, and collaborating with one’s own community to help work toward a future for everyone.

trash pickup station outside with other bins around

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BEE THE CHANGE

2023, LOVELAND, OHIO, USA
Beeswax wrapping on food
The Bee The Change project was run by four 9th grade students from Loveland High School, Erin, Ian, Keira, and Melia. Their idea was to give out beeswax wraps to people in their community, so that they could be used in lunches and homes instead of plastic lunch bags or cling wrap. They chose beeswax wraps because, unlike plastic, they are made of natural materials and can be used for up to a year before quickly, and completely, biodegrading.

With their budget they bought packs of beeswax wraps, paper bags, bee keychains, and printed pamphlets that they designed and instructional sheets. Then, they put together 250 kits, which were a paper bag, each containing a small beeswax wrap, a medium or large wrap, a pamphlet, and an instruction sheet.

One weekend, Ian and Melia went to downtown Loveland with a sign to hand out kits. They used bee keychains to excite younger kids and gave out almost 100 kits in total. Then their teacher sent an email to all the staff at their school. They got almost 50 requests for their kits. The next week, in their school, it was environmental week, so on “bee day” they went around the lunchroom and gave out kits. They also gave the remaining bee keychains to students wearing black and yellow. Finally, they gave out their remaining 30 or so kits after their presentation at the zoo.
Students package beeswax wrappers
The group planned to affect Sustainable development goals 3 and 6. Goal 3 intended to help clean water and sanitation, while 6 promotes human health and wellbeing, both of which their project will impact because it reduces the amount of microplastics in the watershed. More specifically, they wanted to aim for sub-goal 14.1, which will prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.

On their pamphlets was a QR Code to an optional survey. From the survey the students were able to see that 85% of people had never used beeswax wraps, but 78% planned to use them in the future.

Their project is meant to help others be more sustainable in their daily lives. They hope that the recipients of the wraps will continue to give other sustainable products a chance, as well as share new products with others around them. They also hope their project will inspire other people to do similar projects promoting sustainability in new and different ways. Overall, their goal is to be(e) the change and help others be the change in sustainability.

Student receiving bees wax wrap

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Reducing Paper Towel Waste

2023, CINCINNATI, OH, USA
Students in classroom
Lloyd Par, a junior at Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Students, originally proposed replacing the Paper towel dispensers around his school with cloth roll towel dispensers in order to reduce the paper towel waste directly. However, the school board did not approve the project due to health and maintenance concerns. Lloyd pivoted his project to instead focused on the educational portion of his original proposal. He reworked the entire project and his budget in order to focus on his new vision.

First, Lloyd researched and created a survey to have data about the student and staff’s paper towel use habits. He then created a presentation and posters to shed light on the issues of paper towel waste. He even created a Jingle PSA to go along with the presentation and to be showcased in the halls for community engagement. He also created a quiz at the end of every presentation, giving out stickers for prizes to ensure that students were engaged in the lesson and really driving home the impact of paper towel waste. All of this served to inform the students and staff on more sustainable paper towel use at school (ex. using one paper towel or using the hand dryers). However, a big part of this project was focused on home use as well.

Finding out through the survey that a significant portion of the school community used paper towels at home for cleaning and hand drying, he decided to add this issue into his educational campaign. He suggested using cloth towels for hand drying and Swedish dishcloths for cleaning at home and added these into his presentation. He even gifted each student and staff member a Swedish dishcloth which is a reusable option instead of paper towels. This helped each family begin their transition to more sustainable paper towel home usage and lead to a bigger impact than he originally proposed.

Over time, his educational campaign will create a ripple effect to all Spencer Center families, since their students will come home advocating to reduce their paper towel waste. These efforts address the 12th Sustainable Goal made by the UN: “By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.” Lloyd not only worked hard on this project himself but also rallied the entire school community to assist with his project, furthering their commitment to the change. Lloyd hopes that his educational outreach will inspire others to continue the efforts and share what they’ve learned about reducing paper towel waste throughout their communities and the world!

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Reducing and Removing Litter at School

2023, CINCINNATI, OH, USA
Student standing beside waste bin
Gwendolyn Jones, a senior at Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Students, noticed that there was lots of trash around her school campus and wanted to do something about it. She decided to conduct a project in which she reduced and removed litter at her school through clean up events and strategic placement of waste receptacles.

