Sustainability Competition Finals: And the Winners Are...

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 11:00 AM

 
Production of disinfectant from plants in Zambia, breeding locusts for food in Ethiopia and breaking down organic waste with the help of flies – these are the three remarkably creative initiatives that triumphed in the finals of the Israel Sustainable Development Goals (ISDG) Project.

By Shilgit Haiman
 
Which of us does not yearn to live in a better world? A world of abundant food resources with clean air, sea, land and drinking water, whose climate is pleasant and stable; where all human beings, male and female, have equal rights, medical services are easily available, and quality of life is good? Does such a world seem to you achievable, or are these perhaps mere daydreams or innocent delusions?
 
Rabbi Nahman of Breslov said: “If you believe that you can destroy, believe that you can repair.” Fortunately, our young people are optimistic. They believe that all will be well, and they are also prepared to contribute their brains and energy towards making the world we live in truly a better place.
 
The Israel Sustainable Development Goals Project (ISDG), a joint venture on the part of KKL-JNF – under the leadership of the organization’s chief scientist – and the Israeli ministries of foreign affairs and education, called upon young people to enlist in the United Nations’ efforts to confront the challenges that face us. Participation in the project gives students a unique opportunity to help shape and improve the future of the world and of all of us who live in it.
 
On May 27th, 2020, the finals of the Israeli Sustainability Competition took place at a festive event on Zoom. Each of the fifteen teams participating gave a presentation and a detailed exposition of its project – all in fluent English – and three were eventually chosen to attend the Food and Agriculture Organization’s board of directors’ meeting in Rome at the end of this year.
 
“The ideas you have come up with are proof of creativity and imaginative thinking. In the future you may well be among those who lead the way in saving the planet from destruction,” said KKL-JNF Chief Scientist Doron Markel.
 
 
And these are the winners:

From Sugarcane to Ethanol: Branco Weiss High School, Beit Hashmonai
The third of the UN’s seventeen declared goals is “good health.” A team of youngsters from Beit Hashmonai’s Branco Weiss High School, after deciding to explore ways to reduce death rates from bacteria and viruses (and this was all pre-Covid-19…) came up with the original notion of producing disinfectant from plants grown on hospital roofs. The plant in question is sugarcane, whose juice, when fermented, produces ethanol, and the hospital roofs are in Zambia, an African country where large numbers of hospital patients die from infections resulting from poor hygiene.
 
The students: Yonatan Paz, Or Eliraz, Yehonatan Noah and Nadav Dahan.
Supervisors: Sarit Meyuhas and Golan Zukron.
 
A burst of creativity: producing disinfectant from sugarcane. (Photo: Courtesy of the team)
 
Breeding Locusts for Food in Ethiopia: Amit Kama High School, Yeroham
From the outset, the girls of Yeroham’s Amit Kama High School selected Ethiopia as their target country. When asked why, they replied that their hearts had been touched by Ethiopian immigrants’ description of the famines prevalent there, and that they were determined to search for a solution to the problem. With the help of online research, they learned that famine in Ethiopia is aggravated by swarms of locusts that descend on the fields and destroy crops. The girls pieced the data together and, with the help of Duchifat (“Hoopoe”) Ornithology and Ecology Center Director Yoram Zvik, came up with the idea of exploiting the hordes of locusts as a food source for the local population. Locusts, the girls explained, have high nutritional value. Ground into flour, they can supply an individual’s protein requirements, replacing beef and mutton, whose production has become unreliable. To breed the locusts, the students used recycled materials to develop a cage containing a growth medium for the plants that sustain the insects.
 
