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Meet India's young climate leaders

The time for climate action is NOW.

The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet and placing billions of people in danger. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. India experienced its hottest decade between 2010-2019 and will continue to suffer more frequent and intense heat waves, extreme rainfall events and erratic monsoons, and more cyclonic activity in the coming decades.

Experts confirm that there is still time to limit climate change if we act NOW. Strong and sustained reductions in carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases could quickly improve air quality, and global temperatures could stabilize in 20 to 30 years.

At the same time, a different kind of change is happening too. One led by the youth of the country, the faces of India's climate justice and climate action.

These seventeen young climate leaders represent the solution young people are pioneering towards climate action. Their approach is innovative, sustainable, and inclusive, working with communities on the ground for real impact. They represent the passion and commitment young people have towards supporting India in realizing her climate ambition and go for more.

Siddhartha
Siddhartha
Sneha
Sneha
Varsha
Varsha
Soumya
Soumya
Garvita
Garvita
Heeta
Heeta
Sanju
Sanju
Archana
Archana
Sarath
Sarath

WHO are they

Artboard – 32
Medha
Medha
Berjis
Berjis
Akhilesh
Akhilesh
Neha
Neha
Hina
Hina
Ganesh
Ganesh
Kriti
Kriti
Aditya
Aditya
WeTheChange_MovingLogo_EngWhite

#WeTheChangeNOW is a movement that brings these young climate leaders together to spark a dialogue with the country’s decision-makers, amplifying solutions, inspiring collective action, and working with the government to ensure that India’s future is green, sustainable, and just.

MEET INDIA’S YOUNG CLIMATE LEADERS

These 17 inspirational young citizens are working towards many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Apart from these goals, all of them are champions of SDG 13 - Climate Action.

"I re-approached the problem of water being wasted in restaurants with the “GlassHalfFull” concept - looking at water with a positive perspective."
Garvita Gulhati Innovation & Technology
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Our water supply is getting harder to count on, so this teenager started counting on the water we left behind

In 2015, Garvita learnt that 14 million liters of water is wasted every year at restaurant tables. Meanwhile, climate change is causing extreme weather events that reduce the availability of drinking water, especially for children. So, she started Why Waste? From struggling to be taken seriously by restaurateurs, she and her team of ‘waterpreneurs’ have reached out to over 500,000 restaurants across India, prevented over 10 million liters of water from being wasted and impacted over 6 million lives. The idea continues to grow today with chapters in 8 countries.

Called the “Water Girl of India” by CNN and the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, she used the slowdown during the pandemic to make a ‘Why Waste App’ that calculates an individual’s daily water footprint and helps save at least 100 liters of water every day. Her work contributes to our national-level goals of conserving water and minimising wastage under the National Water Mission, and to Sustainable Development Goal 6 by ensuring the sustainable management of water.

"I believe that if there’s public awareness first, then we can improve the environment. It will happen if people are aware of climate friendly behaviours and actions. This is why I want to work in the space of public awareness and mobilization."
Hina Saifi Clean Air & Renewable Energy
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Leading from the front for the most vulnerable communities affected by climate change

Most of us might think of villages as idyllic spots unspoiled by the scourge of air pollution. The reality though is quite different. For various reasons including improper waste disposal, biomass burning, and industrial activity, the problem becomes even more acute in rural areas. 19 year old Hina Saifi from Sisosla Village, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, was driven by the sight of this and also by a general lack of environmental awareness at home to make a difference for the better. She is a strong advocate of on ground activism as a way of changing people’s behaviour. Many of the solutions to India’s air pollution, which disproportionately impacts children and vulnerable communities, are also solutions that can combat climate change – Hina’s work does both. She is associated with the 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign, The Climate Agenda and Meerut-based NGO En Bloc: On the way to humanity.

She works to educate the general public on climate friendly behavior through several mobilization activities such as March for Clean Air, pamphlet distribution, public meetings, door-to-door visits and surveys. Through her work, she campaigns for solar powered solutions to air pollution, like solar pumps or rooftop solar installation for public and community buildings. Her campaigns are one of the many ways the country is achieving its Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs – one of which is to increase the share of India’s energy capacity that comes from non-fossil fuel sources, like solar power, to 40% by 2030. Despite the alarming rise in air pollution in the larger district, she refuses to be deterred. She maintains a strong belief that the youth, along with increased awareness, can lead and win the battle against air pollution and climate change. Hina’s work not only supports the SDG Goal 7 by increasing access to clean and affordable energy solutions, but also benefits the health of her community under SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing.

