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Sachi Bajaj (second from right) and the Green Team at The Harker School have developed a reusable boba cup to cut down on plastic waste. The team took their concept to a conference to share with young environmental activists from other local schools. (photo provided)

Indian American environmental teen activist Sachi Bajaj developed the concept for the Me2U foundation while having lunch with her friends at The Harker School in San Jose, Calif.

“I was shocked to see how many plates of food we throw in the trash each day,” Bajaj, a junior at Harker who has a passion for environmental sustainability, told India-West.

The young social entrepreneur thought about how all that food could be re-purposed and distributed to those in need. She began by targeting restaurants, which have a substantial amount of food waste every day.

“I called 50 restaurants in the Bay Area. Many did not want to get involved for fear of getting people sick,” she said.

Bajaj hit the gold mine as Boudin Bakery, which has several shops around the Bay Area, agreed to let Bajaj take loaves of bread that had not sold that day, which could be consumed but had to be thrown out in keeping with corporate standards. On May 26, 2019, Bajaj made her first run, hitting Boudin as it closed at 9 p.m. and picking up 47 pounds of bread, which she took to Abode Services, which works with homeless and low-income people.

Buoyed by her success on that initial run, Bajaj created the Me2U Foundation, whose volunteers run weekly trips to Boudin Bakery to collect bread that is then distributed to low-income people. The Me2U Foundation Web site — https://me2ufoundation.com/ — tracks each run, and notes that, as of Feb. 10, 1896 people have been fed.

Bajaj and her team of volunteers are now expanding collection efforts to reduce other types of waste. Through neighborhood drives, the team is collecting books, clothes, and toys, which it donates to the Vietnam Veterans of America. That organization sells the donated items and uses the profits to support veterans who need medical services. Thus far, the Me2U Foundation has collected 134 items of clothing, 71 toys, and 97 books, which amount to 2,198 pounds of waste, according to Bajaj.

“My parents thought this might be hard to do, but I knew I had to give it a try,” she said.

Bajaj’s first experience with environmental sustainability was with the Green Team at Harker. At her school, boba — tea or coffee with tapioca balls, usually served iced — is sold by almost every club on campus. “We consume so much boba and generate so much waste, from cup to straw to lid,” said Bajaj.

The team developed a reusable boba cup, a glass container with a steel lid, punched by the robotics department for use with a reusable straw. The Green Team sold 300 cups on campus, then took the concept to a conference at which other schools asked how to implement the project on their campus.

Diana Moss, advisor to The Harker Upper School Green Team, told India-West via e-mail: Dynamic, motivated and efficient, Sachi Bajaj is a tremendous role model at our school. She understands that ‘with great privilege, comes great responsibility,’ and she deeply desires to make a difference on our planet.”

“Her understanding that we must embrace ways to reduce our footprint on the planet inspires her actions daily,” said Moss.

James Do, a mentor to Bajaj for the Me2U Foundation, said: “What makes Sachi's organization Me2U so elegantly innovative is that it addresses two vitally important problems at once, by reducing environmental waste and improving resource distribution to those who need it most.”

“I am honored to be Sachi's mentor in this project. I have seen her grow immensely as a leader and social innovator, and I am truly looking forward to seeing the kind of impact Sachi will have on this world and its people in the decades to come,” Do told India-West via e-mail.

Last summer, Bajaj did an internship with 350 SV, a leading organization for climate change. She served as the organization’s social media intern, posting updates each day on environmental issues.

Bajaj hopes to pursue a career in environmental law.

“In a world that has such a consuming nature, waste is visible left and right, which has such a detrimental impact on our planet, and we need to see that. If we do not do anything about it, we are only hurting ourselves and our future,” said Bajaj.

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