Jasmine Amoako Agyei is a Class of 2020 Millennium Fellowship Alumni from the Arizona State University working on SDG 12: (Responsible Consumption and production). Born in the USA a first Generation American and daughter to Ghanian immigrants, she grew up a third culture kid who was keenly aware of--and frustrated by the social and environmental challenges of the world
“When you are raised within the cultural context of an entirely different country - it can lead to a lot of identity confusion - and every time I was caught in this trap of helplessness and hopelessness I would wonder, what can I do to change the world?”
She only fully internalized her "Americanness" as a teenager. But these feelings of attachment to her Ghanaian roots and her family history stuck with her. By embracing her own identity as that of a Global Citizen, she recognized the interconnectivity of all of our struggles across the world. When you create impact in one area, it can cause a ripple effect in several others. It was this search for meaning and a deep hunger for a better world that led her to start exploring and questioning what role she had to play in the global fight for a more just, more sustainable, and more equitable world.
"Without Significant action - there may be more plastic than fish by weight in our oceans before 2050"
“I came across a scary statistic - that without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish by weight in our oceans before 2050. This was very moving to me - and it brought on the sad realization that recycling as presently conceptualized simply wasn't working. Global communities have long relied on a Linear Economy model of waste management that involves collecting raw materials, transforming them into products that are then used until they are finally discarded as waste - eventually causing pollution. I noted then that the world needed better waste management ideas.”
So she started her Millennium Fellowship Project ‘Countdown CES’ , a technology social enterprise aiming to create a means of transition from the Linear economy model to a Circular Economy (Make - Use - Reuse - Remake - Recycle). Starting in Ghana, the large scale vision is to make this model a reality, and at a more focused scale it is to help fight plastic pollution in Accra - first by reducing the amount of abundant plastic waste through beach and metropolitan cleanups; second by up-cycling and 3D printing eco- friendly, innovative child safety gear and furniture; third by providing skills training and creating jobs in the world of sustainable technology for young Ghanaians; and finally by hosting workshops to educate the greater public about sustainability and effective recycling practices - particularly in their work and home environment.
The end goal for Countdown CES is to change the way people look at waste - give it utility and make it valuable again.
In Ghana for example, only 2% of potentially recyclable waste is eventuall recycled. 73 Million kilos of PET plastic waste enters the environment annually. “We investigated what was going wrong with respect to waste management - first in Ghana and then around the world, and noted the three critical challenges faced by Global Communities in handling waste were; A lack of infrastructure to support a circular economy and healthy waste disposal practices, A lack of awareness in sustainable waste management, and A lack of access to waste management services and facilities. We therefore sought to offer a Community centered solutions approach to waste management - starting with Project Design (Upcycling) that is directed at global and local markets, creating a waste management system with incorporated technology, and offering community workshops and volunteer initiatives to raise awareness on proper waste management.”
Since graduating from the Millennium Fellowship, Countdown CES has collaborated with like-minded partners to help make their sustainability model a reality - including EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service Program) - an award winning social entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University - working together to design recycled products that enhance learning and play. She’s also collaborated with the Luminosity Lab - an interdisciplinary research and development lab driven by a team of highly driven students, and is also working in collaboration with students at the Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana. Countdown has recently won two grants of 1,000$ and 1,500$ to help in their work.
"As you become more informed, you become more passionate about the causes you care about. That is the birth of activism."
Jasmine believes in the power and potential of young people to make a difference. She has been awarded the Rising Star Award at ASU for her leadership this year and continues to work for a better world and a cleaner Ghana . She was highlighted as the Student Spotlight on Innovation at ASU through her work with Countdown - and was invited to speak to the new Arizona State University Class of 2025, an audience of 13,000 people. But though Jasmine believes in activism, she says she doesn't consider herself a youth activist. “Am I an activist? Not really. I’m a person who cares - a lot. A nerdy, artsy go getter with a really big heart. Simply put - I believe in better.
Her advice to Millennium Fellows looking to get their projects off the grounds is to focus on their 'Why!' - Why they care about their projects and why they care about the Fellowship. As you become more informed, you become more passionate about the causes you care about. That is the birth of activism
Connect with Jasmine on LinkedIn.
Visit the Countdown CES website
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