"My first strong sense of need to protect nature came from a forest cleanup held in 2018 after the disastrous Kerala Floods."
Akhilesh Anilkumar Ecosystem Restoration
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No such thing as too many ideas when it comes to climate action

Akhilesh Anilkumar is a whirlwind of activity. Take a look at his journey so far. In 2018, his ‘Swap The Straw’ campaign pushed for the eradication of plastic straws through physical and policy-making interventions. In 2019, he co-founded the Bring Back Green Foundation. A passionate advocate of climate education, his draft environmental curriculum ideas were well-received by the Kerala government. He has organised various conferences on climate education and started developing a mobile app too. When exposed to the problems faced by coastal communities due to coastal erosion, he worked with the community and with various government agencies including the Kerala Excise Department, Kerala Institute of Local Administration, Fisheries Department and Harbour Engineering Department to conduct research and create new policies.

The work that Akhilesh is doing enhances India’s blue economy and preserves marine diversity, which is the aim of the new Draft Blue Economy policy created by the National Ministry of Earth Sciences in 2021, and works toward SDG 14 by conserving marine resources for sustainable development. Further, it led him to conceptualise and develop ‘Theeram’, a documentary series which focuses on the lives and livelihoods of Kerala’s coastal communities and how climate change and artificial constructions have negatively impacted them. Through his Foundation, he has also worked on waste management and sustainable menstruation products. Widening the scope further, his in-the-works climate start-up aims to develop circular and gender-neutral fashion.

"The promise of being able to reach out and scale up climate action, to learn the truth behind the origins and contexts of sustainability, help navigate it favourably, and to be able to safeguard the weakest in the face of climate change, is what continues to motivate me in this journey."
Berjis Driver Sustainable Urban Planning
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The grass is greener (and smarter) on the sustainable side of future city plans

A 2018 UN report projects that 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. Urban centres already face various challenges posed by climate change. If sustainable urbanization is not accounted for, these will only get bigger in the future. However, Bergis, an urban planner and architect by training, sees only opportunities for improving the status quo. He believes that green ideas will reduce disparities, improve accessibility and quality of life in cities. Work like this supports SDG 11 by creating literal blueprints for sustainable cities. The Indian government is working on similar goals through the Smart Cities Mission and the AMRUT Mission. Through his work, he ensured that the development plans for Amaravati City, an upcoming city in Andhra Pradesh, prioritised sustainability and harmony with the existing environment.

He has worked with Government authorities to help Kandla SEZ secure its platinum rating from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), the highest possible level of sustainability possible. Today, he works with Waatavaran, an NGO that seeks to slow down climate change and its impact on vulnerable communities. Bergis’ work helps cities and human settlements more resilient to climate change, and reduces their impact on their environment, which in a country like India, where 70% of its cities will be built in the next 10 years, cannot happen too soon.

"At the end of the day, enthusiasm for the environment comes from within, a role model can just kindle the flame or help you navigate your way to a certain extent, your passion which matters the most and is the true guiding light."
Sneha Shahi Waste Management
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Academic heavy lifting with a good dose of getting your hands dirty for positive climate action

Sneha definitely knew from an early age that her future would be deeply connected with ecology. She fondly remembers trips to National Parks which endowed her with a sense of respect for nature and always left her with a feeling of responsibility towards it. Years later, picking Environmental Science for her graduate studies must’ve been easy. Today, she’s a PhD student at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, studying Conservation Science and Sustainability. Yet, Sneha’s story of positive climate action came from realising that doing research alone wouldn’t suffice. So, she decided to act too. Sneha went from doing research to addressing the impact of waste on climate in multiple ways: not only reducing its impact on river ecosystems but also limiting the use of plastic at source, which will have a ripple effect through the ecosystem around the campus.

