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Sanju Soman

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.