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Dear community,

My name is Nishtha and I am a sophomore at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) in Austin, Texas. Last year, I was a member of the inaugural EcoRise Austin Youth Climate Equity Council. I joined the Council to make a difference, contribute my leadership skills to spreading awareness about climate change, and persuade others to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. My time on the Council gave me knowledge about my community and power to propitiously change it. I learned a lot and had so many wonderful experiences, including meeting some of the most inspirational people in the field of environmental justice.

The Council split into teams to work on community impact projects. I was on the Sustainable Building team and our goal was to make school buildings safer, healthier, and more sustainable. To gain inspiration, we toured the newly modernized Eastside High School building, questioned the architects, and itemized the sustainable features. Carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors stood out to us as an affordable feature that could meet our goal. CO2 sensors connect to HVAC systems and monitor and detect the presence of CO2, which, in high amounts, can be harmful to occupants.

Nishtha and her Sustainable Buildings teammates after their tour of Eastside High School in Austin, TX.

The more we researched, the more benefits we discovered. CO2 sensors create a healthier environment for everybody in the building utilizing infrared detection to determine when to circulate fresh air. They are energy efficient, cutting off ventilation when occupants are not in the room which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Best of all, there are sensors that are compatible with standard school ventilation systems. My team wanted to be able to provide every student with a healthy experience at school to help them focus, succeed, and be resilient against stress. Adding CO2 sensors would not only give all students an equal chance to succeed but also save energy.

We created a proposal to install carbon dioxide sensors in the new LASA high school building. We learned how to advocate for a better school environment and the project was approved by the principal of LASA! While the Council ended before we were able to introduce the sensors to the building, I have continued the work this school year with the help of professionals I met during my time on the council (shoutout to Ana Echeverría, Austin ISD Energy Management and Elizabeth Harper of EcoRise) and others I have sought out since then. I am currently applying for a grant from the EcoRise Student Innovation Fund to get the project implemented.

The Austin Youth Climate Equity Council is a big part of my growth as an environmental justice advocate, and I wouldn’t be making an impact on the air quality at my school without this experience! You can help EcoRise connect more youth to life-changing experiences by making a donation before December 31, 2022. Those who donate monthly help fund Student Innovation Projects like mine. If you are only able to make a one-time donation, the next $13,900 donations are being matched so donate today!

Thank you for your support and happy new year! Together, #WeRise.

EcoRise Austin Youth Climate Equity Council Alumna