The Sustainability Journey

Simran and Shreya, creators of The Sustainability Journey, collaborated with us last year for a fun (and education) filled event! Our students learned about sustainability and waste management, taught using some interactive online exercises. Their cause is one that the Pune Learns team wholeheartedly believes in, and we wanted our blog readers to get a glimpse of it. Read on for a primer on how to dive into sustainability!

Sustainability. A word that gets used extensively, over a wide range of subjects. In an environmental context, we’ve been taught that it means meeting our needs in a way that will not compromise the ability of future generations to do the same. While the definition itself is correct, sustainability is a lot more than that. It’s a way of life. Every single action or task that we undertake every single day — be it taking a shower or planning a friend’s birthday party- has an environmental impact, usually a negative one. There is, however, a way to minimise that impact and the first step is being aware of it. Spreading awareness about our impact on the environment is one of the primary reasons we took up this initiative.

Although only one of us comes from an environmentally conscious family background, we have both become increasingly aware of our ecological footprint. The more we interacted with people around us, the more we realised that although a lot of people were interested in making changes in favour of the environment, not everyone knew how to go about it. While we are by no means living a perfectly sustainable life, we are making small changes, and thought we’d share those with everyone interested.

To start off, let’s consider one of the most ubiquitous materials of our time- plastic. Take a look around you. You’ll quickly observe that most of the things in your surroundings are made at least partly out of plastic. According to a study by NatGeo, a staggering 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced till date, of which 6.3 billion tons have become plastic waste. And out of that, only 9% is recycled. A lot of the plastic that isn’t dumped in the landfill is found as litter, which ultimately makes its way to the ocean. And this is just plastic, there are several other non-compostables that we use on a daily basis. Scary, isn’t it? This is also why a conversation around sustainability is so important. It’s not that we’re telling you to cut these materials out of your life entirely, but we’re requesting you to look at alternatives wherever possible.

So then, you ask, how do you make people aware of the problem? One of the most effective ways is also one of the easiest — conversation! Casual conversations often help the exchange and spread of ideas. Have an idea for an easy sustainability switch? Bring it up in conversation! Read an interesting article? Discuss it with peers! Not only are you helping spread awareness, chances are people might also take inspiration and start their move to the green side! Using social media to share related news or new ideas — essentially what we do — is another way to put sustainability on people’s radars.

Another key player in spreading awareness about sustainability is education. We’ve learnt the barebones basics of sustainability in school, but it would be understood as much more than a definition if students were able to relate to the discussion. Using visual aides in the classroom — like plants for example, or candy wrappers, plastic bags, etc. — would be one way to establish that connection. Including activities or games also helps engage younger audiences, something we found very helpful in the Pune Learns session on which we collaborated last year. We discussed waste segregation into dry and wet categories, a practice that is followed widely in Pune, but one that is still a source of confusion for many. We ended the session with having the kids collect one article belonging to each category and showing them to us, which we believe further improved their understanding of the session.

The shift to online learning during the pandemic led us to dig up new ways to engage our audiences. It is much harder to keep your audience interested in online meetings than in person, so during the Pune Learns session we interspersed content/ informative slides with activities and games to encourage participation. While we’re on the subject of challenges, we’ve come to realize that encouraging others to go on sustainability journeys of their own is a tough ask. One of the major obstacles to spreading environmentally friendly ideas is resistance from adults — often they either genuinely don’t comprehend the gravity of the problem or are at a stage where behavioral changes are near impossible. Experience has taught us that children pick up concepts very quickly, typically much faster than adults, and are much more accepting of change.

If seeds of environmentally friendly behavior are sown early, they will flower into responsible adults, something which the world desperately needs. Through our initiative, we are aiming to do just that, and we encourage our audience to take the first step towards sustainability by simply becoming aware of their environmental impact. Talk to your peers about it, educate children about it, and join us on this sustainability journey!

– By Simran Melvani and Shreya Chandrashekhar

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