In 1730 AD, the then ruler of Jodhpur, Maharaja Abhay Singh, ordered the felling of khejri trees for the construction of his new fort. And so, a royal party led by one of his ministers, Giridhar Bhandari, marched into the village, armed with axes to adhere to the king’s orders. But one woman, a local from the Bishnoi community, Amrita Devi, refused to let them hack the trees to the ground.
Alongside her three young daughters, Asu, Ratni and Bhagu, Amrita Devi hugged the trees and boldly said:
“Sar sāntey rūkh rahe to bhī sasto jān,” which means, “If a tree is saved even at the cost of one’s head, it is worth it.”
But the men paid no heed, and the woman and her daughters were axed along with the trees. Their death sparked off a protest from the local Bishnoi community, leading to the infamous Khejarli massacre. It was one of the first incidents to inspire the renowned Chipko Movement.
So, it is no surprise that women have played a major role in initiating and driving environment movements in India for decades. And while the sacrifice of Amrita Devi and her brave daughters is unmatched, it is important to back everyday women, who are using innovative ideas to conserve the environment in their unique ways.
This World Environment Day, we bring you the stories of three such women.
18-year-old Garvita Gulhati on Water Conservation
She was only 15 when Garvita identified that the hotel industry was a leading industry contributing to water wastage and kickstarted the WhyWaste campaign.
At 18, the Bengaluru student wants to make restaurants reconsider water wastage with a simple change in service.
Directing a petition on Change.org to the National Restaurants Authority of India (NRAI) and restaurant owners in the city she writes,
“14 million litres of water is wasted every year, simply because we leave behind in glasses at restaurants. It happens because we ask for water, take a sip or two and leave the rest. We can prevent this! Under the campaign Why Waste? (whywasteorg.com) for two years, we visited multiple restaurants and realised how difficult it was to convince them.”
And so, she plans to draw attention to the issue through a signature campaign.
“You can be the change by making sure everyone around you only fills their #GlassHalfFull. You can be the one who changes the world by just asking yourself one simple question – How much water did I save today?” she adds.
Garvita adds that if restaurants and citizens across the city reduce the amount of water that is being wasted, they can save enough water to rejuvenate one of their dying lakes by 2020!
She hopes to have enough public support to drive restaurants across Bangalore to reduce the size of their glasses, urge waiters to fill only half glass of water and help customers do the same, as a sign of individual commitment to saving water.
Sign her petition here.
25-year-old Prarthana Gupta on urging Starbucks India to introduce plastic-free cups.
A young professional who works for a crowdfunding platform, 25-year-old Prarthana is campaigning to request Starbucks India to commit to the cause of introducing plastic-free cups in India.
A loyal Starbucks customer, she writes about what triggered her to kickstart the campaign,
“Starbucks India, you are very close to losing a loyal customer. I love your coffee, but not the takeaway cup I get my beverage in. I cringed every time I picked up a takeaway cup and the thought of it not getting recycled. I soon moved to carrying my own coffee cup with me.”
She adds how approximately 8,000 Starbucks cups hit the landfills globally, which are single-use and plastic-lined, making them unfit for recycling. And so, she aims to drive the beverage giant to introduce recyclable cups across 101 of its stores in the country.
“Back in 2008, Starbucks said it would bring in 100% recyclable disposable cups to replace those currently used across its stores. At the same time, the chain also said it would bring reusable cup usage to 25% by 2015. Neither of these pledges has been fulfilled, and this is a great cost to the environment. There’s huge public demand for a less wasteful cup – and Starbucks India needs to make good on its promise,” she adds.
If you want to help Prarthana make her voice heard, sign her petition here.
Namrata Arora Singh on reducing plastic waste from online delivery packaging
Namrata recalls the day she moved to a new city. She writes how if it weren’t for Amazon and Flipkart, she wouldn’t know where to get her groceries, household cleaning agents or even folding chairs.
You name it, and she had ordered it online. But her heart broke every time she received a delivery. Wrapped in plastic, sometimes bubble-wrapped when there was no need, most products contained multiple printouts of the bill and left her with loads of paper, carton and plastic covers to dispose of. And so in her petition, she writes,
“Dear Amazon and Flipkart, you are both amazing organisations! You have changed the face of retail in India, and you have empowered people like me to shop from anywhere without stepping out of the house. If you can employ so many people, make so many manufacturers get a platform, create such a sophisticated distribution network, you can surely commit to making all your deliveries eco-friendly and reduce the use of plastics by 50% in your packaging.”
She also has a few suggestions for them!
- Stop packaging everything in plastic. A toothbrush or a bedsheet don’t need to be wrapped in multiple layers of plastic. Assess all the products and ask the vendors to avoid using plastic packaging for non-breakable items.
- Create a reverse supply chain that ensures all packaging material is returned at the source.
- Charge customers extra in case they opt for a plastic wrap of their deliveries. Provide a discount to those agreeable to eco-friendly deliveries.
- Optimise the packaging (size and material) based on the size of the product ordered.
- Stop sending bills printed on A4 sheets and email them instead, unless requested by customers. An additional cost could be levied for paper bills if requested. This would reduce paper usage.
- STOP selling plastic bags and plastic straws online. Plastic bags are being banned in many cities. Take a stand and stop selling these products on your platform.
Sign her petition here.
These three women prove that you needn’t be an environmentalist with fancy degrees to sow the first seed of change. All you need is an idea. If you’ve got one you think can go a long way in impacting ground-level change, get onto citizen platforms and kickstart your own campaigns.
Also, if you think these are exceptional ideas, don’t forget to show them your support. It will only take you a few minutes to sign a petition and share it to spread the word! Do it for mother nature this World Environment Day!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)