The millennials have inherited a dying Earth. Humankind’s toxic footprint has not spared any part of the planet. With countless crises just around the corner, these girls are out to secure a sustainable future.
Who: Garvita Gulhati, 19, Bengaluru
What: She launched a campaign called ‘Why Waste?’ to stop people throwing away half-full glasses of water in restaurants
Three years ago, Bengaluru-based teenager Garvita Gulhati learnt, to her absolute shock, that water left behind in glasses at restaurants amounts to the wastage of 14 million litres annually. That very day, she began turning gears to establish her own venture, ‘Why Waste?’, which campaigns for eateries to make a conscious effort to conserve water, chiefly by filling only half the glass with water at the time of first serving guests.
She recruited volunteers who now, on a cyclic basis, visit different restaurants. They explain the issue that they are targeting – water conservation – and ask the restaurant manager what the business is doing to conserve water, if anything at all. Subsequently, they introduce the idea of the half-glass policy and request that it be implemented.
Further, through a short video, they train the waiters on how to explain to customers the motive behind the policy in a courteous manner. They put up posters and stickers in the premises. Lastly, to cover all bases, they also offer solutions to how water left behind can be reused.
Her endeavour aims to implement this policy primarily in fine-dining restaurants, for she has observed that luxury sometimes necessitates the maximum wastage.
Based out of Bengaluru, these young people have successfully implemented this policy in over a hundred restaurants in their city. They have also expanded to Delhi and Mumbai, and are attempting to spread their reach to Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Garvita has also begun an online petition to ensure this policy is implemented nationally by the National Restaurants Authority of India. You can support her at change.org/glasshalffull. ‘Why Waste?’ has recruited volunteers to pioneer this policy in Sri Lanka as well.
“People are empathetic about social and humanitarian issues, but fail to see how injudicious use of natural resources is hurting the planet and us,” says the 19-year-old student of PES University, Bengaluru. “This is the mindset I want to change.”
Who: Sana Sawhney and Ayushi Gupta, both 21, Delhi
What: They’ve developed a ‘Green Curriculum’ and use games and gifts to promote environmental education among the urban and rural youth
After finishing their 12th class board exams, Delhi students Sana Sawhney and Ayushi Gupta sat down to rant about the inadequacies of the Indian education system. They decided to develop a curriculum characterised by a hands-on approach. Identifying environmental studies to be the most neglected subject – and, ironically, not contributing to environmental conservation – they chose to paint this initiative green.
After engaging with people through surveys, their suspicions proved to be true: most individuals remain ignorant of basic environmental concepts. Most couldn’t even sort waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable bins when asked to do so. How would they contribute to waste-management drives?
The duo also discerned a wide disparity between education provided in rural and urban India. They then began compiling a list of activities that could be used to teach different concepts related to conservation. Age groups and location were kept in mind while deciding the methods of learning appropriate for them. For example, in rural areas, poster making and role plays were a huge hit. This equipped participants to come up with solutions to environmental problems themselves. Children were given complete freedom to use their imaginations.
The two ‘green heroes’ also worked towards imparting other skills such as spoken English through these activities. For example, sentence building and structure were taught through environmental terms. Such an approach also highlights the need for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies.
An idea that worked in both rural and urban territories was ‘Best Out Of Waste’ in which participants made bookmarks, paper bags, and so on, using waste materials. In cities, children were encouraged to bring empty plastic water bottles, which could be turned into pots. Consequently, they were provided with saplings to plant in the pots and take home with them.
To encourage the underprivileged to think out of the box, they were provided with school kits containing donated stationery collected through social-media campaigns. Initially, such kits were paper bags, but now they have sponsors to supply them with cloth bags, which are eco-friendly and longer lasting.
Now, at age 21, the two have distributed over 625 kits across six schools and a community centre, spanning four Indian cities and towns – Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Manali – and are reaching out to more institutions every month.
Who: Sakshi Chandak, 18, and Chandana Satish, 17, Bengaluru
What: They work towards electricity conservation in schools and offices, and recycle newspapers to make notebooks for underprivileged children
Sakshi Chandak and Chandana Satish wondered why Bengaluru lacked a major energy conservation drive, even though other areas of environmental conservation were being tackled by various individuals and groups. So they took it upon themselves, and launched Students Take Responsible Initiative for a Viable Environment (STRIVE). Today, the teenagers have two projects running on the principle, “from roots to results”.
The first, known as STRIVE Hour, is sculpted along the lines of Earth Hour, a global campaign in which people turn off all non-essential lights for a pre-decided hour. But instead of conserving electricity for just an hour once a year, the STRIVE team encourages various institutions to do so on a more regular basis.
Their campaign was launched on June 5, 2016, on World Environment Day. They started off with five minutes a month, and later, amended it to be longer with each successive month. Households are also urged to do the same, but on a weekly basis.
Currently, the project has successfully engaged over 700 families along with five schools and nine offices. This translates into saving up to 15 lakh watts of energy every year.
The second, known as N2N or Newspaper to Notebooks, focuses on completing the energy loop by turning waste into wealth. They collect newspapers from educational institutes; this has cleverly been turned into a competition, which ensures they get the maximum supply possible.
The used papers are then converted into 100 percent recycled notebooks. These are distributed to underprivileged children, not only providing the needy with resource material but also becoming the tool through which they educate them about environmental conservation.
So far, they have collected 18 tonnes of newspaper, which have been transformed into 9,000 notebooks distributed to students through organisations such as Parikrama and The Learning Curve. They plan on strengthening their links with NGOs and government schools.
Both girls are headed to Canada this year to begin their undergraduate studies. But their work in India will continue. They are appointing STRIVE Ambassadors from different schools and colleges, who can take up the two projects in their institutions and locations. This has allowed them to grow beyond Bengaluru, and spread their reach to Lucknow and Hyderabad.
First Published: IST