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Sustainability Saves More than Just the Environment

By Nina Santarpia

This past fall I visited the beautiful, rich country of Ghana in Western Africa. While in Ghana, I participated in a service program at a refugee camp for African children that have been the victims of human trafficking.

Here I met Matthew, a native volunteer that lives on the camp who is in charge of the camp’s sustainability. One of his duties included maintaining the camp’s aquaponics system. To help be self-sustained, the aquaponics system involves plants and fish interdepending on each other to supply vegetables for food.

It also reduces waste and requires little to no input as opposed to growing crops in fields. The plants utilize the ammonium from the waste of the fishes and in turn, the fishes use the oxygen that is a byproduct of the plants. This system provides tremendous benefits to the camp such as cutting costs that can be used instead to help send the children to a higher education, reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere, and also educating the kids and community about the importance and profits of environmental sustainability.

Matthew’s work inspired me by demonstrating how utilizing environmental engineering has changed the way the kids live. Not only from the increase of financial aid available to them but also their ability to depend on the system for food. In other parts of Ghana that I visited, I saw countless children scavenging for food in the trash covered areas of their villages.

This experience at the camp strengthened my commitment to the environment because I was able to see first-hand how addressing environmental challenges benefits everyone involved and even provides aid to other issues our world faces. With a commitment to the environment, we are able to innovate and create to change the world for the better, which is exactly what Matthew has done at the camp. Any effort towards environmental sustainability is one to be celebrated!

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