Her affiliation with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Plastic Tide Turner Campaign allowed her to take her learnings to the next level and secure a ban on single-use plastics on her campus. The exposure would also help her revive a dead urban stream, choked with plastic. As a student of solid waste and freshwater management, she was well aware of how urban water bodies help regulate the microclimate and reduce heat and greenhouse gas entrapment in cities. She got volunteers to help her clear it while using her academic strengths to frame an ecological action plan to ensure longevity and enhanced environmental health of the stream. Her work supports SDG 12 by changing the trend of plastic consumption on campuses, and the Swachh Bharat Mission. Another heartening side-effect of her action – the turtles and Mugger crocodiles were back home too.

"I strongly believe that the planet isn’t in danger but we are, along with every other species. Change should happen now and at a very fast rate."
Sanju Soman Water Conservation
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How much can one person do to fight the effects of climate change?

Attendees at a climate conference were asked – “How much CO2 does burning one litre of petrol emit?” Sanju Soman, a psychology student, said 1.5 kg. It was close enough. As a well-meant gesture of acknowledging his awareness, Sanju was awarded a t-shirt. What really stuck with him though was the number, its effect amplified by the number of vehicles on our roads. Already a motivated environmentalist, Sanju would soon embark on an amazing journey of climate action. First, at 19, he co-founded Save a Rupee Spread a Smile (SARSAS), a volunteer-led NGO in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It made him realise the potential of youngsters in creating social change. Then he started SUSTERA and Bhava Social Ventures, both organizations working to mitigate the climate crisis. Over the years, Sanju has also helped climate entrepreneurs in Kerala to scale up their solutions.

With the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), he and his team got to join the participatory conservation of the Vembanad Lake ecosystem, one of the largest Ramsar sites in India. Recently, he also joined the World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE) to better understand climate governance in Kerala. In this, he has been working closely with several local government bodies to understand the best practices and issues associated with climate governance at the local level. While the pull of creating social impact through corporate sustainability jobs was strong, home and a desire to create something of his own and scale up impact had a stronger pull on him. Sanju’s work supports the SDG Goal 14 by conducting research to conserve coastal communities and ecosystems.

"We can plant a million trees but it would still be a garden - it takes ages to create natural biodiversity. Humans can’t replicate the support services that ecosystems provide, which is essential for the survival of our species, too. The sooner we act, the better."
Heeta Lakhani Environmental Education
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Going from feeling helpless about the climate crisis to leading the Green Warriors movement in India

Heeta Lakhani clearly remembers the day when she saw Mumbai’s palm trees being uprooted for a beautification project. She was just 13 but remembers wondering how one could beautify an area by removing the natural beauty from it. Her response to this at that time is probably what most of us would do even today – feel sad and helpless before returning to the status quo. Fifteen years after that incident, if you look at Heeta today, you’d realise that she is anything but helpless in working to alter the status quo as far as climate change is concerned. Attending the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris gave her a first-hand look at the highest levels of official global climate action. Her continued engagement with the global youth via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) made her realise the knowledge gap on climate science and international processes among Indian youth.

This led her to become a climate educator and develop the “Green Warriors” programme on climate education, which continues to grow till date. The latest recognition of her efforts comes from being one of the two elected Global Focal Points of YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of UNFCCC. A firm believer in the participation and power of youth in grassroots as well as international processes and policies, she eventually hopes to create change-makers who will take knowledge-based action in order to combat the climate crisis. Heeta’s work enables the future leaders of India to act on climate change today, fulfilling India’s National Curriculum Framework, which mandates environmental education for all schools, and SDG 13 by improving education, awareness, and capacity for climate mitigation.

"I work hard to reduce my waste and help others care more about the planet by making small changes in their lifestyle. I aim to keep working and expanding the impact of what one person can do."
Kriti Tula Sustainable lifestyles
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When going around in circles is a good thing

Most average closets are the perfect example of what we call ‘a problem of plenty’. However, this problem spills over beyond our wardrobes and closets in ways that the average consumer may not be aware of. Kriti Tula is not this average consumer, she is definitely not your average designer either. Using her sustainable and planet-friendly philosophy in fashion, she makes products from factory waste notably re-manufacturing post-production waste. This includes post-cutting waste, defective pieces and end of line fabric and dead stock. The big idea behind this is that re-manufacturing saves all the resources that would go into making virgin fabrics. Once these discards are sourced, the fabrics are fixed through patching and embroidering. It may seem like a small or even a needlessly tedious act but considering the enormous environmental costs of (mainly fast) fashion – from water guzzling cotton crops to unsustainable levels of clothes production – it can make a mighty difference.

