Miramonte Youth Environmentalists Create Project HEART to Help Local Restaurants

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(Courtesy Yuji Watanabe)
(L-R) Ryan Sinnreich, Julian Rustigian, Aidan Chan, Vajra Vo, Wyatt Barnes, Jonas Dao, Devon Bradley, Leo Cardozo, James Patrick, Dalai Vo, Sheng Shu, Joseph Manio, Ethan Lee, Aaron Lee and Logan Lee members of Project HEART stand in front of the Orinda Theatre before going to meet with local business owners.

    A group of students at Miramonte High School care deeply about the environment and decided to do something about minimizing carbon footprints – locally.
    They created the Help Environmental Assistance Restaurant Takeout project, or project HEART for short, and together, they have spent months working to make it all happen.
    Before lockdown began last march, junior Devon Bradley’s environmental activism was through his role as president of the Miramonte Environmental Solutions Club. The club had set its sights on securing a Styrofoam ban in Orinda, but when COVID-19 safety guidelines began to take a toll on local restaurants, so Bradley knew he needed to adapt his goals.
    “We had already worked with restaurants to reduce the amount of plastic waste. I wondered how we could reduce plastic waste from restaurants while also helping them because as soon as the pandemic hit, restaurants experienced an influx of takeout orders,” Bradley said.
    Combining the club’s two desires, to reduce plastic waste and protect local business, Bradley constructed Project HEART. Together with club members, Bradley works to provide sustainable, non-plastic based take-out containers to Orinda eateries. Local restaurants Serika, Reem’s Steaks, Petra Mediterranean Food, Maya Mexican grill, Baja Calia, Baan Thai, and Cafe Teatro are among those that have all partnered with HEART.
    Bradley was confident in the ability of his project to support Orinda businesses, but he couldn’t shake the idea that his club’s original mission – a local Styrofoam ban – would have a greater impact. In early January, when Bradley first became aware of the Polystyrene [Styrofoam] Ban passed in Contra Costa County in March of 2020, he thought, briefly, that he might be able to retire his cause, but to no avail.
    He soon learned the current legislation only bans the use of polystyrene in food and beverage containers used by businesses in unincorporated communities, or communities outside of official city limits.
    Having gained greater insight into the issue, Bradley reignited his campaign for a Styrofoam-free Orinda, but this time changed his methods to incorporate the HEART project. Bradley debuted this new message at the Jan. 19 Orinda City Council meeting, hoping to sway members by offering to use HEART’s resources to support local business as they transition away from polystyrene-based products. After gaining little ground throughout February, Bradley, along with other members of HEART, reappeared at the March 2 City Council meeting, hoping to remind members of their mission.
    According to Bradley, he is satisfied with how the meeting went and looks forward to working with the City Council in the future.
    “The presentation went well. Clearly it was well-received,” Bradley said.
    Bradley shared that, in the long term, he does not expect project HEART to extend past the pandemic and that his club would transition back towards more school-oriented goals once restrictions are lifted and restaurants aren’t relying as heavily on take-out.
    “We are working with RecycleSmart to develop more sustainable waste management practice for on-campus [Miramonte], like the use of compostable supplies,” Bradley said.
    While Bradley continues his advocacy for a more sustainable Orinda, his experiences leading the Miramonte Environmental Solutions Clubs and project HEART have inspired him to pursue a similar path post-high school.
    “My dream job would be working for an environmental start up but whatever I do in the future it would have to be related to the environment. I don’t think I could do anything else,” Bradley said.

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