Nod to composting youths

Kudos: (from left) Kanjna with Lew, Thang, Chang, Tai and Wesley principal Wong Chee Kheon at the award ceremony.

ACUTELY aware of the climate crisis, four students came up with an idea to handle food waste produced by households sustainably while benefiting the environment.

Their solution achieved through composting recently won Thang Wan Er and her team comprising Kenji Tai, Danielle Chang and Ayden Lew the first-ever Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award for Action on Climate Change.

“What made our idea unique was the involvement of our neighbourhood communities.

“The project involved collecting food waste from the community and sharing the compost with the people living in the neighbourhood, as well as utilising it to improve the growth of fruit trees and plants in our community,” Thang told StarEdu.

“Compost, made by recycling food waste, is not only non-polluting, but is also cost-efficient and simple to make. Everyone can give it a try!” she added.

The award is a new nationwide competition, being run as a pilot, giving Cambridge students the opportunity to showcase their climate change initiatives and tackle one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises.

Learners took part in the competition by submitting a video and a written entry that described the work that they had done to combat the climate emergency.

The video submitted by Thang’s team included an original song as a way to spread awareness.

The two-minute tune was aimed at imparting the steps of composting with lyrics urging its audience to “Sustain the earth, for future generations, start your compost today, today we can prevent climate change”.

“A factor we struggled with was the make-up of the compost. As we researched various methods to combine ‘brown’ carbon-rich waste and ‘green’ nitrogen-rich waste, and methods of adding oxygen, water and urea into the mixture, we found ourselves misguided as different online sources suggested varying ratios of contents,” Thang shared.

To counter this, the team, who has since graduated from Wesley Methodist School Kuala Lumpur (International), experimented with smaller samples with different compositions.

This research process, said Thang, allowed them to work towards compost heaps with more fertilising capacity, while picking up new knowledge about plants and their growth along the way.

Emphasising the importance of proactive measures to stop the acceleration of climate change, Thang, who enjoys researching climate change during her free time, asserted that the climate crisis would not improve by relying solely on individual actions.

“What’s important are the proactive initiatives that governments and world leaders take to tackle this issue on a national and global scale.

“Lawmakers play an important role in introducing the right and strong environmental policies,” she said.

She added that schools and the education sector “play an incredibly important role in building awareness of climate change as they can reach a wider audience prioritising the youth”.

Thang, who takes inspiration from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, has set her sights on becoming an active part of climate change advocacy in future.

“There is still a lot for me to learn about climate change as combating the issue is not an easy task and there are many factors to consider.

“This award, as well as the success of our project, has boosted my confidence. I am proud to have started this and gone this far,” she shared.

Cambridge International South-East Asia & Pacific regional director Kanjna Paranthaman said based on the current climate situation in Malaysia, it was a critical time for the younger generation to engage in climate action.

“We believe that early advocacy will instil a more environmentally conscious generation and we hope to encourage them to leave a positive lasting impact on planet Earth,” she said in a press release dated Nov 25 last year.

Allison, 19, a student in Penang, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

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