As the Creative Director and co-founder of the fashion brand where she practices this, Doodlage, her larger goal is to create awareness around the need for alternate fashion economies. The fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 2-8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Kriti’s work addresses multiple sources of emissions by promoting circular economies, and educating consumers on more conscious buying. This economy isn’t merely one for her and her consumers. It includes the artisans who work for her as well as the ethical fair wage manufacturing units she associates with. She also makes it a point to work with organisations who are able to promote the training and skilling of more women artisans in the industry. Her work builds on the Indian traditions of reducing textile waste, and supports the Sustainable Development Goals 8 and 12. 

"Growing up my parents always told me that if I wanted to contribute back to society, I should enter policy making. These words stayed with me.. in college, I got the insight that most climate action or grass roots environmental and ecosystem restoration work is done by the adivasi and forest dwelling communities."
Archana Soreng Grassroots Climate Storytelling
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Carving out a space for indigenous voices in climate action

As a member of the Khadia tribe of Odisha, Archana has first-hand knowledge of the traditionally sustainable Adivasi practices that have enabled them to live in close harmony with nature. Unfortunately, she has also seen the slow destruction of this way of life that has made communities like hers extremely vulnerable. Today, as a Research Officer in the NGO, Vasundhara Odisha, she uses research, advocacy and community mobilisation to bring the indigenous perspective into climate action discourse. She has been documenting, preserving and promoting the traditional knowledge and practices of the Adivasi and forest dwelling communities in terms of community-led forest protection practices, forest-based livelihood and sustainable agricultural practices and lifestyle.

Archana makes it a point to let people know that despite these communities’ naturally climate positive lifestyle, they are among the most affected by the climate crisis. Archana is a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Climate Advisory Board where she amplifies and engages young people in transparent conversations about the climate emergency. Archana is also a part of various climate youth movement groups that advocate meaningful leadership of young people in climate action, especially from those who belong to indigenous and other marginalised communities.

"As a coastal village boy, I've always been affected by ocean and beach pollution, high mortality rates of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle and mangrove destruction which have resulted in the occurrence of consistent natural calamities. This made me feel more strongly about issues like environmental degradation, climate change and its impact on the marine ecosystem."
Soumya Ranjan Biswal Marine conservation
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Cleaning up everyone’s act for generations past, present and future

Soumya Ranjan Biswal’s village is located near the sea, one of the frontlines, so to speak, of India’s battle against climate change. The beaches near Soumya’s home have been a mass nesting site for the critical Olive Ridley Sea Turtles for a while. However, threatened by poachers, pollution and climate change, their habits were changing and their mortality rates had shot up. So, Soumya made it his mission to protect them. Joined by a friend, he even cycled his way into the record books trying to create greater awareness. To secure their habitat, he’s even conducted cleanliness drives to rid them of plastic waste.

Belonging to a coastal community, he understands the importance of mangroves both for fishing livelihoods and as a bulwark against the various cyclones that hit the state with regularity. He added their restoration and maintenance to his list of causes. His work supports SDG Goal 14 by protecting marine life and ecosystems. Soumya is passionate about conservation work that includes students and local communities. He also promotes sustainable forest protection programmes led by women. Only in his early twenties, he is already driven by a sense of climate justice for the welfare of the generations that will come after him.

"I believe that in order to support mitigation, adaptation and resilience to our changing world, it is important to leverage innovation and technology to help understand and manage climate risk. Startups will play a key role in developing these new technologies and solutions."
Neha Shivaji Naikwade Livelihoods and entrepreneurship
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Towards climate action with a little help from data

Neha’s path started with a job at a multinational firm where she learnt how to use data and technologies to drive decisions. In her spare time though, this Forest Range Officer’s daughter who had always lived a life close to nature, was busy with tree plantation, cleanliness or awareness drives. In 2019, the Amazon forest fires instigated a strong desire for action that led to her current role with the Climate Collective Foundation. Here she leads programmes for early-stage climate-tech entrepreneurs. While she did leave a high-paying job with a multinational firm, she still uses the skills acquired there. For instance, she built the Climate Data Program which aims to support startups tackling climate change with data technologies such as AI-ML, Big Data and Advanced Climate Modeling.

