The minds shaping green awareness

March 27, 2024 | 16:32
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The young generation is increasingly proving its core role in sharing creative ideas about green activities and projects, with future generations facing the most serious impacts of climate change and environmental pollution. Young individuals told VIR’s Ha Vy how they transformed their awareness into action when it comes to environmental protection and shaping a more resilient future.

Pham Nhat Ha, (20 years old) Student,
Pedra Solution project University of Science and Technology Hanoi

Our Pedra Solution group has five second-year students at the biotechnology-drug development department of the University of Science and Technology Hanoi. We perceive it as our responsibility to disseminate specialised knowledge to contribute to environmental protection and societal advancement.

The minds shaping green awareness

Leveraging our expertise in applied microbiology, our project team has conceived a groundbreaking initiative harnessing the potential application of various bacteria strains. We collect and isolate bacterias from municipal waste dumps in Hanoi to study their capability in degrading low-density polyethylene - a widely used polymer in the production of plastic bags.

Drawing upon scientific foundations from both domestic and international research, the researched microbial strains exhibit promising efficacy under laboratory conditions while ensuring biosafety levels. There is significant potential to apply these findings to real-world environmental contexts.

After four months of research and development, we introduced Pedric, an experimental product comprising husk powder and effective probiotic bacteria. Utilising readily available resources such as natural bran powder and soil-derived microbial strains from municipal waste sites, Pedric contributes to reducing production costs and product development.

While transitioning from research to practical implementation will require considerable time, effort, and financial resources for testing and evaluation before market release, we believe this concept is paving the way for innovative plastic waste management solutions, minimising adverse environmental impacts compared to traditional methods.

Although the potential efficacy of these microbial strains shows promise, optimising the ability to handle various types of waste necessitates societal collaboration. There must be collective responsibility in the use, sorting, and collection of household waste, fostering individual and community awareness. This calls for widespread education on basic waste differentiation and the implementation of rational waste collection methods for effective recycling or proper disposal.

Our project proposes waste management solutions and conveys a message of hope for societal solidarity. Through any means possible, we aspire for a greener, more sustainable lifestyle, minimising environmental pollution caused by plastic waste.

Do Thi Thanh Mai, (27 years old), officer, Hanoi

At home, I maintain the habit of sorting waste, including collecting and cleaning inorganic waste like carton boxes, shock-proof wraps, egg trays, candy wrappers, and milk cartons. I practice composting organic waste at home and plant trees. Before, I felt I lacked awareness of waste sorting, but seeing janitors tirelessly sorting and handling waste for people made me want to contribute.

The minds shaping green awareness

Fortunately, I discovered Green Life – an ideal living green environment project. Since joining, I have developed a daily waste sorting habit, reduced single-use plastic usage, and switched to environmentally friendly products such as organic soap, water detergent made from pebbles, fabric face masks, and using a grass basket for daily shopping. I have been with Green Life for four years, participating in the project’s monthly waste exchange events at various locations nationwide, promoting and encouraging people to cultivate waste sorting habits at home. I want to convey the message that seemingly discarded waste can be recycled into useful everyday products, such as recycled toilet paper from milk cartons, recycled socks from plastic bottles, and recycled plant pots from milk cartons.

My mother, who doesn’t use social media much, noticed my efforts to live a green life every day. Initially, she had concerns, but after two years of observation, she supported and started practising a green lifestyle with me. We now use grass baskets instead of plastic bags for daily shopping, limit single-use plastic items like straws, and use water detergent made from pebbles that I gave her. Additionally, my mother enjoys planting trees in pots made from milk cartons.

Luu Nguyen Nhu Y, (21 years old) Head, Trash Without Filth campaign,
University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH)

This is a genuine communication project that delivers inspiring messages, aiming to touch the awareness of students across the city about waste classification and recycling, contributing to environmental protection.

The minds shaping green awareness
The Trash Without Filth team delivers inspiring messages to make students aware across the city

UEH is a pioneering institution in the pursuit of a green university. The interest, demand, and awareness of the environment, as well as waste classification activities among students, are naturally high. However, practical waste sorting and recycling activities within the university are still limited. This indicates that we have yet to compensate adequately for the environmental damage we cause.

The project introduces a talk show and an episodic series on the issue. These garnered high interaction rates. After the series, UEH has truly become greener, with enthusiastic students actively participating in waste classification, relieving janitors from the burden. We hope that this result will spread to many other schools and universities.

The series captured the waste classification stories of janitors at the university, providing a deeper insight into the consequences of rubbish disposal had reached 2,000 students. It showed that waste, even if sorted, still ends up somewhere.

For janitors collecting recyclables amid chaotic dumps, it is not just an economic matter, but also about the usefulness of the discarded items. This campaign aims to change the mindset from a convenient lifestyle to an environmentally conscious one.

Nguyen Ngoc Hung, (27 years old) Project leader, Go Green

This is a waste collection and recycling project born from wanting to promote community awareness of waste sorting before disposal. Our team aims to make every journey a green journey. Our activities involve reaching out and organising doorstep waste collection for districts within Hanoi, mainly Thanh Xuan.

