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Brothers from Omaha, Neb., Earn 2017 President's Environmental Youth Award for Recycling Efforts

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Kathleen L. Fenton (

Environmental News


EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., June 13, 2017) - Two brothers, formerly from Omaha, Neb., determined to make a difference in their classrooms, school and community are being recognized as winners of the 2017 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA), an annual program sponsored by the White House and EPA to recognize outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth. Through environmental education and stewardship activities, students develop the critical thinking skills and experience to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to solve the tough environmental problems of tomorrow.

Aryan and Om Mulgaokar, now living in Ridgewood, N.J., are among the national winners of the 2017 PEYAs announced today in Washington, D.C.. Established in 1971, the awards program recognizes young people for their outstanding efforts to protect the nation’s air, water, land and ecology.

“Today, we are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities, and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”

The brothers are being recognized for their recycling project at Aldrich Elementary in the Millard School District in Omaha. The project focused on recycling used pencils, partnering with the school, classmates, and a local landscaping nursery, Mulhall’s Nursery, to collect discarded and broken pencils and either sharpen them for reuse or recycle them (as shavings) for use in the nursery’s compost.

Aryan stated, “What caught my attention was that two boxes of pencils appeared on the school supply list every year. I realized that so many pencils get thrown out in the trash every year at homes nationwide and trees are cut down for them. I knew I could find a solution to this problem.”

The brothers encouraged their elementary and middle-school classmates to volunteer their time to collect damaged pencils. At the end of the school year, more than 4,000 pencils were returned to the school stockroom for reuse during the next school term, a cost savings of approximately $850. The brothers also started a student group and engaged many throughout the two schools to participate and learn more about how to recycle.

The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation's natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. It celebrates student leadership in service projects to protect the environment and build a livable, sustainable global community. Fourteen projects are being recognized this year, from 12 states (Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, California, and Washington). Additional projects include a wide variety of activities that range from developing a biodegradable plastic using local agricultural waste product; designing an efficient, environmentally-friendly mosquito trap using solar power and compost by-product; saving approximately 2,000 tadpoles and raising adult frogs and toads; repurposing more than 25,000 books; organizing recycling programs to benefit disaster victims and underserved community members; and promoting bee health.

Summaries of winning PEYA projects are available online.

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