She works closely with Enterprise Support Organisations, Foundations and Government agencies to run programmes that support early-stage climate-tech startups with training and mentorship on business literacy, impact assessment, financial analysis, and product validation. By combining her love for data technologies and climate entrepreneurship, she has helped more than 100 climate-tech startups working across different domains. Her work supports the growing culture of green startups in India and the SDG Goal 9 by fostering innovative solutions to combat the climate crisis. With global initiatives like COP26, she hopes that more capital will be mobilised towards climate innovation. It is her belief that technology is our most reliable wildcard in effective climate action, and we must use it.

"I have seen the cost of human displacement first-hand for nearly a decade. Floods in Assam is a 70-year old problem that does not have a permanent solution till date. One of the ways to mitigate the impact is preparedness."
Siddhartha Sharma Financing and DRR
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When disaster strikes, he helps keep many heads above water

Floods affect Assam with regularity on a yearly basis. People die, animals get washed away, homes are damaged and crops get destroyed. While long-lasting solutions are still being debated, Siddhartha S. who has seen the human cost of this misery first-hand for nearly a decade now, decided to act. As a Sustainability and Climate Risk practitioner, he chose the path of preparedness to mitigate the impact of floods. He works with communities and public and private agencies to offer relief, support rehabilitation and capacity building through know-how on better preparedness after the monsoon season.

His work achieves the goals that the National Disaster Management Plan and SDG Goal 11 aim to achieve, by reducing the damage caused by disasters, particularly to vulnerable populations. He is the Founding Curator of the Global Shapers Guwahati Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. Over the last two years, he has directly worked with various communities providing them with relief and rehabilitation opportunities. Through his work he has engaged with nearly 10,000 flood affected individuals, many of whom are the most vulnerable sections of society.

"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. For the longest time, I have been motivated by this quote to do my part in combating the reality of climate change."
Medha Priya Green Infrastructure
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Towards a low-carbon economy, one building at a time

Medha became an architect to make resource efficient buildings that result in reduced emissions and have net-zero impact on the environment. After switching to sustainability consulting, she works as a Green Building Analyst. In this role, she facilitates building certifications (WELL, LEED, GRIHA, and IGBC) that prompt stakeholders to adopt greener construction practices. Her role directly tackles issues of climate change by enabling the reduction of greenhouse emissions from materials used as well as in the heating, cooling, and lighting of buildings. This is essential for a low-carbon economy since the construction sector accounts for approximately 40% of global GHG emissions.

Her work lies at the intersection of SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 3: Good health and Well-being, and contributes to the goals of our NDCs for emissions reduction. She collaborates with both private and public bodies. One of her current projects, Bureau of Energy Efficiency Programme for Net Zero Energy Buildings, is in collaboration with the Ministry of Power. Growing up in picturesque Shillong, she has watched the city change due to unregulated construction activities that encroached upon sensitive land, increased pollution and triggered unnatural patterns of monsoons. Having seen the cost of urban development, she believes it is paramount that we now shift towards environmentally conscious choices for a sustainable and climate-secure future.

"In this generation, humans and rivers are losing the connection between them. Children are unable to spend time with the river and due to the current situation nobody is able to make them aware of its importance."
Sarath K. R. Sustainability through ancestral practices
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The confluence of art, ecology and advocacy

Sarath is a folk arts enthusiast associated with the Vayali Folklore Group in Kerala. He grew up close to the Bharathapuzha River (also called Nila) and remembers a childhood immersed in the natural rhythms of the world. These included frequent visits to paddy fields, observing animals and birds and even indulging in a bit of fishing. Much later, visits to the Silent Valley National Park with his group and participation in various environmental programmes enabled him to look at rivers and nature as a complete ecosystem. From this point on, he quickly became a passionate campaigner for rivers, in particular the Nila. A stint as a volunteer in a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh opened his eyes to the power of youth involvement and advocacy.

This led him to start a youth group called AlterSchool with a focus on river and environmental causes. Not to leave the older generation behind, he also started the Friends of Bharathapuzha (FoB) group with India’s ‘Metro Man’, Dr. E. Sreedharan, as the chairman. However, Sarath’s biggest focus remains the sensitisation and education of youth in his village. His many projects lie at the intersection of SDG 15 and 13, for his protection of ecosystems, and how he has built awareness around climate action through cultural expression. While his work isn’t without its challenges, he refuses to be deterred. Instead, he is motivated more by a desire to create real, meaningful and long-term change.

