After farmers harvest their crops, how can they dispose of the mass amount of agricultural waste in a responsible way? In China, farmers tend to burn it, creating air pollution in a country that already struggles with the problem. In fact, 97% of the 700 tons of straw waste produced in China every year is burned. This method leads to 380 million tons of carbon emissions.
Enactus students from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics came up with two solutions that help the farmers and the community. First, the team taught local artisans to make straw-woven handicrafts. Production was not easy at first, but they were given the opportunity to experiment with two to three acres of straw. They figured out how to make straw boxes that could be sold for 20 to 30 Yuan (around 2 to 5 USD).
The remaining straw is recycled into fertilizer and used to grow mushrooms. Students taught the farmers this practice and helped them sell the mushrooms to supplement their incomes. Through the team’s work, 6,000 tons of straw were recycled and 300 tons of mushrooms were harvested and sold. The sales for the farmers totaled 120,000 USD, significantly impacting their lives. The project has greatly benefited the entire community by eliminating 10,800 tons of carbon emissions from the air.