Every year, during the Labor Day Retreat, the Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) Student Council of the SSSIO-USA North Central Region plans a service project for all SSE children of the region. Since its inception, the Student Council, comprised of SSE Group 3 and 4 students (aged 12-18 years), has initiated various regional service projects such as tree planting, backpack drives and hygiene pack distribution. In 2020, they adopted an Envirocare project that involved collecting old electronic devices no longer being used, such as home appliances, laptops, phones, batteries, and chargers. Many such electronic waste (e-waste) contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. When thrown away in the regular trash and dumped in landfills, they can pose a serious environmental threat to air, water, soil and wildlife and increase the risk of human beings contracting serious diseases like cancer. These electronic devices, however, have the potential to be re-purposed, salvaged or recycled when dropped off at proper e-waste collection sites. With e-waste being a huge problem in the world and USA being a leading producer of e-waste, the belief was that any effort, big or small, to reduce e-waste contamination would greatly benefit the environment. 

The planning for this project took several months, with the Student Council taking the lead. The original vision of the Council was to have SSE students collect and donate all e-waste at the Labor Day Retreat in Chicago with the goal of helping SSE students understand the importance of this project in saving the planet. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Labor Day retreat turning virtual, the Student Council still proceeded with their project, determined to undertake the challenges of carrying out a contactless collection drive. They expanded the project to involve adults in the Region. Between August and September, conference calls were scheduled between the Student Council and Center Service Coordinators. Sai Center members across the Region were educated on the e-waste project. The project kicked off on Labor Day and continued till Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s 95th birthday on November 23, 2020. A goal of collecting and donating a total of 95 pieces of e-waste across the region was set. But with the enthusiastic participation of twelve Sri Sathya Sai Centers spanning over seven states, the goal was exceeded and a total of 101 pieces of e-waste were donated at various e-waste collection sites across the region.

One Student Council member reflected “The e-waste collection was an extremely fulfilling experience to participate in. I was able to learn so much about how technology affects our environment. It was also extremely cool to see the pictures of all the various types of e-waste collected across the region!”