Sophomore Founds Program to Reduce Waste
Alicja M. '24 wants to help you reduce waste.
During the pandemic, she learned about the concept of a circular economy – a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.
To put those practices into action locally, Alicja founded EcoExchange, a program that works to prevent usable items from being thrown away and ending up at landfills for a healthier environment. She founded EcoExchange through her fellowship with DC-based LearnServe, which equips high school students from diverse backgrounds with the entrepreneurial vision, tenacity, confidence, and leadership skills needed to tackle social challenges at home and abroad.
EcoExchange runs donation drives for used items that may have a second life but whose owners no longer have a use for. Alicja aims to make the sustainable practice of recirculating items you no longer want or need the go-to option by creating convenient opportunities to do so.
That's right – the donations you throw in your car and tote around until you remember to find a drop off location will have a proper home with Alicja's program, which she runs with her best friend, Manuela, a student at Whitman High School.
"A huge idea of EcoExchange is that by keeping items in circulation, we benefit the environment," Alicja said. "The other part is that we actually get items to people in need. People like the drives because they can get things out of their home that they aren't really sure what to do with. Now they know how to help while getting rid of them!"
The first donation drive yielded 500 pounds of items that found new homes or were properly recycled, and the most recent on April 30 brought in even more. The total is still being tabulated as the items are being organized and sorted in Alicja's garage.
Alicja, who also interns with Bethesda Green, and Manuela keep a spreadsheet of organizations that may take items they receive, so that CDs, art supplies, or small furniture will go on to their next lives at, perhaps, a library, school, and shelter.
Grade 10 Dean and Upper School English Teacher Martha Macon Smith '09 dropped off a car load of items during the drive at Burning Tree Elementary this past Saturday. "It was wonderful," said Smith. "My house feels so decluttered, and I’m thrilled that these items will have a second life."
Follow EcoExchange on Instagram and on its website to keep up with what Alicja is doing. She may be in your neighborhood next!