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Anushka Kollengode on Gen Z's odds of saving the world

Hint: she thinks they're very good.

16-year-old Mayo High student Anushka Kollengode / Contributed
Anushka Kollengode
Contributed

ROCHESTER — Anushka Kollengode isn’t waiting around for adults to save the planet.

Kollengode, a junior at Mayo High School, received an Ann Bancroft grant to continue work on her app, Green3, which will eventually lead users to the nearest recycling container in their neighborhood or along the highway.

The 16-year-old coder is planning on a career in coding and computer science, but is also passionate about the environment.

While the Green3 app is not yet available to the public, Kollengode plans to use the grant money to begin a marketing and outreach campaign touting the app – starting with her own peers.

Here, she discusses the inspiration behind Green3, its uses, and why Gen Z is already taking steps to improve the world for the generations behind them.

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Tell me about Green3, the app you’re developing.

It leads you to the nearest trash bin and recycling plant, so that you can possibly discard your garbage and recycling there. If you are hungry, you can simply like take Google Maps and search for the nearest restaurant or fast-food place. But if you want to discard your recycling, there's no option on Google Maps or on the phone. I feel like this would educate a bunch of people and let them know you can't simply just throw stuff on the sidewalks or highways – because foods and stuff, they can compost, but plastic and (other trash), just stays on the highway. And it makes our state look really bad in general. So I thought maybe we should just build this app, because it would help many people … help a little bit, and a little bit by everyone will be a lot combined.

So we use camera features and tags – I got, like, various kinds of plastic for this, and you can simply take a picture of the item and the app will tell you where you can discard it. If it's a plastic cup — if you didn’t know — it’ll say, “Oh, that’s a plastic cup, you can throw it into a recycling bin. And it’ll help you find directions to the nearest bin, so you don’t have to look around forever, saying, “Oh, I can’t find one, how’s this going to help now?” And then, if you’re in a neighborhood and you find the nearest trash or recycling, you can simply take a picture and create your own tag, and then you can put it on the app and that will help people in your neighborhood.

Did you notice this problem around your own neighborhood or somewhere else you frequent?

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I travel a lot. So when I go out (to) different states, I see how the environment is impacted in each different state, and I feel like it's starting to get bad. I babysit, so I know a lot of little kids, and I feel like it's not fair to them. Because since they're very little, they can't really do much, and by the time they're teens, the world will be kind of corrupt, or it won’t look good. So I feel that my age, teens and above, should help the younger generations out since we're gonna be in their world too. … Every idea starts small. So I thought, “We can stop this.” And I think if we started in our state, I feel like other states will look upon this (state) and see, “Oh, that state looks really nice and good.”

That’s interesting — people in my generation usually talk about needing to save the world for teenagers in your generation. When did you start seeing yourselves as the ones who’ll take responsibility for the world, rather than looking to the adults?

The older generation, like my mom, and like you guys, they’re going to go away sooner. I mean – they might not be on this world as long. I look at my generation, and as I look around my classes, I know we have the power and the knowledge. I think we could get some support from the adults, to encourage us. But I feel like our generation and the younger generations are gonna grow up in the new future. Kids (today) are going to grow up in the new future. The adults can help support us, because I feel like as teens, we know how to do things but we don’t know how to start up. So I feel like the adults can help support us, and then we can build on to help the next generation.

What’s your next step, as far as getting the app out into the world?

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The next step is, I'm going to be using the money to market the app around Minnesota, probably help the younger generation, my generation, to put the word out, spread it out. … My app is not out in the app store yet, since we want to put some more data points through, so we can actually get more materials. I want to add more features into the app, so I'm going to use some of the money to help (expand) my database.

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