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Humans of Harker: Maya Kumar prioritizes helping the environment––and anyone else she can

%22Instead+of+buying+clothes+at+a+store%2C+I+want+to+transition+to+all+my+clothes+being+bought+secondhand%2C+which+I%E2%80%99m+slowly+working+on%2C+and+I+would+just+want+to+adopt+daily+practices%2C+because+sometimes+I+still+use+those+disposable+cups+because+I+leave+my+water+bottle+at+random+places%2C%22+Maya+Kumar+%2812%29+said.+%22I%E2%80%99m+definitely+that+person+at+the+grocery+store+who+might+have+a+bunch+of+things+in+my+hand+but+will+refuse+to+get+a+bag%2C+and+it%E2%80%99s+slightly+embarrassing+because+I%E2%80%99m+about+to+drop+everything%2C+but+I%E2%80%99m+trying+to+stay+true+to+my+values+to+the+extent+that+it%E2%80%99s+reasonable+at+this+point+in+my+life.%22

"Instead of buying clothes at a store, I want to transition to all my clothes being bought secondhand, which I’m slowly working on, and I would just want to adopt daily practices, because sometimes I still use those disposable cups because I leave my water bottle at random places," Maya Kumar (12) said. "I’m definitely that person at the grocery store who might have a bunch of things in my hand but will refuse to get a bag, and it’s slightly embarrassing because I’m about to drop everything, but I’m trying to stay true to my values to the extent that it’s reasonable at this point in my life."

Sahana Srinivasan

Sahana Srinivasan

"Instead of buying clothes at a store, I want to transition to all my clothes being bought secondhand, which I’m slowly working on, and I would just want to adopt daily practices, because sometimes I still use those disposable cups because I leave my water bottle at random places," Maya Kumar (12) said. "I’m definitely that person at the grocery store who might have a bunch of things in my hand but will refuse to get a bag, and it’s slightly embarrassing because I’m about to drop everything, but I’m trying to stay true to my values to the extent that it’s reasonable at this point in my life."

by Sahana Srinivasan, Winged Post Editor-in-Chief

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Senior Maya Kumar’s interest in helping the environment––and studying environmental engineering––began, in some ways, with John Oliver.

“One episode [of Last Week Tonight] that really struck me was about fast fashion and about how that industry is a) polluting and b) uses a lot of unethical labor sources,” Maya said. “Instead of buying clothes at a store, I want to transition to all my clothes being bought secondhand, which I’m slowly working on.”

Maya is taking her environmentalism beyond reacting to the focus of the episode; re-attempting veganism, switching to only reusable bottles and promoting basic daily practices are on her list.

“While I’m not naive enough to think I can ever be a person who can be perfectly ethical and live out all of my values, I want to––at least to the fullest extent that I can––be able to be proud of my actions as a human and be able to support the things I care about and avoid the things that can be harmful,” Maya said.

Maya quantifies support for her causes by labelling wasting resources as a “negative” and contributing positively back to her surroundings as a “positive.” She aims, over the course of her life, for a net positive.

“That comes in two steps, the first one being on a personal level trying to reduce water usage, not using plastic bags at grocery stores, using reusable cups where I can, not using straws and things like that,” Maya said. “On a second level, what’s more important is I want my career to be something that somehow positively contributes to sustainability. I don’t know if that’s going to be in the field of water reuse or renewable energy or environmentally friendly technologies but something that’s always been on my consciousness is that I want to dedicate my life to being not a waste.”

That dedication manifests itself in everything she does, something her friends get to witness often.

“She’s always striving to be a better version of herself,” said Aliesa Bahri (12), who has been friends with Maya since elementary school. “I always see her trying new recipes, learning to sew––she was the first one of us to get her learner’s permit, she’s always out there discovering new activities and new skills to teach herself and I think that’s because she wants to take advantage of everything that her surroundings have to offer while simultaneously not being a drain on the society that raised her.”

Even as she jokes about being a waste in society, Maya keeps up a smile, pausing to laugh several times. Being upbeat and being caring are some of the core characteristics that not only Maya’s friends value, but that Maya herself prioritizes.

“Maya is quite the character. On one hand, she’s a really amusing person to be around,” Maya’s friend Aria Coalson (12) said. “She has so many interesting hobbies, and I just like talking to her since she knows about something things and she just likes to explore her passions and expand her knowledge for more than the sake of school. Maya is also a really caring person; she’s probably one of the most thoughtful people I know. If she sees someone who’s feeling down, she can pick up on that.”

To Maya, part of caring is understanding other people, a feat made easier because of the level at which she understands herself.

“I’m secure enough in my own flaws that I can accept other people’s,” she said. “I suppose that’s how I stay a very calm person, and I just try to be understanding of everyone around me, because I’m very flawed and I accept my own flaws, so by the transitive property I should accept other people’s.”

In her freshman year, Maya tried to avoid other people helping her in the way she does for others, citing a desire not to inconvenience anyone.

“As I got into higher grades, I realized that was kind of ridiculous and being able to lean on other people is super important, and being a loner can’t get you that far. I’m going to lean on other people, and also let other people lean on me.”

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Humans of Harker: Maya Kumar prioritizes helping the environment––and anyone else she can