The Green Sleep Project

Turning plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless and educating youth on climate change (focused on pollution) through hands-on learning.

Photo of Isha Patel
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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Pollution, specifically plastic pollution, is a growing problem worldwide. In the past 50 years, plastic production has grown by 20%. However, there has not been any response to this growing problem, since only 9% of all plastic gets recycled. Recycling does not have much global buy-in due to its inconvenience and costly process. Plastic that is not recycled can take hundreds of years to decompose, leaching toxins and killing animals.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The Green Sleep Project aims to reduce plastic pollution and the percentage of the population affected by its negative effects by partnering up with local schools and businesses to take in used plastic bags and turn them into sleeping mats for the homeless community, who often lack a comfortable place to sleep. I started this organization to combat the continuous use and presence of plastic bags. The sleeping mats are waterproof, durable, and reusable. This helps prevent the 100,000+ known cases of marine animal deaths that occur due to plastic bags. Plastic bags are cleaned, cut, and are woven together into a sleeping mat on which the homeless can sleep. The second part fo our climate change prevention is education. This is done by partnering with schools to teach the next generation of environmental activists eco-friendly habits through hands-on science and building. We allow them to explore their local community for pollution. With recent funding, we will also be teaching schools how to recycle plastic bottles to turn into 3D printing filament (activity postponed due to COVID19, but we are excited to partner with them to teach the reuse of a different plastic group in innovative

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

Our initial program of plastic bag mats was created solely due to the chemical composition of a plastic bag and the benefits it provided. Due to their chemical composition, plastic bags prove to be tear-resistant, an effective moisture barrier, and can trap heat, making them the most effective product pollutant to recycle. Our school lesson plans and activities also emphasize hands-on STEM learning. For example, we allow students to explore microplastics in their local bodies of water through foldable microscopes to inform them how pollution is impacting them locally. With our recent funding, we have also created a program to reuse plastic bottles by turning it into 3D printing filament to reduce plastic consumption and clean-up plastic waste. The filament will later be used by students to create engineering/media projects. This also reduce filament costs for 3D printing.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I have been raised to care about our Earth; our family is very eco-conscious and has instilled in me the value of respect for the Earth and environment. This value, combined with my experience volunteering at the homeless shelter led to the creation of The Green Sleep Project. When I was volunteering at a local shelter, I was told that one of the main challenges they faced was overcrowding during winter and not having enough space to house all the people. My passion to tackle the problem of plastic pollution, long with this experience, lead to the creation of the revised sleeping mat. I also wanted to provide the important sustainability background that I had as a child to other students to make them more aware of this issue through visual science and engineering. This has led to the expansion of our project to the classroom. We also wanted to find a way to reuse another type of plastic.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

Although we focus on our educational initiatives in the video, our plastic mats are a key part of our organization. We use the chemical properties of plastic to our advantage by repurposing them in a more meaningful way.

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

- Creating mats at all of our chapters, along with explaining the science behind our effective mats. -Holding online workshops on sustainable practices such as how to compost (why it works), which trees are best to plant for our local environment and pollinators, antibacterial / energy benefits of sun-drying vs using dryer (students&faculty). - Testing out different plastic bottle to plastic pellet ratio for optimal 3D printing filament -Creating an eco-focused quiz app (coming in 3 weeks).

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

A majority of the work done in the field of plastic pollution consists of ocean/river cleanups. While this method does prove to be beneficial in reducing plastic pollution, it is not the most efficient because it does not address the situation at its main cause, but attempts to solve it after the damage has been done. The Green Sleep Project has a two-step process through which plastic pollution can be controlled; creation of sleeping mats and the (exploration-based)education of children on pollution. The reusable plastic mats/bag drives help tackle plastic pollution before bags pollute water.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

- Approx. 2k bags single-use plastic bags prevented from going into the landfill - Started our first international chapter in India through an NGO partnership (working to establish it after COVID19 ) - We taught faculty at a local school on the science behind compost and how to start. - During an online workshop, we went into depth about how line drying clothing has antibacterial properties and reduces about 2.4k pounds of carbon footprint. We later received emails/picture from students showing them line-drying. - We inspired our network and those in our community to create a pledge to pick up a sustainable habit and collected video pledges to celebrate virtual Earth Day. We received 35 pledges (within 3 days) and later turned a couple into an edited video compilation, sharing them on our platforms to inspire change. -After COVID19, we will continue the hands-on school projects.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We will be opening our New Jersey and California locations (hopefully) by the end of this year. By the beginning of the next school year, we will have worked with (at least) three schools to expand our plastic printing project. We hope to expand our plastic printing project even further (outside the district) as schools start to shift their focus to more technology-based learning. After the success and impact of our Earth Day video pledges, we hope to spread this to all of our current and upcoming chapters, especially on the West Coast. Aside from our microplastic lab, we are also working to publish instructions for our new (hands-on) biodegradability and acid rain labs, which will be put to use in the upcoming school year.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

A large part of GSP, aside from the community mat-making/filament activities & student labs, is raising awareness through online/in-person workshops one classroom at a time. Therefore, we stay in close contact with our school kids. Through one of our workshops, we were able to teach students about the importance of buying sustainable and local products. Soon after, two boys from the schools sent us video pledges promising to buy more local products with compostable packaging. We inspire action.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We rely on partners to expand and make a change! In the future, we would love to work with changemakers that target an audience suffering from homelessness to distribute our mats. We would also be able to changemakers who implement climate change lesson plans in local schools to make their learning and activities more hands-on with our novel labs created specifically for climate/pollution education. In addition to this, a lot of our current work is through partnerships with youth service groups.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

While our mission towards tackling pollution is focused, we have many opportunities for those with a varying range of talents/passions to engage with our project. While our activities do lean more towards the STEM & creativity categories, we are able to involve others who are interested in art through our Climate Art Advocacy Lab, weaving, and through active contribution to our blog. We also have constant opportunities for video-editing and 3D engineering. We all work towards combating pollution

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

Probably - 66.7%

Maybe - 16.7%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 33.3%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 66.7%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 0%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 50%

4 - Yes, I think so - 16.7%

3 - Maybe - 33.3%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 50%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

4 - Yes, I think so - 33.3%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 20%

4- Yes, I think so - 40%

3- Maybe - 20%

2- Probably not - 20%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 40%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 100%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 40%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 20%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 20%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 40%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 33.3%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 100%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 33.3%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 66.7%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Old Friend

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Photo of Ali Hussein

Hi Isha! What I really love about your project is that it is tackling two problems at once in plastic usage and homelessness. I also really liked your idea about 3D filament and would be interested to learn more about it as I have a 3D printer at home. One suggestion I have is to make a prototype of your idea that you can showcase as you pitch your idea to various people. Good luck to you and I hope you keep working hard on this great project! You should be very proud!

Photo of Isha Patel

Hello! Thanks for your suggestion, I truly appreciate it!

Photo of Antonio

Hello Isha! Your project is very inspiring. The idea to create mats from plastic bags is truly innovative. I like your new concept for recycling plastic water bottles to 3D printer filament. I think you could even take this idea a step further and use the plastic bottle printer filament to make items for the homeless (or those in poverty). Keep pushing forward and innovating! Good luck!  

Photo of Isha Patel

Thank you Antonio! That is a great idea and I hope to use your suggestion (as soon as we are out of quarantine) !!

Photo of Jordan Blaney

I love that the bags are being repurposed to help others. We have a bag ban where we live so we all have reusable bags. If we had plastic bags here, this would be a wonderful idea to help our homeless population.

Photo of Isha Patel

Thank you!