January 18, 2024
A young, animal-loving vegetarian becomes a full fledged environmentalist as a teen





By Mary Reid Barrow

Photos by Dominique Denson, except where noted

By the time Emma Bakhshi was 9 years old, she was  a vegetarian.

 Her parents, Dr. Raja Bakhshi and Dr.  Elizabeth Bakhshi, went along with their daughter’s wishes. 

  “She had to eat!” Raja said, with a chuckle.

 At first her concerns were all about the animals, Emma said.  Then she grew to realize that a vegetarian diet also was important for the planet.

 Who knew then that Emma’s  childhood dedication to the animals also would grow to the point that she would convince her dad to install  solar panels on the roof of the family home in the North End. 


Other changes followed.  They included a butterfly garden, round the back and side yard, a rain barrel, an infiltration trench and more.

 For all they have done. LRNow has selected  the Bakhshi  home as  Pearl Home of the Quarter, said Pearl Home Coordinator Terri Gorman.

 “Taking care of the Earth can be contagious,” Terri said.  “The Bakhshis are such a good example of how looking out for our environment can start with one small step of awareness and build from there.  It doesn’t need to happen all at once,”

 As Emma  grew up, her awareness of  the environment did expand step by step.  Over the years she has had a saltwater and three freshwater aquariums.

 “My family likes to hike,” Emma added, “and I got into photography and started taking photos.”

 This photo of a bald eagle in First Landing State Park, is one of Emma’s many nature shots.


 In her junior year in high school, she began attending  the Virginia Beach Public School’s Environmental Studies Program at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center.

 “That’s when it all took off, I guess,” Emma said.

 While she was still in her  first year of  the program,   she  convinced  her family to convert to solar electricity. 

 “We haven’t had a bill since I put it in,” Raja added. “They said it takes 8-10 years to recoup  and I rolled the cost into our mortgage. “

 Following the solar installation, the Bakhshis went all out with  environmentally friendly landscaping.  Landscape designer Meg French turned  a good portion of the hill at their home into a butterfly garden featuring pollinator plants such as milkweed and parsley.  

 Raja has taken many photos of the butterflies and caterpillars that already have visited the young garden. 


 The Bakhshis also installed a rain barrel to catch rainwater from their roof and an irrigation trench in a low lying area.  They have a compost pile where they compost their grass clippings. They also grow blackberries,  raspberries, peaches, and grapes. 

 The family is attuned to more than nature.  Emma, her father, and her brother all play musical instruments and have played together at church and at parties.

 Now the little girl, who was once a 9 year old vegetarian, is in the middle of her first year at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.  She still is building on her environmental interests,  majoring in bio-environmental studies and political science.

 But she already has left a big environmental footprint back in Virginia Beach.


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