Many talk about creating change, but few wind up being able to do so.
In the case of recent Elkins High School graduate Alyssa Le, a project born from her love of the environment
sparked change while paving the way for a statewide honor.
On June 1, Le was selected as one of four winners in the 2020 Don’t Mess with Texas Scholarship Contest for her student-led Junior Achievement company called EVO. The contest is presented annually in partnership with Keep Texas Beautiful and recognizes high school seniors demonstrating “a leadership role in preventing litter in their schools and communities” while building awareness of its litter-prevention campaign, according to a news release from the Texas Department of Transportation.
In 2018, Le and a group of friends formed EVO, which develops and sells bamboo straws as sustainable alternatives to plastic straws in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the Houston area.
“Even with plastic straws, you can’t recycle them. They’re single-use plastics that everybody uses all the time,” Le said. “So we wanted to take an everyday product and make it completely sustainable.”
Le said she already had an interest in environmental issues and studied climate change growing up, but did not understand quite how to put her passion in action until she joined Green Generation in 2018.
Upon joining the company – which utilizes energy, real estate, technology, and capital markets for sustainability practices – she said the idea was born.
“Through that I was able to educate myself on plastic pollution,” she said. “…I’ve been able to help use our power to enforce a mission of preventing litter and having a greener earth.”
Over the past two years, EVO has sold more than 1,000 reusable straws that potentially prevented approximately 36,000 plastic straws from becoming litter.
In 2020, the student-led company introduced ThreEVO, a straw kit complete with three reusable bamboo straws. The kit has two different diameters, a biodegradable case made from a unique wheat material and a bristle brush cleaner.
Le said bamboo straws have the ability to last 2-3 months even with daily usage, helping save anywhere from 60,000-90,000 plastic straws with just one use of its bamboo doppelganger.
“We just wanted to show how convenient it is to carry these straws around and shifting your lifestyle to these sustainable practices,” she said. “It’s something we don’t notice – I certainly didn’t realize how much I was using until I started this project.”
For the project, Le received a $4,000 scholarship that she will apply toward her studies in linguistics and business at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I’m proud of what the company has been able to accomplish – it’s validating to see that payoff,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I actually had an impact not only I can see but others as well.’ I never really went into the project knowing this was a scholarship that even existed. The stars just aligned.”
As she heads to college, Le plans to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams in creating a startup company. She also plans to continue pursuing alternative solutions to plastic pollution, and said any business she starts would have a dedicated eco-friendly component to it.
“That’s one of the biggest priorities. I’ve always been passionate about social entrepreneurship,” she said. “No matter what, I’m incorporating a cause I can find a solution to.”