AUSTIN (KXAN) –  A Westlake High School senior is one of only 17 young people from across the world to be honored for their environmentalism by an international organization. 

Anushka Godambe, 17, received an honorable mention in the 2023 International Young Eco-Hero Awards for her “Plants in Classrooms” project.

“I started this project during freshman year to bring a plant to every single classroom in [the Eanes] school district. It’s been three years since I started, and there are now over 1,000 plants placed in schools, offices, break rooms and libraries,” Godambe said. 

“I started it to teach kids about the joy and responsibility of gardening. So they learned to take care of the plants together by watering them on a rotation system, and the teachers helping them to measure the length of the plant as it grows,” she continued. 

Action for Nature is an international non-profit organization based in San Francisco and has hosted the awards annually for the last 20 years. It said its mission is to recognize young people taking action to solve complex environmental problems. 

Godambe said she was gifted a plant a few years ago, and when she managed to keep it alive, a passion for gardening burgeoned. When Godambe entered her first year at Westlake High, she started a gardening club to “share my love of plants.”

“Three years later, our club is 70 members strong. So, the plants and classrooms project was a spin-off of that gardening club at school,” she said. “I’m really glad that something that was initially just me liking gardening turned into everyone liking gardening at my school district. And now that Eanes ISD school district is literally covered in plants,” she said. 

While working on the project, Godambe learned about the environmental benefits of having plants in indoor spaces. For one,  Pathos – the plant at the center of work – is known to be effective at purifying air and reducing indoor air pollution, according to NASA. 

Godambe said she’s excited and humbled to be honored by Action for Nature. She said it took a lot of hard work to get her project to grow as much as it has. 

“It’s quite a lengthy process to even propagate one plant. So it was definitely an ordeal to do that for 1,000 plants over three years,” Godambe said. 

“Despite little hurdles like that… just seeing plants in classrooms become bigger than just me has been really exciting,” she added.