In 2014, Shreya Ramachandran, now 17, visited California’s Central Valley at the time locals were facing serious water shortages amidst an ongoing drought.
That experience motivated Ramachandran, who lives in Fremont, California, to find ways to reuse greywater — water from sinks, showers, and laundry machines — and help people cope with water shortages.
According to Discover Magazine, around that time her grandmother was visiting from India and brought with her a handful of soap nuts.
“A soap nut, also known as a soap berry, is a small yellow or brown fruit encased in a hard, brown shell. Soap nuts are native to India, where they are used for bathing. Massage one in a bowl of water, and it will begin to lather and smell of apples," Ramachandran said.
Then Ramachandran got an idea — if those berries can be used as a shampoo, they might be used as an environmentally-friendly detergent, as well.
She experimented with leftover water and discovered it’s safe for non-potable uses like watering plants.
Céline Pallud, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that Ramachandran’s experiments were comparable to the work of a college student.
That’s more than impressive knowing that she was only 12 when she started her research.
Ramachandran went on to found her own nonprofit, The Grey Water Project, which is devoted to teaching people how to recycle greywater in their own homes.