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Getting Gold to go Green

Original Article Authors: Joan Higginbotham (Corporate Social Responsibility) & Nicole Hade (EH&S Communications)

The needs are gut-wrenching in their universal simplicity. Take, for example, access to consistent power. It means that schools can refrigerate ingredients to serve their students fresh lunches. It means that families can keep their lights on in the evenings, allowing their kids to study. And it also means that medical facilities can reliably operate life-sustaining devices. The good news is that our fellow colleagues are doing something about it, and their work is having an immediate, powerful impact. Best of all though, it's leaving a lasting, positive imprint.

Meet the inspired 13: These employee teams are bettering the land, water, and quality of life for humans and animals alike. They were moved to make sustainable improvements, and in doing so, they've turned their green deeds to pure gold. They're the 2018 winners of the Green Initiative Mini Grants, and along with a generous contribution from the Bengaluru Corporate Social Resonsibility Fund, we've donated a total of $38,000 USD to their partner nonprofit organization!

While we'd love to back all of the amazing projects nominated (we saw an uptick in the number of entries submitted again this year!), we used the following criteria to select the winners:

1. They embody employee engagement. These teams are all-in

2. They make a big environmental impact at the local community level. The teams' efforts add up to big change where it counts the most

3. And, they exemplify a perfect partnership between us and the organizations that help solve communities' pressing issues.

The green icing on this cake? We think you'll agree that these are some of the most innovative, compassionate, and all-around amazing projects we've featured to date!

So, scroll through the info to learn more ... and get ready to be wholly inspired. Whether that means volunteering with one of the organizations featured below (contact the project leads to find out how you can help), or another one of your choosing, your helping hands in promoting sustainability around the globe are invaluable. And of course, we'd love to sweeten your contribution of time with a Green Initiative Mini Grant - so nominate your team's efforts for a chance to win.

Without further ado, here are this year's winners:

The Medicinal Plant Garden Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Amruta Ramrao Patil of Bengaluru, India.

- Amruta and her team are on a mission to transform a local school into THE community destination - for students and plant specialists - to learn about medicinal herbs. The team will not only plant the garden, but also provide and install a low-water intake, drip irrigation system to help the plants thrive in this water-scarce region

The Solar Lantern Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Girish Puthiyadavan of Bengaluru, India

- Girish and his team will distribute solar lanterns to villagers and students of Marikuppe, Karnatake, India. The project tackles an immediate need, providing a reliable source of light for families. It's also future-focused, lighting the way for the next generation of scholars (who can now study at night!)

The Practical Horticulture Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Nagashree Bachalli Adishesha of Bengaluru, India

- Nagashree's team will help build a practical laboratory at the Horticulture Institute. What exactly happens in a practical horticulture lab? Well, every 5 months, approximately 500 disabled adults (aged 18-35) will be trained in gardening techniques. Once training wraps, they'll leave with skills to earn a a living through horticulture.

The Hydro Scavenger Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Ashwin Chennath of Bengaluru, India

- Ashwin and his team are going on an aquatic scavenger hunt on Devesandra Lake! They'll help deploy, operate and navigate floating garbage collection systems, which will scoop floating debris, plastic waste and invasive aquatic weeds.

The Devesandra Lake Cleanup Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Saravanakumar Vijayakumar of Bengaluru, India

- Saravanakumar's team will work alongside the Hydro Scavenger team on Lake Devesandra - but they'll focus on its shoreline. They'll remove garbage and weeds, de-silt the lake bed, and create drainage away from the lake to reduce runoff.

The Kundanahalli Lake Cleanup Project - United Way Bengaluru, Nominated by: Vishwanatha Konche Shantarudrappa of Bengaluru, India

- Vishwanatha's team will tackle the removal of garbage, weeds, and muck from Kundanahalli Lake. And their efforts will be very hands-on: They'll use hand-operated machines from boats to do so.

The Coastal Cleanup Project - I love a clean San Diego, Nominated by: Lindsay Tarro of Chula Vista, California, USA

- Lindsay and her team will work toward 'I love a clean San Diego's' vision for a "zero waste, litter-free, and environmentally engaged San Diego region." They'll collect garbage from local beaches, hoping to lead by example - educating beach goers on proper waste disposal, and inspiring them to take an active role in reducing plastic waste in our oceans.

The Garden Expansion Project - Arroyo Vista Elementary School, Nominated by: Kody Helm of Chula Vista, California, USA

- Kody's team will grow the school's garden space by adding fruit trees. They'll also install rain barrels and improve worn and damaged equipment. All this in the name of education! The students will acquire new skills by learning how to cultivate the trees, then sell the fruits of their labour at a weekly farmer's market. The expansion will allow more students to participate, fostering community respect for nature, and teaching them about where food comes from.

The Disaster Relief Box Project - CBIA Education Foundation, Nominated by: Barbara Szpakaowsk of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, USA

- On the heels of a monster hurricane that left Puerto Rican communities crippled without power for months, Barbara and her team will harness the sunshine after the storm. They'll build portable solar-powered disaster relief boxes with students from the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology. The boxes will be equipped with a solar panel to provide light and power for medical devices, and a  charge for cell phones, batteries and fans.

The Solar Kitchen Project - Opportunities for Communities, Nominated by: Marty Ross of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, USA

- In 2017, Marty and his team designed and installed solar power panels at the institution Mixte Marantha de Simon, a Restavek school in Haiti. And they're back to install more! This time, the additional power will be used to run the refrigerator and other kitchen appliances, so the school can provide fresh daily lunches for its students.

The Learning Orchard Project - Give Hope 2 Kids, Nominated by: Donald King of Foley, Alabama, USA

- Donald and his team are heading to Honduras to help build an orchard at a children's home. Resident teens (who are attending trade school of university classes in La Cieba) will learn to cultivate the trees and sell the fruit. The experience will provide them with income for school and teach self-reliance.

The Animal Sanctuary Project - Santuario Animal del Desierto A.C., Nominated by: Alberto Villavicencio and Ethel Garcia of Mexicali, Mexico

- Alberto and Ethel's team created a colouring book teaching children that animals need our care. Their goal is to build awareness of spay and neuter programs, by showing the link between overpopulation of street animals and threat of extinction of native animals due to habitat loss and increase in predation. They'll also make facility improvements, reducing the spread of disease at the sanctuary.

The St. Joseph Solar Project - Association Haitienne de Development Humain, Nominated by: Francois Payen of Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

- Francois and his team will design, build and install solar panels for the new outpatient clinic at St.Joseph Hospital. The addition will ensure reliable power so the clinic may provide consistent patient services.

We offer our warm (and proud) congratulations to this year's recipients. Look for upcoming highlights on these Mini Grant projects on myUTAS and social media as the teams implement them throughout 2018