Luke Lozano ‘20 recently received the Youth Excellence Award from Keep Sarasota Beautiful for his dedication to cleaning up Siesta Key Beach.
After seeing the litter on our beaches, he spoke with the head of Siesta Key Maintenance to see how he could help. Although they had received a grant from Keep Sarasota County Beautiful to reduce cigarette litter by placing receptacles in high traffic areas, no one had taken ownership for their upkeep so the county was in jeopardy of losing the grant. The ODA junior volunteered to take charge of the cigarette litter disposal.
After surveying the existing receptacles and ensuring that their rusted/non-functional locks were replaced, Luke developed a route, timetable, and data collection tools to monitor progress. Since 2017, Luke has made weekly visits to measure, track, and empty roughly 50 receptacles that line both Siesta Beach and Turtle Beach. Over this time period, the cigarette waste on these beaches has been reduced by 70%.
To take the project a step further, Luke identified an innovative company that allowed for the evolution of the program from cigarette litter prevention to a cigarette up-cycling program. Instead of simply discarding the cigarette waste, Luke now sends the collected waste to Terracycle, an up-cycling company that converts the cigarette waste into utilitarian items such as palettes and park benches. Recently, Luke enlisted the help of his peers in the environmental ODA club Student Environmental Activists (SEA), to hand out portable ashtrays at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic. The students realized that although they could not prevent visitors from smoking at the world-renowned event, they could do their part in encouraging them to be more thoughtful about the way they dispose of their waste.
Keep Sarasota County Beautiful recently awarded Luke the Youth Excellence Award at their annual volunteer recognition event. The young environmentalist reflects, “I am very proud of this award, but even more proud of the difference I have been able to make in our community.”