A non-destructive future is best means of conservation
January 19, 2014 00:00 By Attayuth Bootsripoom
'Bayer young environment envoy' scheme leading example of social responsibility
It is undeniable that environmental issues are among the top problems faced by the world, and global warming and climate change are matters that concern more than just scientists.
It is essential that giant industrial corporates play a part in helping, as they are also the usual suspects when it comes to who should be blamed.
Social-responsibility projects are being pushed by many of these businesses to rehabilitate the environment, create a good environment and develop people, as well as to create the right awareness among the young generation.
Bayer is an international conglomerate with an extensive range of products, including drugs, foods and petrochemicals. Its headquarters is located in Leverkusen, a city plagued by industrial pollution.
That is the backcloth to the “Bayer Young Environment Envoy” programme, which was created by the German giant in association with the UN Environment Programme.
Bayer’s programme enables young representatives from many countries to live together, and learn about Leverkusen’s way of treating the environment and other environmental problems – and also about more specific issues.
This past year, these young envoys looked into the problem of food waste, which is a burden not only in terms of the need for its elimination, but also as a waste of energy.
From November 10-14, three Thai youths – Yosapol Harnvanichvech and Wannida Sae-Tang from the Department of Botany at Kasetsart University’s Science Faculty, and Sarocha Theng-ha from Maejo University – won a competition and were selected to join the programme.
Yosapol’s winning project was the preservation of pineapple quality amid hot weather. This usually means that farmers wrap their fruit with newspaper, which costs them time and resources and also leaves chemical residue in the soil.
Yosapol proposed that diluted, low-grade kaolin, or China clay, left over from industries be used to coat pineapples, thus reducing the temperature as the white clay reflects heat.
Farmers opting for no longer have to waste time wrapping the fruit, and there is no chemical residue as China clay is natural.
Wannida is a scholarship student at the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology. Her project concerned efficiency of philodendron in absorbing carbon dioxide.
The plant is popular among city residents as it is small and requires only a little space in which to grow. She hopes that if its capacity in absorbing the gas is understood, it can be developed to help improve the environment for condominium residents, many of whom love the plant variety.
Sarocha’s project, meanwhile, was teaching students in rural areas of Chiang Mai to use corn cobs in planting mushrooms.
Her project so far has been able to reduce by up to 100,000 kilograms the burning of cobs as a means of people destroying their waste after consuming the corn.
Sarocha’s major at Maejo University is accounting, but she voluntarily formed a “Tap Root Club” in her target schools. As a result, the schools’ food costs decreased.
Last month, the activity was expanded into the community, with more than 100 households joining in.
Asked why she volunteered to do this, Sarocha said: “It might sound like an exaggeration, but my idol is the King [who developed a sufficiency-economy philosophy].”
During their trip to Germany, the three winners also had a chance to visit Bay Arena, the football stadium of Bayer Leverkusen, Bayer’s very own Bundesliga team that was formed by the company’s staff.
Another interesting thing they saw was the Lumbricus, a truck adapted as a mobile lab that brings knowledge about the environment to children in communities.
The truck is packed with a microscope, noise-level tester, equipment for water and soil sampling and other equipment that makes learning about the environment an interesting and fun experience.
They also visited the Water School, situated at the Villa Olki water-treatment plant, which exhibits how the quality of the water in Leverkusen used to be, and how it was treated.
The curators, who entertain as they educate visitors, said one of their dreams was to treat all the water in the Rhine that flows pass the city, while currently 50 per cent of it is treated at the plant. However, being able to treat half of it is amazing, as well, they said.
A Leverkusen garbage-treatment plant was also visited during the trip, while the last day’s schedule was for a trip to a research and development centre, where the youths had a chance to do some lab testing of their own.
The programme also gave the winners a chance to meet people of other nationalities and make new friends.
Many of them were not science students, but they all had interesting projects to contribute to the environment, such as a car pool, educational projects – and even creating furniture from used toothpaste tubes.
The project of the winner from Kenya was for turning plastic bags into organic waste.
Food waste is seen differently in each country, with participants from Africa saying that it was less of a problem than how to ensure there was enough food for everyone. That reminded the youths from other regions to ask themselves whether they treated food properly, or indeed were contributing to such problems themselves.
It is a shame that this will be the last year of the Bayer programme, as the company will now focus more on different kinds of science which can be applied to daily life, and work on other environmental projects.
However, the bottom line to be taken from the programme is that the best conservation is to create a non-destructive future – and this is a concept that will not fade away.