Nayi Soch, Nayi Shuruaat: Students Ki "Paryavaran Yojana"
In a world where concern over climate change is growing, an immense impact has emerged inside the classrooms. Students are leading a quiet revolution, passionate and determined to turn classrooms into eco classrooms. They are not just students; they are developing into eco-champions who are actively trying to reduce the carbon footprint of their schools and create a sustainable future.
The entire amount of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) produced by human actions is known as a carbon footprint. This carbon footprint is a dark ink stain threatening the fine threads of life in the huge tapestry of our planet. This frightening mark grows with every step we take, every vehicle we fuel, and every energy-hungry device we power. It has a wide shadow that interferes with climate patterns, melts glaciers, and affects ecosystems.
As Our World in Data shows us, in 1950 the world emitted 6 billion tonnes of CO2. By 1990 this had almost quadrupled, reaching more than 22 billion tonnes. Emissions have continued to grow rapidly; we now emit over 34 billion tonnes each year. Emissions growth has slowed over the last few years, but they have yet to reach their peak.
These emissions haven’t increased in isolation. Resource extraction has more than tripled since 1970, including a 45% increase in fossil fuel use. The extraction and processing of materials, fuels, and food contribute half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and over 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress.
All is not lost. More and more people and organisations are attempting to lessen their carbon footprints by implementing eco-friendly practices, such as decreasing waste or conserving energy. However, there is noticeably a lack of the same level of commitment and action within schools. What does this imply?
Schools are not paying enough attention to integrating sustainability and environmental initiatives into their curriculum. There is a gap in environmental consciousness and responsibility at the educational level, which needs to be addressed. Many people focus on the efforts of adults to solve climate change, but we’re prone to neglect a powerful force, bursting with enthusiasm and innovation in youngsters.
But how can students and schools lend a hand in the fight against climate change?
Some schools in India, like Avasara Academy, place a strong emphasis on educating students about environmental sustainability. One such student, Vaishnavi Suryawanshi, from the 11th grade, has made outstanding efforts to lower carbon emissions.
When Vaishnavi was a 10th grader, she started working on a climate change project. Her participation in Teach For India classrooms served as her inspiration, urging her to find creative solutions to environmental problems. She decided to concentrate her efforts on improving her school rather than just the larger community.
Vaishnavi saw projects all around her. She started out by making a paper bag holder in response to complaints from the cleaning staff at her school about students not properly disposing of sanitary pads. This endeavour was successful and it simplified the process of segregating and disposing of used pads for the cleaning staff at the school. She said,
"Before connecting to the problem I was connecting to the people. I was empathetic towards Aunty, hence I thought of addressing the issue.”
Emboldened by this success, she launched a club called "Climate Warriors," which focuses on waste segregation and making these paper bags. She emphasised that while raising awareness is crucial, taking action is also required to successfully address the problem. The club is formed by students from grades 6 to 9 and engages in various climate-related activities, such as organising cleaning drives.
To raise awareness about the impact of climate change, the club also focusses efforts on researching and gathering statistics about climate change. One such statistic was the amount of water wasted if a tap is left open for a minute.
If you’re wondering, in 1 minute of a tap being left open, 1-2 litres of water is wasted.
When asked why Vaishnavi wanted to start this club at school, she said,
“I wanted kids to be part of this club because they can learn about various ways to reduce carbon emissions which can have long-term impacts. In the club, we talk about how crucial it is to turn off lights and fans when we are not using them. Sometimes adults forget to do it because of a lack of practice. Hence to avoid that, teaching kids at an earlier age is important so that it can lead to a positive impact.”
After the club was established, the school witnessed a tremendous transformation. Plastic, which was once widely used on campus, has substantially decreased. Students took on the responsibility of waste segregation. Even a teacher noted the decrease in plastic garbage and brought it up to Vaishnavi, appreciating her for putting such efforts to reduce carbon footprints with small practices that will have a greater impact in the future.
As Vaishnavi says, “Change may begin small, but with time and effort, it can develop into a significant and long-lasting effect on the environment.”
This journey wasn’t all smooth sailing. Leading a group with younger children presented Vaishnavi with difficulties, such as balancing contributions and motivating them to stick with her. They overcome these challenges by reiterating the value of working together and being respectful to one another. These young people are now writing rap for an anthem that emphasises the necessity of acting quickly. They've gained insightful knowledge about working together, and they're eager to motivate others to support the effort.
Vaishnavi has set her sights on ambitious long-term goals.
"I am working with the school to devise innovative ways to optimise water pipe usage and conserve water. Also, we will be addressing electrical inefficiencies by considering changes to the series connections in switches.”
She is certain that if all schools make similar contributions, we may be able to reduce our overall carbon footprint. According to her view, tiny individual actions add up to have a bigger impact on the environment, promoting a more sustainable future for all.
The transformational power of individual initiative inside a school is illustrated through Vaishnavi's narrative. Her commitment to promoting sustainability and increasing environmental consciousness among her peers not only had noticeable outcomes but also serves as an inspiration for both students and teachers. Her experience highlights the value of promoting eco-awareness in schools because it is through these young minds that environmental change can be sparked.
The difficulties schools face in adopting eco-friendly practices are significant, ranging from resource limitations to the difficulty of modifying long-standing procedures. However, it's imperative to keep in mind that every journey starts with a single step, and the combined effect of numerous small steps can be enormous. As Vaishnavi has demonstrated, it is feasible to establish a climate in classrooms that promotes a thorough comprehension of environmental responsibility and significant change.
Written by Sindhupriya Gaddam