Campion environmentalist Alexander Greenland heads to Harvard
“UNICYCLE Jamaica began as a school uniform recycling initiative in 2018. I co-founded it with my friend, Jordan Nakash, after a discussion about what to do with uniforms I had outgrown. I saw it as an opportunity to start an initiative that could give back and contribute to our nation in a sustainable way,” Campion College sixth-former Alexander Rhys Greenland told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
With endorsement from the Ministry of Education and Youth, the duo started a “summer-run activity, collecting gently-used khaki”, and redistributed them to students in need with support from the National Education Trust. Early, along the way, they were joined by Greenland’s sister, Maria, a Campionite herself, and she is still on board.
With the help of “generous partners” from corporate Jamaica, UNICYCLE has been growing, collecting and distributing uniforms and regular clothes for males and females, as well as “school supplies”, masks, sport gear, and “dance apparel”, “through an aligned project called, Come Mek Wi Dance”. So far, 1500 uniforms and over 1000 masks have been redistributed. The total value of materials redistributed is about $3million, according to Greenland.
He has also been president of Campion’s environmental club, aptly named Green Generation, for the past five years. Its purpose is “to spread awareness about environmental protection, climate change and the harm that global warming poses to the world, but more specifically, to small island developing states like Jamaica, which are at greater risk, especially our coastlines, our fishing industry, the mangroves and our beaches”.
“We really want to expand textile waste reduction awareness and focus on moving to zero waste, highlighting the need for greater awareness of textile waste reduction which is such a critical issue globally,” Greenland shared.“We are hoping to support Jamaica’s moving towards making textile recycling a part of our everyday lives like what plastic recycling has become.”
He is encouraged by the impact that UNICYCLE has had on “the lives of many across Jamaica in an extremely positive light”. It is a win-win situation; some students who cannot afford uniforms will get the ones that would otherwise be discarded as solid waste and end up in the sea, and mangroves, and on the beaches. The intention is to expand the reach from UNICYCLE to every nook and cranny in Jamaica, and in the Caribbean. And, he has had the support of his school, too.
“In 2018, our first year, Campion assisted us greatly in collecting the uniforms and now, five years later, Campion still assists us as a primary drop-off location for donations,” he told The Gleaner. “My sister and I have worked together since the beginning, coordinating various aspects of the initiative to ensure that it runs smoothly. Of course, I cannot go without saying a special thank you to my parents who have also supported me along the way, especially my mother ... Without her it simply would not have been possible.”
CREATION OF AN INCUBATOR
For their hard work, Greenland has got national recognition, as on Saturday, February 4, he received The Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in environmental protection.
“I feel very honoured to have been nominated, and I am really surprised that I actually received the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Environmental Protection. I believe that the award showcases the good that UNICYCLE does and the good that committed young people like me can do if supported. Hopefully, using this boost, I can steer UNICYCLE forward to continue expanding, growing and impacting the lives of many in the country and hopefully, the region,” he said.
Come fall, the honour student is off to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, to be a part of the class of 2027. “I am not sure what I will major in, but I know I intend to explore courses in the humanities, social sciences and business through this incredible opportunity that I have been granted,” he shared.
But, what will happen to UNICYCLE?
“I will definitely continue to work on UNICYCLE from abroad and also begin to explore the feasibility of the establishment of a regional summer humanities workshop/programme, similar to the STEM-based regional programme, called SPISE, to encourage students like me,” he replied.
“I have nothing against the sciences, but all areas of study work together towards national development. So, the creation of such an incubator for young Caribbean minds is another goal, and hopefully, at some point in time, not too far away, I will be able to happily announce its formation in The Gleaner.”
The Kingston native is also president of Campion’s Students Council, a prefect, captain of the ‘Squash Squad’, and member of Jamaica’s national squash team.