UN agency honours four students for innovative environmental projects

The four co-winners of the Young Environmental Leader Award receiving their prizes in Germany

25 October 2011 – A small bioreactor that can be used in household cooking and eco-friendly fuel briquettes made out of dried foliage and waste paper are among four projects – all designed by young students – that are being honoured with a United Nations award for environmental innovation.

Indonesia’s Sara Rudianto, Ecuador’s María Rosa Reyes Acosta, Kenya’s Michael Muli and Mary Jade Gabanes of the Philippines have received the 2011 Young Environmental Leader Award for their projects, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) announced yesterday in Leverkusen, Germany.

The quartet, who will each receive €3,000 and technical support in their home countries to make their projects sustainable, were chosen by a panel of judges from UNEP, a non-governmental organization (NGO) and the chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer.

They were selected on the final day of the Young Environmental Envoy Programme, a week-long programme co-organized by UNEP which brought together 47 young leaders from developing countries for a study tour in Germany.

Ms. Rudianto developed a bioreactor that can process farm and household waste to make renewable energy that can be used not only for cooking in Indonesia’s West Java province, but also as an alternative source of fuel to the traditionally used firewood.

Ms. Acosta of Ecuador designed a process to treat water that has been contaminated by mercury, a toxic element that has usually resulted from gold mining.

Mr. Muli is implementing a green energy project in his native Kenya that aims to lower carbon emissions by using clean fuel briquettes made of foliage and waste paper rather than traditional cooking fuels such as charcoal. The project should also create jobs and income for local residents in his community.

In the Philippines, Ms. Gabanes has set up an environmental education programme for children with special needs that includes art therapy sessions, a musical variety show and photo exhibitions.

Mr. Muli said he was surprised to be one of the four winners of the award.

“The visit to Germany showed me that although we may come from very different backgrounds, the challenges faced by many developing countries are similar, such as waste management or meeting energy needs,” he said.

“I came away from the programme realizing that, when it comes to sustainable development, the time for action is now.”

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