Four years ago, I started an effort to spread awareness about the dangers of electronic waste. It was a shame that people had to pay in order to recycle. Our’s was a grassroots effort, just middle school kids going door to door giving out brochures and bugging our neighbors. We offered to collect old computers to recycle for free and, if possible, fix minor issues and donate to nearby charities.
Over the past four years, the campaign grew. There were a number of memorable firsts: the very first donation to a rural family in Ohio, the first thank you letter addressed to us, and the first newspaper article written about me. One of the most memorable moments was when I received a call from Junior Scholastic asking to interview me about my project. Junior Scholastic, a national children’s magazine, was interested in my project? I was overcome with pride and joy. All the hard work I had put in was finally paying off in the best ways. A few short weeks later, I got to see my face on the pages of the magazine, in between full page spreads of President Obama and Prince Charles.
But by far, the biggest reward, and the one I am most proud of, is the knowledge that I have made a difference in my own community. The newspaper articles helped get my name and purpose out to a large number of people, and my message resonated with many of them. I’ve received so many calls from people in my own neighborhood that wanted to donate their old electronics and many that took the effort to drive all the way to my house to drop them off. Computers that would have taken up space at a landfill can now be put to good use in homes and organizations.
It really is possible. With the right motivation and support it is possible to make a change. This is the most important lesson that this experience has taught me, and I will strive to take it along with me to other endeavors too.
Sachin Rudraraju from Powell, Ohio was a 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner.