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At the tender age of seven, while his friends were spending their allowances on “frivolous” things like candy and toys, Jose Adolfo Quisocola was busy saving money for more essential purchases. To try to get his peers to do the same, the youngster from Arequipa, Peru came up with the innovative idea of an eco-bank, which allows kids of all ages to become economically independent and financially savvy – while also helping the environment.
Established in 2012, The Bartselana Student Bank is the world’s first cooperative bank for kids. Prospective members have to bring in at least 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of solid waste (paper or plastic) and establish a savings goal. Once accepted, all bank “partners” are required to deposit at least one additional kilogram (2.2 pounds) of recyclables on a monthly basis and comply with other requirements, such as attending financial education and environmental management workshops.
The waste accumulated is sold to local recycling companies, who, thanks to some clever negotiation by Jose, pay a higher-than-market rate for everything brought in by Bartselana Student Bank members. The funds received, are placed in the individual’s account where they collect until his/her savings goal is reached. The account holder can then withdraw his/her money, or choose to leave it and continue to grow for a bigger target.
“At the beginning, my teachers thought I was crazy or that a child could not undertake this type of project,” Jose recalls. “They did not understand that we are not the future of the country but its present. Luckily, I had the support of the school principal and an assistant in my classroom.”
The youngster’s persistence paid off, and by 2013, Bartselana Student Bank had over 200 members who collectively brought in one ton of recyclable waste. Things have only improved since. Today, the eco-bank, which now has the support of several local institutions, boasts ten educational centers. They are designed to teach the over 3,000 clients, aged 10-18, to become economically independent, invest wisely, and help the environment. On December 6, 2018, in response to the growing demand, Bartselana Student Bank, began accepting applications from kids all across Peru.
Not surprisingly, Jose’s efforts have earned the youngster several national and international awards. On November 20, 2018, the young entrepreneur and eco-activist, who is now all of 13, added to the growing list of accolades by winning the prestigious Children’s Climate Prize (CCP). Established by Sweden’s Telge Energi, the annual award, which comes with a medal and 65,620 Swedish Krona (about $5,500) in prize money, is given to a child or youth who has accomplished an extraordinary feat for the climate or environment.
“Jose’s eco-bank is a brilliant way of linking economy and climate impact, both in thought and practice. The system clearly illustrates that the planet’s common resources are limited and that we must be climate-conscious and recycle the products that we no longer use,” a judge said. “It creates awareness of consumption. This way caring about the environment becomes an investment. A system that gives children both economic independence and power to influence the climate. The potential impact is amazing.”
Hopefully, Jose’s initiative and success will inspire more kids and adults to come up with innovative ideas that create value while helping the environment. As the enterprising teenager says, “Together we can change the world . . . we just need an opportunity . . .”
Resources: perureports.com,ccpprize.org, civison,org, odditycentral.com