The minds shaping green awareness
Go Green collects recycled milk cartons and cans in households

After collecting recyclable waste, it is transported to a warehouse for another round of sorting before being sent to recycling units. Each type of inorganic waste is separated, and Go Green has partnerships with recycling units such as Panasonic for used batteries, Van Diem paper factory for paper covers, and Tetra Pak for milk cartons.

At Tetra Pak, its recycling machines divide the carton shells into two parts: paper powder (recycled into paper bags, notebooks) and aluminium/plastic composite (recycled into roofing sheets). However, due to the large quantity required for each collection, we have organised door-to-door waste collection from households before sending them to recycling units.

During the collection process, we observed that some families were already familiar with sorting inorganic and organic waste, mainly young households, while others were less concerned or saw it as inconvenient. However, as we approached and shared the environmental protection message, families, including the elderly, happily started sorting and sending their waste.

Perhaps, deep down, everyone loves and wants to protect our living environment, but the fast-paced life has placed convenience at the forefront, causing us to forget the core starting point – the natural environment. For each household collection, we provide gifts to collection points, such as biodegradable rubbish bags, canvas bags, and small flower pots.

Go Green is also reaching out to preschools and primary schools to collect a large quantity of milk cartons discarded by children. While our current waste collection is gaining recognition, it is not significant compared to the total waste generated. Currently, our focus is primarily on helping households participating in the scheme to learn waste sorting before disposal and contribute a small part to everyone’s recycling journey.

Hoang Quy Binh, (29 years old) Founder, Green Life

The environmental protection project Green Life was established in 2018 with the goal of promoting household waste sorting. Back in my third year of studying electronics at university, I was puzzled about where to dispose of electronic waste or exam papers after using them, knowing they are hazardous. This led me to search for waste processing units and initiate activities like exchanging waste for plants to motivate people to sort their waste.

The minds shaping green awareness
More citizens are becoming aware of the importance of the recycling journey, and all that it entails

After over five years of operation, we have collected more than 50 tons of milk cartons, 20 tons of plastic waste, and one ton of metal cans. We have attracted over 175,000 followers, organised more than 400 collection events, and established branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Green Life retains a portion of collected packaging for reuse in holding plants for participants and packaging for online orders supporting recycled products. The majority is sent to recycling companies. The project has organised regular waste exchange activities, where people bring easily recyclable items like milk cartons, cans, and plastic bottles to exchange for plants. On March 17, we held an activity to exchange bottles and milk cartons for beautiful stone lotus pots at Royal City.

When people learned about our weekly activities, they built the habit of classifying waste and reducing plastic, and had more interest in using benign natural products. Neighbours participate in helping the environment become greener.

In addition, Green Life collaborates with schools, organisations, and shopping centres to organise activities and convey environmental messages to people, promoting and cultivating waste sorting habits.

During this period, we observed that people may not have the intrinsic awareness to recycle and prolong the life cycle of waste. However, when approached, they showed great interest and enthusiasm in environmental activities. Thus, every event collects a significant amount of waste, and people sustain this habit for years.

Cao Thi Sao Mai, (26 years old) Founder, Recycling Heroes

Our core value focuses on education to transform environmental perceptions. Through recycling packaging workshops, we provide essential knowledge to assist people in forming habits of reusing packaging. Each workshop is divided into different topics with various materials. Participants listen and engage in practical activities, creating multiple touchpoints.

The minds shaping green awareness
The recycling activities assist people in forming habits of reusing packaging

Currently, we have been active for over five years, constantly refining our operational models for optimal efficiency, ease of replication, and a higher societal impact. Our operations span Hanoi, Halong, and Vinh city.

In addition to our self-organised workshops, we collaborate with educational institutions or commercial centres to amplify our reach.

The Call of the Green Forest workshop aims to deepen understanding about the significance of forests and nature, as well as ways to protect the environment, such as forest clean-ups and tree planting. We also promote the recycling of plastic bottles as plant containers.

The leaf painting workshop teaches participants how to recycle rigid paper into frames and use dried leaves to create decorative products and artworks. Through this, people learn to utilise the waste around them to create decorative items.

Meanwhile, the Run, Collect, Recycle initiative is a workshop focusing on basic waste sorting principles. Participants practice waste sorting at the event and undergo challenges to form habits.

The initiative not only promotes physical fitness but also highlights the issue of indiscriminate waste disposal. Participants experience the challenges of cleaning the environment and contribute to giving waste a new lifecycle. Many parents have shared that since their children joined the programme, they no longer litter and are conscious about picking up trash outside.

Through this seemingly small but consistent weekly activity, we have witnessed impactful outcomes. Firstly, passers-by or individuals in the areas we operate often request to join us in picking up rubbish. After their involvement, they themselves recognise the value and positive environmental message that the programme brings. Secondly, the visual impact prompts some to become more aware of waste sorting and disposal methods.

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By Ha Vy

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