THE Toyota Eco Youth (TEY) has turned into a full-fledged environmental programme to challenge young minds.
UMW Toyota Motor celebrated the 15th anniversary of its TEY Challenge this year with a more targeted strategy in line with the Government’s recent implementation of waste separation for households.
Instead of selecting schools to take part in the challenge, schools were encouraged to submit their applications.
The eco-contest that is conducted in partnership with the Education Ministry, was initially established in 2001 to raise awareness on environmental issues among students while influencing them to take action. Today, TEY has evolved into a fully mature environmental competition impacting communities nationwide.
“Over the last 15 years, we have seen what our youths are capable of and we are constantly looking for ways to further challenge them,” said UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) president Datuk Ismet Suki, referring to the introduction of themes into last year’s TEY Challenge.
This year’s theme is on solid waste management, a perennial and increasingly serious problem both in urban and rural settings.
At the heart of the solid waste problem is rising consumerism and the throw-away culture, said Ismet.
“Technology and industrialisation are necessary aspects of modern living, but we must never compromise the environment because we all share the same planet,” added Ismet.
“Public awareness must be inculcated at a young age because that is when children are most open to new habits and practices.
“Children in developed countries who have been exposed to environmental practices such as bringing their own shopping bags and not using plastic bags, supporting eco-friendly companies and upcycling used products will be more inclined to incorporate the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) in their daily lives,” he added.
In the past 15 years, many of the schools participating in the TEY challenge had incorporated recycling as part of their project, with varying results.
Some schools, such as SMK Seri Muda and SMK Bertam Indah in Penang, have successfully established recycling centres within their school compounds in 2010 and 2013 respectively. These centres are still in use today.
SMK Tanjung Chat, Kota Baru, went a step further by creating a mobile recycling centre in 2014.
Students and teachers who have been part of TEY have nostalgic moments to share.
The healthy inter-school competition provided students the invaluable opportunity and exposure to working with stakeholders and community members. What resulted were improved soft skills such as communication, negotiation and self-esteem, skills which are not possibly learnt through textbooks.
Since TEY began in 2001, a blog and Facebook account for the challenge had also been launched.
Participating teams are now more active in documenting and promoting their projects, resulting in sponsorships from corporations and local councils, for the schools.
Seeing themselves in the newspapers motivates the students to work harder.
“It’s all about driving innovation, becoming agents of change, and taking ownership of problems,” said Ismet.
“As the programme comes of age, we asked ourselves, ‘what’s next?’ How can we create a ripple effect with the Toyota Eco Youth, and how can we make a lasting impact on society?’ We threw these questions to the students and look forward to their answers by year end.”
Ultimately, the TEY Challenge aims to create movers and shakers who will continue to champion the environment even after their project have ended.