Bayer Young Environmental Leaders

A highlight of every BYEE conference is the Bayer Young Environmental Leader Award. This year, 19 nominees – one from each participating country – presented projects covering a wide range of interests and expertise, with the three winning projects meeting environmental and social needs in a sustainable way, benefiting people economically while taking local values into account. Each winner received a cash prize and development support from Bayer.

Chitosan nanogels

Adriana Maria Villalobos Delgado, Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, shrimp fishing is big business. The men catch them, then their wives extract the meat and throw the heads and shells back into the sea, polluting the water. I’m researching how this waste can be used to make ‘chitosan’ – a substance produced from the shells of crustaceans that is already used commercially as a seed treatment and pesticide, as well as in pharmaceuticals. My plan is to develop chitosan nanogels, a drug-delivery system that introduces medicines deep into the body. Chitosan nanogels don’t just have a potential market in Costa Rica, and if we do manage to create an international industry using shrimp waste, the environmental impact could be huge. When shrimp shells become more valuable than the meat, people will have an incentive to stop polluting the ocean.

Recycling polythene bags

Mwanyuma Hope Mugambi, Kenya

Polythene shopping bags are often used once and then thrown away. They clog drains, and wild and domestic animals eat them and die. The biggest rubbish tip in Mombasa, Kenya, where I live, is near the sea, so many bags also end up in the ocean, where they kill sea life. I created this project to tackle these problems as well as to empower the young women, who come from very poor backgrounds. Our group, Taru Girls, collects bags from rubbish tips and from around our neighbourhood. We clean them, cut them into strands, and crochet them into table mats, laptop cases, phone cases, handbags and more, which we sell to tourists. The money generated gives the girls financial independence and benefits the wider community, and the only costs are protective gloves and boots, scissors and crochet hooks. At the same time, the project raises awareness about environmental issues and teaches young women valuable entrepreneurial skills. I plan to expand this project throughout Kenya.

Green handbook for housewives

Dang Huynh Mai Ahn, Viet Nam

One day, when I was watching TV with my mother, we saw a programme about young people’s environmental projects, and my mother wondered why environmental activities aren’t aimed at mothers and housewives. This intrigued me, and as a business student, I knew I needed to do some market research. Several surveys told me that my target group – middle-class housewives aged 25-40 living in the Phu Nhuan District in Ho Chi Minh City – enjoyed handicrafts and worried about saving money, but considered the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) a waste of time. To address their concerns, I designed an eye-catching, user-friendly booklet of creative and practical green tips – encouraging housewives to apply the 3Rs because it’s enjoyable and saves them time and money. The first trial run of 100 copies proved very popular, so I launched a commercial edition of 600 copies on Vietnamese Women’s Day in October 2012. That sold out, mostly to young people buying them as gifts for their mothers. Buoyed by this success, I’m now planning different versions targeting other markets, such as students living on their own for the first time.

T (R) M. Rennertz-Bayer

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