The students: Sarit Tasgal, Ayelet HaShahar Yisrael, Tiferet Kosef, Uriya Kahlon
Supervisors: Zehava Kashi and Tovi Tabak
Professional advisor: Yoram Tzvik

 

Girls working towards solving the problem of famine in Ethiopia

were among the winners in the finals.  (Photo: Courtesy of the team)


Breaking Down Organic Waste: Eshkol center and Ohel Shem High School, Ramat Gan
Collaboration between Ramat Gan’s Eshkol center for arts and science and students at Ohel Shem High School began with a brainstorming session that produced a large number of interesting ideas, from among which they chose to focus on UN goal no. 11, “Sustainable Cities and Communities.” According to the students, “Our project proposes an innovative local solution to the worldwide problem of organic waste. It transforms the issue from a problem into an opportunity for economic growth that will create new jobs, save water and resources, and foster the development of international sustainability relations and collaborations with North Macedonia and, potentially, a great many other countries, too.”
 
The idea of using the larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) to break down organic waste and transform it into protein-rich high-quality animal feed is not new. What is new is where the waste is treated and the specific nature of the treatment: “The GreenGold™ initiative plans and designs containers equipped with black soldier fly technology, and these will be positioned in places that produce large quantities of organic waste (markets, supermarkets) in areas where it is not adequately dealt with, such as North Macedonia, where most refuse is neither treated nor recycled.” The team’s members have already received the blessing of Dan Orian, Israel’s ambassador to North Macedonia and director of the Balkan department at the ministry of foreign affairs. A local North Macedonian animal feed production company has already expressed interest in the youngsters’ project.
 
The students: Yishai Lindzen-Giron, Ohad Solomon-Gleicher, Oren Rosenman
Supervisor: Yair Enghel
 
With the ambassador’s blessing: Ramat Gan students launch a scheme
for the breakdown of organic waste. (Photo: Courtesy of the team)
 
About the Competition
 
Five years ago, in 2015, the leaders of 193 countries met to discuss how to deal with the challenges of the future. At this meeting, seventeen goals, 169 objectives and 232 criteria were established, and all UN member countries will strive to meet them by the year 2030.

The seventeen selected goals relate to social, environmental and economic issues. Among them are “eliminating hunger,” “gender equality,” “sustainable cities and communities,” “responsible consumption and production” and “clean water.” You can find the full list on the ISDG website.

Israel’s representative to the United Nations Agencies in Italy Michal Vaya decided to rise to the challenge. When I asked her how she had come up with the idea of holding a project competition for Israeli schools, she replied: “The initiative was born when I realized that the voice of young people is insufficiently heard in the corridors of the UN, and that by 2030 – the target date for realization of the UN’s goals – these youngsters would be the responsible adults. This means that we have to do everything possible to get young Israelis involved and committed. This is the first year of the competition, and we hope that when other countries’ missions learn about the project they, too, will want to take part.”
 
The competition is the result of a remarkable collaboration between KKL-JNF, the ministry of education, and the Israeli mission to the UN agencies in Rome. With the approval of the ministry of foreign affairs, KKL-JNF and the ministry of education, a letter of invitation was sent out to high schools and junior high schools throughout Israel, as follows: “…We live in stirring times that, while wonderful, are also decisive for the history of our planet. We are in a race to protect our future. Come and join the ISDG Project and be part of the change.”
 
 

 
100 Schools Rose to the Challenge
 
The ISDG Project invited Israeli schoolchildren to help find solutions that would lead to the achievement of one or more of the seventeen goals established by the UN. Participants were instructed to choose a developing country, familiarize themselves with the special problems it faces and propose an initiative that will help it to advance in accordance with UN objectives.

Teams of seventh- to twelfth-graders in around a hundred schools from all sectors of the population submitted requests to take part in the competition. Of these, fifty – all of which had tendered detailed three-page proposals in English – were selected. The judges, who represented the three bodies involved in the project, read each proposal carefully and chose the fifteen best as finalists. As described above, the finals of the competitions took place on May 27th, 2020, and three winning teams were chosen. We can but take pride in these wonderful young Israelis who have the best interests of the world at heart and want to contribute to its wellbeing for the sake of the environment and the human beings who live in it. The very best of luck to them in Rome!