"I have been in love with the environment since childhood. When I was young, I expressed my care by planting trees in my home garden. But when I grew up, I knew this alone would not do. My love for the environment would not be enough and I had to do something about it."
Varsha Raikwar Grassroots climate storytelling
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Bringing the voices of climate action to far-flung corners of India

The Bundelkhand region, occupying parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is primarily an agrarian economy. However, droughts and the collapse of traditional water harvesting systems have put agriculture under stress. Despite the presence of rivers, this region has a serious water deficit. These problems have also resulted in distress migration. In such a place, community radio is a powerful tool for disseminating information and increasing awareness. Varsha, a radio reporter for Radio Bundelkhand 90.4 FM, has always been a nature lover. Some time back she realised that she had to act more. In community radio, she quickly realised the power of her platform. Her voice would directly reach the masses most affected by climate crises.

She decided to use her voice to talk about climate change. She engaged her listeners by sharing information and seeking their views. For a better connection, folk songs were also used to spread information. Most importantly, she did not seek to preach. Through her programmes, she conveyed practical steps and solutions too – a big role of community radio stations. By using real success stories, she was able to tell people about climate change in their own language. In addition to these, she has also helped steer conversation toward sustainable livelihood opportunities and women empowerment. By using innovative and homegrown ways to communicate about the urgency of climate change, she is working towards SDG 13.

"I am a passionate believer of the fact that business as usual would lead to catastrophic outcomes in the future."
Ganesh Kumar Subramanian Waste management
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A self-taught programmer switches lane to find smart waste solutions

Ganesh is a Mechatronics Engineer who loves to code. Not entirely satisfied with his job at one of India’s largest IT firms, he started seeking ways to create a larger societal impact. At this point, he met Siddharth Hande of Kabadiwalla Connect, a start-up that offered decentralised waste management solutions and technology for cities in the developing world — powered by the informal sector. Ganesh joined him as a developer but soon found himself organically involved in operations too. He did not have to let go of his tech skills in this journey, he just got to use them differently.

For instance, he worked on Internet-of-Things enabled smart bins, Urbins, that sought to provide waste pickers safer access to segregated waste at source. Ganesh was elated when he was told by one of the waste pickers who benefited from their project that he no longer had to pick up waste from street bins and dumps. It was exactly the sort of small yet meaningful impact that he always wanted to create. Today, he continues to look for more ways to engage in social entrepreneurship, operations management, product management, supply-chain management, technology and product development, informality and the circular economy.

"...I cannot wait and watch. I wanted to do my bit to help make a difference. I want all of us to do our bit, in our daily life, to help bring about a positive impact on our environment."
Aditya Mukarji Waste management
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Teenager on a crusade to save the planet

It’s like in the movies. The world is in threat and intrepid teens are planning a rescue. In this case, it is eighteen-year old Aditya Mukarji. His work has already been noticed around the globe. He has participated in discussions organised by bodies like the UN and CII-FICCI, worked with both public and private entities, interned with the UNDP, attended the UN Youth Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York and has now been selected to represent India at the ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition’ event in Milan, Italy. Aditya’s journey in conservation started with a passionate battle against plastic pollution. Encouraged by his mentor, Bharati Chaturvedi of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, he started a campaign to have restaurants in Delhi’s Khan Market give up plastic straws.

He helped connect businesses with suppliers of eco-friendly alternatives and bridged the information gap between them. Aditya is driven by a simple philosophy – if you cannot re-use it, refuse it. He strongly believes in individual social responsibility which is why he spends a lot of time inspiring his peers to join him through awareness drives and competitions. He belongs to a generation that is most anxious about the world they’re going to inherit. He knows that a lot more work needs to be done and he has no intention of stopping. His work supports Sustainable Development Goal 12, and gives us a head start on the ban on single use plastics that will begin in July 2022 across the country.

