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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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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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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 and Removing Litter at School

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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Brush Off Invaders

2023, Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada
Students looking at project board mounted outside
Cassy Setter and Emmett Sherbinin were concerned about the presence of invasive plants in their watershed, so they came up with the idea of boot brush stations. Since invasive plant species can get onto the shoe’s of hikers, a boot brush can stop the spread into different areas. A benefit from these stations is that native plants will continue to thrive in the environment, and parks will have more management against invasives.

Their project targeted the Sustainable Development Goals #6 Clean Water and Sanitation (6.6), #14 Life Below Water (14.1, 14.2), and #15 Life Above Water (15.1, 15.5, 15.8).

They started with building stations to install into parks around their county and city with the help of their class. A sign is attached to each station with information on invasives and why it is important to use these stations before going onto a trail. Cassy and Emmett were able to work with their local municipalities to get permission to put their stations in 4 parks. They even donated a few to their local watershed group.

Students standing by project board

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Willow Staking

2023, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
group of students by river
Jade Pham’s project was on reducing erosion of river banks after seeing the consequences of flooding in the Bow River. They decided on willow staking along banks that have little to no vegetation. Willows can survive in wet environments and their root system can prevent erosion while filtering pollutants. Some of the other benefits to their project is improving biodiversity and providing habitat and food for wildlife.

The Sustainable Development Goals Jade focused on were #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #13 Climate Action, #14 Life Below Water, and #15 Life on Land.

They partnered with Friends of Fish Creek to learn how to properly willow stake. There was a call for volunteers and funding from the community to be able to complete this project. Jade chose a location with little vegetation and where other projects had already been implemented to ensure better results. Her target was to plant 100 stakes along 50m of stream bank. With the help of the volunteers, she was able to complete their first planting.


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Our Environment is in Danger but we have an un-bee-lievable solution


Zoe Iverson and Haylie Ritter from Rocky Mountain High School addressed plastic waste during lunch by educating young students on the effects of plastic in their watershed and teaching them ways to be more environmentally friendly like using reusable beeswax lunch bags. Many people pack their lunch in a plastic bag that takes 1,000 years to decompose. Plastic can affect our drinking water, animal habitats, and our food for longer than you can imagine. The kids in Ms. Johnson’s 4th-grade class were excited to participate in the activity and presentation Haylie and Zoe brought. Beeswax wraps were handed out to encourage the kids to use them and tell their friends and family about them. Their hope is for these kids to be inspired to make a change against pollution in their environment. This solution addressed Targets 14.1 and 11.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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Thrifty Tote Bags


Lida De Los Santos, a student at Greeley West High School, tackled the pressing issue of plastic pollution by designing and producing reusable shopping bags. After discovering the alarming statistic that 92 million tons of clothing find their way into landfills worldwide each year, she was inspired to make a difference. Lida took a creative approach by repurposing used shirts into tote bags, which she distributed to her peers and members of the local community. Each bag included an informative tutorial, enabling recipients to understand the gravity of the issue and learn how to create their own upcycled bags. By empowering others to participate in this sustainable solution, Lida aims to contribute to the improvement of their local watershed. Her initiative not only helps reduce plastic waste but also promotes awareness and encourages others to take similar actions in their daily lives. This solution contributed to Targets 14.1 and 15.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals.



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eDNA and The Northern Redbelly Dace


Anya Wieder and Taryn McDermid from Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools addressed aquatic wildlife conservation by using environmental DNA (eDNA). Our local Colorado Watersheds have been struggling with biodiversity for many years. This has caused a very important species of dace, The Northern Redbelly Dace, to become an endangered species in Colorado. Anya and Taryn have been working with their team in order to reintroduce this species of fish into the Colorado waterways. Their project was to look at how successful their previous releases have been by using eDNA. This solution addressed Targets 14.a and 13.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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The Hole Picture


Callen Solley from Rocky Mountain High School addressed water use and polluted runoff by providing a soil moisture sensor to a golf course. Over 2 billion gallons of water are dumped onto golf courses in the United States each year. In addition to that, most of them are overwatered which creates excess runoff that carries fertilizers into the watershed creating algae blooms. A great way to stop the issue of overwatering is utilizing a soil moisture sensor. The sensor measures how much water is in the soil. These readings can help a golf course adjust the amount of water they are putting on the grass. This solution addressed targets 6.3 and 14.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals.