RecycleSmart initiated the student scholarship program in 2015 to inspire and reward student leaders who have made significant contributions to reducing waste at their high school. Since 2015, student leaders from Acalanes High School, Campolindo High School, Miramonte High School, Las Lomas High School, Northgate High School, and San Ramon Valley High School have received RecycleSmart scholarships.
The 2021 scholarship application was prominently posted on the RecycleSmart website and distributed to all high schools in the RecycleSmart service area through their environmental clubs, leadership classes, administration and college counselors. Applicants were required to describe how they reduced waste at their schools, meet with their administration and custodial staff to implement the program, conduct promotional activities, and recruit younger students to carry on the program.
Sofia Gonzalez – Acalanes High School
For Sofia, waste reduction means re-using more and throwing away less. It means finding new ways to repurpose things to reduce waste output from the beginning. Mostly, it means educating students, adults, children and all members of our community on how to reduce their own waste, so our community can reduce our total waste.
Over the past two years, Sofia has utilized her leadership positions for the Acalanes Environmental Club (secretary and vice president) and her RecycleSmart internship to educate her student body and the greater Central Contra Costa school communities.
She joined the RecycleSmart team during the pandemic and became part of a multi-district student waste reduction team. The main focus for the interns was executing a Student Earth Day Summit in April 2021. Sofia’s role was to educate the attendees on various movements, organizations and resources for climate awareness and action. She also provided a list of school clubs with current contact information for students to connect and take action at their individual schools.
This school year, Sofia participated in two main RecycleSmart intern projects. Her first project was the creation of customized sorting posters for each high school. Sofia recently posted them near sorting stations on her campus to further educate her student body on the proper way to sort an actual meal from the Acalanes cafeteria.
Sofia is most passionate about the clothing drive/swap project she has put into action this Spring. This took coordination with her Environmental Club, faculty advisor and other RecycleSmart interns. Her goal was to have multiple high schools collect clothing donations at their schools, and later have one large clothing swap for all schools to attend. Time constraints may result in the swaps occurring at each individual school; however, this project will still achieve her desire to increase awareness about the detriments of fast-fashion, and the environmental effects of buying new clothes.
Driven to encourage students to reduce their waste by thrifting or swapping clothes, Sofia has set the stage for future RecycleSmart interns to more easily conduct clothing drives/swaps next year.
Sofia is a resident of Lafayette and will attend UC Davis to study Biology this fall.
Aya Banaja – Los Lomas and Miramonte High Schools
For Aya, waste reduction is a way of giving back to the planet. Her journey to protect the environment began by educating herself on waste management, followed by encouraging her family, Las Lomas, Miramonte and the larger Central Contra Costa school community to strive for waste reduction and sustainability.
After teaching her family the importance of composting to reduce waste at home, she expanded her reach by joining the Green Team at Las Lomas High School as a sophomore. During the 2019-20 school year, the Las Lomas Green Team met weekly to develop methods for landfill diversion. Aya and the team coordinated with RecycleSmart to upgrade the bin system to three-streams and to remove excess landfill bins. This Green Team assembled the bin signs campus-wide and created factual posters to improve student awareness of waste reduction benefits. Aya recognized the immediate improvement in students’ inclination to recycle and compost due to the new accessibility of clearly labeled bins. The metrics for diversion were impeded by shelter-in-place; nevertheless, the efforts resulted in a better understanding of the need for waste reduction by the Las Lomas High School student body. Aya learned that a complicated plan is not required to make a communal impact.
In 2020, Aya joined the RecycleSmart internship team and switched to Miramonte High School as a junior. During the next year and half, she expanded her impact as an environmental leader by contributing to various on-campus and online projects. Aya assisted in the education of her greater student community as part of the RecycleSmart Interns team. She monitored the chat and Q & A during the Student Earth Day Summit in April 2021. During her senior year, Aya helped the Miramonte Environmental Solutions Club improve sorting on campus, and assisted in the production of the RecycleSmart Sort 101 video. This educational video is currently used by the RecycleSmart School Team to educate the entire school community across most of the service-area.
Aya is a resident of Orinda. This fall she will study Psychology at Saint Mary’s College.
Devon Bradley – Miramonte High School
From educating students on proper sorting, to diverting waste from the landfill, to banning non-recyclable polystyrene takeout containers, Devon has devoted himself to reducing the amount of excess material used in his community in order to minimize the collective environmental footprint.
Devon checked all the boxes on the RecycleSmart Waste Reduction Scholarship Application by initiating and leading multiple projects to increase diversion at his school and community. He supported local businesses with waste reduction, met with his district food service manager to reduce trash volumes, led a school-wide Green Team for three years to help promote and monitor sorting, conducted promotional activities to educate students at his high school and multiple Central Contra Costa schools, and recruited younger students to carry on the program at Miramonte after graduation.
In 2019, Devon founded the Miramonte Environmental Solutions Club with the goal of decreasing waste and single-use plastic in particular. His direct impact at Miramonte was halted until in-person school resumed, when he observed many students throwing away their trash into the wrong bins. The previously successful sorting program needed refreshing, so Devon developed a lunch-time monitoring system. He coordinated with his club, teachers, staff and student leadership to relaunch proper sorting. Planning and executing a training and a tracking system, Devon managed a team of student volunteers to advise fellow students on the correct disposal of their waste. To increase student learning, Devon directed a new waste sorting video that was shown to the student body during Earth Week 2022, plus organized a bin sorting relay in the quad.
Devon hoped to decrease additional waste generated district-wide by requesting a reduction in single-use foodservice items, an issue that became especially palpable with early COVID-19 protocol. He collaborated with RecycleSmart to express his conservation suggestions to the Acalanes Unified High School District Food Service Manager. Purchasing shifts wi
ll take time, but Devon’s initiative has set the stage for future waste reduction efforts.
In his community, Devon was successful in reducing single-use plastic. When the pandemic hit in 2020, he launched Project HEART (Help the Environment Assist Restaurant Takeout) to fundraise the donation of compostable takeout supplies to help restaurants adjust to the increase in takeout orders and reduce plastic waste. After seeing that many restaurants were using styrofoam takeout containers, he led several club members to lobby the Orinda City Council to ban polystyrene among restaurant takeout, and the ordinance went into effect in August 2021. Devon then took his action to the next level, by sharing his journey with the entire Orinda Middle School seventh grade to inspire their Take Action Project in 2022.
In addition to his waste reduction leadership at Miramonte and in Orinda, Devon was a leader for our RecycleSmart internship program for two years. He was instrumental in shaping the program to best serve students, updating educational materials used by the RecycleSmart Schools team, and developing best practices for incoming waste reduction interns and green team members.
Devon is a resident of Orinda. He will major in Climate Science and may attend UCLA (not officially committed).
Orinda Middle School Presentation covering Project HEART and Polystyrene Ban
2022 Miramonte Waste Sorting Video – directed by Devon Bradley
RecycleSmart Sort 101 Video – co-producer and actor