Gwen organized events to clean waste outside, around the school’s campus in order to accomplish her goal. She has already planned and hosted two events since the start of this project. These events will continue after she graduates, with the help of the faculty and utilizing the time already put aside for advisory. Additionally, Gwen had a recycling bin and trash bin installed in a high traffic area to hopefully reduce the litter left on the ground in the first place. She has partnered with the school custodial staff and the recycling club to maintain these two bins throughout the school year. The trash and recycling bins are being regularly used by students each day. Students and staff have already commented on the improvement in litter reduction around the school campus. Gwen hopes that this will inspire them to help maintain it. She also hopes that it will influence their actions in their own neighborhoods, furthering her impact.

This project benefits the local aquatic ecosystem by reducing the amount of potentially harmful litter that reaches waterways via storm drains. Because of that impact, this project aligns with SDG 14, which aims to protect life below the water. Gwen learned from this project that everybody can have a positive impact on their environment and hopes that she has inspired others to take their own environmental actions and further protect the watershed.

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Native Prairie Species Garden

2023, CINCINNATI, OH, USA

Student standing beside sign
Ladasia Faulkner, a junior at Spencer Center, planted a native prairie species garden on her school’s campus. She did this because the campus had very low biodiversity, clay-like soil, and few deep root systems. These caused runoff whenever it rained, which then eroded the land and polluted the watershed. She, along with many volunteers, built both an education garden and a wild restoration area on the hillside between the bus pickup area and the staff parking lot. She has fully planted the restoration area and will be starting the plants for the education garden inside this winter to be transplanted in the spring. She also created educational books to pair with the educational garden so that students and staff can learn about each plant individually before looking for them in the wild restoration area. By using many volunteers, Ladasia gained many community connections that will be able to partner her and the school in maintaining the garden and expanding the impact. She provided seed packets to many of these volunteers who were interested in creating their own prairie restoration gardens.
green yard by house
Through her efforts, Ladasia was able to target many of the UN’s sustainable development goals but she felt that her work addressed #15, life on land, the most. She is restoring the school’s biodiversity loss with the addition of 21 new native plant species. This addition will continue to increase the biodiversity by attracting other native animal species, including many critical pollinator species, such as the endangered Monarch butterflies.

One big take away Ladasia has learned from this experience is that with the power of community, anything is possible. Many volunteers, including Ladasia herself, had never gardened before and learned a lot about setting up, planting, and maintaining a garden along with the amazing ecological benefits that come with it. Hopefully this project has inspired hundreds of new gardeners that can further protect our watershed. Ladasia was able to achieve her goals and make an impact that will better the watershed for many years to come.

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Do Something Sweet for the Environment

2022-2023, Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Stumps of wood on ground

Family standing around outside table with cutup stumps on it
Sadie Gudmestad from Rocky Mountain High School addressed the loss of native bees in Northern Colorado by handing out bee hotels for solitary bees to nest in. Solitary bees make up 90% of Colorado’s native bee population, which has decreased by 30%. Solitary bees pollinate native plants and help to keep Colorado’s ecosystem healthy, but they have experienced a loss of habitat due to urbanization. Bee hotels help to provide a habitat for solitary bees and help to educate people on how to be aware of native bees. Reclaimed wood from the National Forest Service was used to create the hotels. Seventy-five bee hotels were handed out around Northern Colorado to people who live as far as Grand Junction. This solution addressed Target 15.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Water: It’s Worth a Dam!

2023, FORT COLLINS, COLORADO, USA

Natalie Vieira from Rocky Mountain High School addressed poor water quality from the ash and floods from the Cameron Peak Fire. To address this issue, Natalie created a man-made beaver dam in the Cache la Poudre watershed. For the last three years, black and murky water has traveled down the Poudre River negatively impacting 330,000 citizens who rely on the watershed for drinking water and other uses. Additionally, there are not enough beavers in the Poudre to build dams that reduce flooding and settle the ash. Therefore, Natalie implemented a man-made beaver dam analog (BDA) in the Lile Beaver Creek burned watershed. She wove together natural materials like willows, evergreens, and wood to make the dam. As a result, the stream widened by 1.5 feet and the water slowed. The stream got deeper by 0.5 feet above the dam and started settling the sediment. This solution addressed Targets 6.1 and 6.6 of the Sustainable Development Goals.