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A trio of Vietnamese high schoolers claimed the top prize in the environmental awareness competition The Earth Prize 2022 thanks to their project which turned dragon fruit peels into biodegradable sanitary pads.

The winning group, named Team Adorbsies, consists of Trần Quỳnh Anh, a 15-year-old student from Ho Chi Minh City; and 17-year-old Bùi Tú Uyên and 16-year-old Lương Anh Khánh Huyền from Hanoi. They beat 650 teams from 516 schools in 114 countries and areas to clinch the top honor and US$100,000 from The Earth Foundation, an NGO in Switzerland. Their project focuses on the creation of “Adorbsy” environmentally friendly sanitary pads made from dragon fruit peels.

The trio did trials on bamboo and banana peels, but were surprised to discover the lack of academic knowledge on the physical-chemical properties of dragon fruit. Uyên, who's in charge of technology, shared that Adorbsy makes use of the fiber and pectin in the peel to craft a product with promising absorption potential. Back in 2019, research by Dr. Trương Thị Cẩm Trang found that dragon fruit peels have higher concentrations of pectin than citrus peels. Her team explored ways to turn peels into biodegradable bags to be used instead of plastic ones.

Image via The Earth Prize.

Quỳnh Anh told VnExpress: “The name Adorbsies, meaning cute things, stemmed from our objective to promote the idea that 'cute little products' can make 'great impacts' on alternating the ways people perceive environmental problems.” Huyền emphasized their goals not only to realize the idea of eco-friendly menstrual pads — as they are virtually non-existent in the Vietnamese market — but also to use the money to launch a campaign encouraging females of ethnic minorities to use sanitary pads to help improve gynecological health.

Inspired by a previous social campaign where Vietnamese people "rescued" unsold dragon fruits due to a drop in sales during the pandemic, the team came up with the idea to leverage cheap and available resources and turn them into an environmentally friendly sanitary product for women. As Thời Đại reported, through this project, the team wanted to normalize the discussion of menstruation, which is usually regarded as taboo.

The Earth Prize is a competition seeking environmentally sustainable solutions that have real-world impacts. It's open to students between 13 and 19 years old from schools around the world. The top prize is a US$100,000 grant, awarded to the winning team and their institution; three runner-ups will each receive US$25,000; and the best advisor/educator will win US$25,000.

The Earth Prize is organized by The Earth Foundation, a Swiss NGO with the goal of awakening, empowering, and galvanizing the youth in actions for environmental sustainability.

[Top photo via Thời Đại]

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