Small practices in our daily life, which together, lead to a larger picture, often go unnoticed. Take the example of dining out. In most restaurants, waiters fill every glass on the table and keep refilling them until we finish eating. We hardly ever pay heed to this practice and rarely stop them from refilling our glass irrespective of whether we need water or not.
Bengaluru teens, Garvita Gulhati and Pooja Tanawade, were in school when a presentation from Reap Benefits, an NGO, brought this common habit to their attention. Garvita, who was 15 at the time, took it upon herself to bring about a change in this system, and was supported by Pooja.
Their first step was to visit restaurants in busy parts of Bengaluru and inform the management about the amount of water which was being wasted.
“We waste approximately 14 million litres of water every year, simply because we leave behind half-empty 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?’ for two years, we visited multiple restaurants and realised how difficult it was to convince them,” Garvita wrote in a petition on Change.org.
Garvita and Pooja were enthusiastic, but the restaurants they visited were more or less indifferent to the cause. But the girl didn’t give up, and soon, they gathered support from their classmates and together, the initiative, ‘Why Waste’ became a strong team that restaurant managers just could not ignore.
The initiative which started in July 2015 has now gained attention from international platforms!
Speaking to The Better India, Garvita says, “From where we started, it was challenging to get people to accept what we were doing and get their support and encouragement. We heard a lot of things like ‘why are you wasting your time with this?’ and ‘you should be studying for your exams’ because when it started, it was the peak of our school lives and we had college admissions and entrance exams coming up.”
Even as many were actively discouraging the duo, there were some who extended their wholehearted support to the initiative. That was a sign enough for the pair to keep going till they achieved their goal.
Even after school ended, Garvita decided not to let go of the project and took it forward herself..
Gradually, Why Waste got recognised by esteemed platforms like Ashoka Innovators for the Public, Change.org and even Global Changemakers.
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A prototype of the half-marked glasses is finally ready! A couple of more versions coming up! Thank you @lookitsgreeshma for the label designs! #halfmarkedglasses #savewater #water #savetheearth #waterconservation #environment #social #service #youthventure #youngchangemakers #believe #initiative #earth #bethechange #whywaste #startyoung #changeisgood #changemakers #responsibility #restaurants #emptyglasses #glasses #hotels #india #innovation
This year, Garvita became the only Indian among 60 changemakers to receive the title of ‘Global Changemaker’ and is one among the 1000 young leaders between the ages of 18-23 years, from 42 countries across the world, to stand on that platform.
Speaking to NDTV, Garvita said, “I am excited to be part of the Global Changemakers network, and it’s a great opportunity for me to learn from other young changemakers from across the world and bring back those learnings to inspire the youth of our country to be changemakers. My vision is to inspire a culture of every young person of my country contributing to create change.”
The event was held from 12-18 August 2018 in Zurich, Switzerland.
“In terms of what ‘Why Waste’ has become, it’s something phenomenal,” Garvita says, adding that
“We are doing things that I never imagined we could do. We are collaborating with and being recognised alongside respected people.
We always had our goals and dreams in place, but we always took things as they came. Today we stand at a place where we can say that we have created substantial change.”
Why Waste has already collaborated with over 30 restaurants in Bengaluru, giving them simple methods to save water. Just changing big glasses to small ones or asking waiters to always fill the glasses half or even keeping jugs or bottles of water on each table rather than a waiter refilling them cuts down on a substantial amount of water being used.
We may not realise how efficient it is but think in terms of the number of tables at each restaurant, multiplied by the number of people at each table, multiplied by the number of restaurants in one city. This simple effort has already saved thousands of litres of water!
Of course, not every idea that Why Waste initiated was a huge success, to begin with. Even as restaurants started adopting their methods, some failed to give results.
But for Garvita, these were lessons, and for three years now, the team (Garvita and some volunteers) has been learning and unlearning their methods, approaching restaurants with enthusiasm and leading from the front to ensure water conservation in restaurants.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)