COP28 Climate Summit;  Re-Imagine School Waste
May 23, 2024 6:30 PM
Advika Agarwal and Angelina Xu, Rotaractors
COP28 Climate Summit; Re-Imagine School Waste

[From the April Rotary Magazine, Page 15]

Six years ago, when she was in seventh grade, Advika Agarwal was looking for a topic for a science competition. She and her friend Angelina Xu were aware of the cafeteria food waste at Xu's old elementary school and devised a plan to have it composted, diverting it from landfills where food adds to greenhouse gases. From there, despite the pandemic shutdown, the modest plan took off. 

With help from a $48,000 grant from the World Wildlife Fund, the Coalition to Re-Imagine School Waste today coordinates the redistribution of food waste in 78 schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. The program is expanding to other states, and after a successful lobbying effort led in part by Agarwal, the Maryland Legislature enacted a bill to provide $1.25 million over five years to support similar programs. 

Those accomplishments did not go unnoticed: Last summer, Agarwal, Xu, and their classmate and collabo­rator Shrusti Amula were among 34 students who received the Presi­dent's Environmental Youth Award from the U.S. Environmental Protec­tion Agency. 

After serving as president of the Interact club at her high school, the 18-year-old senior joined the Rotaract Club of MoCo in September. Two months later she was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as one of 12 Rotaract representatives at the COP28 climate summit. She made connections with other environ­mental activists and presented on combating food waste and hunger.

"Seeing the ripple effect of smaller actions that can be replicated around the country and around the world is what gives me hope," Agarwal says. "It motivates me to not fall prey to climate pessimism. We can't just sit back. We have to do something about it."