"We should see the potential and take people out of poverty. Create a life where their conditions are improved and give them an alternative on which they can rely. Empower them in a way where they can also achieve things on their own and not rely on us or others and have that confidence to do and achieve things on their own."
Nidhi Pant Innovation and renewable energy
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Driven by empathy, she uses technology to uplift farmers

The agricultural sector faces a variety of difficulties ranging from access to markets to the stubborn prevalence of wastage in the entire agri-food supply chain. The hardest hit are often smallholder farmers. They are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Spurred on by first-hand experience of these problems, Nidhi searched for tech-based design solutions to these two problems, starting in college at the young age of 19. Today, as a trained chemical engineer, she uses her learnings – both old and new – to tackle more challenges. She is Co-Founder of ‘Science For Society – S4S Technologies’ – a company that focuses on decentralised agri-processing i.e. post-harvest management at the farmgate. Nidhi is working to increase India’s renewable energy share, which is one of our climate commitments, and contributes towards SDG 2: Zero Hunger.

Recently, her company won acclaim for work that turned farm waste into value-added products using sustainable solar-powered technology. Through S4S, she has been pioneering and empowering women farmers in particular. They train landless women and other farmers to become micro-entrepreneurs by exposing them to technology, finance, and markets. She has already won a clutch of awards for her work. These include the Women Transforming India Awards, Unilever Young Entrepreneur Award 2019, and the ‘Emerging Innovator of the Year’ at the Economic Times Women Leadership Awards. In 2019, she was also included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list.

"We need to create opportunities for livelihood while treading lightly on the environment around us. This problem requires immediate attention as it impacts the lives and livelihoods of people. The causes of women empowerment, revival of crafts and maintaining a low carbon footprint are what I address through my work."
Vasanthi Veluri Sustainability through indigenous practices
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Fashioning a sustainable future through traditional and cultural knowledge

Vasanthi Veluri is the co-founder of Peoli, a sustainable fashion brand that focuses on sourcing organic raw materials, honouring indigenous skills and creating livelihood for the women of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. A winner of several awards, Vasanthi uses handspun indigenous wool and locally sourced dyestuffs processed using renewable energy to design handcrafted garments. She believes that an alternative model of responsible fashion is possible through design, craft and mindful production practices. Peoli’s handcrafted knitwear with minimal carbon footprint is a testament to this belief. Vasanthi decided to start from the primary sources of pollution caused by the energy and material use of traditional garment manufacturing methods, and to find a solution. Working with garment workers in Uttarakhand led her to an increased awareness of other related issues: forced economic migration, and a lack of women’s empowerment exacerbated by climate change.

Vasanthi seeks to address all of these in her work with local women. Her work falls directly within SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production. Peoli’s products have found their way into the homes of craft connoisseurs across the globe. Peoli has also been awarded with Word Craft Council Award for Excellence in Handicraft (2018), the Lexus Design Award for Textile Design (2020); the Sambhaava award for Women’s Empowerment (2019) by FICCI FLO and more recently India’s Best Design Award in Oct 2020. Peoli is also certified by AIACA’s CraftMark, a symbol of quality and craft for hand-made products in India. While this recognition is heartening, Vasanthi considers every artisan she interacts with who chooses to stay back and work with their community rather than migrating to cities, to be the truest indicator of her success.

"Besides air pollution as the after effect that every media channel talks about, stubble burning leads to another grave consequence - it destroys the quality of the top soil. Subsequent lower productivity pushes farmers into a vicious debt cycle. This experience made me want to work in the field of addressing climate change through air pollution."
Shriti Pandey Green Infrastructure
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Making the structural changes needed for a circular economy

Shriti is the founder of Strawcture Eco, the first company in India to make a 100% green building materials using compressed agri-fiber panels. Her work is of particular importance given that the construction industry is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, particularly in a country like India, where emissions from the construction industry are likely to grow along with urbanisation rates. The most visible impact of her venture is the reduced rate of stubble burning among farming communities in North India. Strawcture Eco has achieved this by converting straw/stubble into AgriBioPanels that they then supply to hospitals, offices and schools around the country.

In the last 3 years, they have stopped 600 metric tonnes of straw from being burnt and sequestered 500 metric tonnes of C02. Shriti’s work strengthens SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, SGD 12: Responsible consumption and production and SDG 13: Climate action. While she has successfully shown how a green building material can be mainstreamed, her next challenge is to find an effective manufacturing process which can be replicated across the country. With a slew of awards to her name, inclusion in inspiring lists such as the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 (Asia) and her training in construction management, she is geared up to strengthen the push towards a circular economy.

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