Spotlight Series: Abhiir Bhalla, Youth Environmentalist & Sustainability Consultant

We caught up with Abhiir about his journey so far as a Youth Environmentalist. Named by the BBC as The Indian Teenager Fighting Global Air Pollution, he has a wealth of experience already in bringing about policy change and grass-root action.

Early beginnings 

I once thought the environment was boring. In primary school, we used to attend Environmental Awareness Classes on a biweekly basis, in which I would find absentmindedly scribbling or doodling, scarcely paying attention. 11 years later, today, I’ve completed 8 years as a youth environmentalist and have worked with prominent organisations both in India and internationally. 

So, what changed? Amusing as it may sound to hear a 19-year-old say this – it has not been an easy journey. If anything, my age is responsible for making the path traversed even more difficult. This is the story of my growth from being the stereotypical bored, ignorant, environmental-averse child, to being the founder and coordinator of an environmental campaign that’s been running successfully for the past 4 years.  

My journey began in middle school – thanks to my mother and grandmother, who coerced me into taking part in activities in school and to join a few clubs and societies. I became a member of the ‘Paryavaran Club’ (Environmental Initiatives Club) in my school and began attending weekly meetings. At the meetings however, I found myself bored and I began to think that the club was all talk and no work. But I was wrong; work used to happen, only that juniors weren’t involved in it – we were too scared to participate in an activity dominated by high school seniors. As a result of our lack of participation, we weren’t entrusted with work – it became rather cyclical. 

Medicines and nebulisers

Simultaneously, in Grade 7, I was diagnosed with a type of bronchitis. While it isn’t life threatening, every year since I can remember, I have had to use nebulisers between October and January. Unsurprisingly, this is also when Delhi’s air pollution peaks. As it happened, the next meeting of the club happened to be on air pollution – the rest is history. From then on, I rose through the ranks and became an active voice, participating in intra- and inter school activities and projects. In high school, I was elected to the Student Council to lead Environmental Initiatives in my school.  

These two years were crucial in my development – I learnt skills, expanded my network and began to train my juniors to ensure that the work didn’t stop even after I graduated. Working on audits with the Centre for Science and Environment India for 5 years, I learnt how I could make my school campus more environment friendly and sustainable. 

In my final year of high school, after 4 years of persuasion by students, the school decided to install solar panels – nearly the entire campus is now powered by renewable energy!

My experiences 

I’ve attended several conferences on climate change, and in some, I even participated as a panelist. In 2016, I underwent a 2-month long ‘Care for Air’ Student Ambassador training to spread awareness regarding air pollution and affect change. In 2018, World Environment Day was hosted by India and I participated in a 3-day long conference hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, where I also appeared on a panel with the then-UNEP Director, Erik Solheim. 

While air pollution was my personally driven area of work, I was equally interested in other aspects such as waste segregation, renewable energy and sustainability. Over the years, I have also worked with the World Wildlife Foundation, Kids for Tigers and Sanctuary Asia on wildlife conservation, and was awarded the prestigious Token of Appreciation by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India.   

My biggest project, ‘Swachh Chetna’ – a collaboration between the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation and public, private and NGO schools – was focused around cleanliness, plantation and awareness drives. 

Leading over 300 volunteers in over 3 years, we cleaned areas around metro stations across the city and carried out awareness campaigns through street plays and flash mobs. We planted over 200 saplings at Metro officers’ residential colonies and outside metro stations in a bid towards mitigating air pollution. 

Not all fun and games 

None of this was as easy as it sounds. Age bias plays a crucial factor. Most people reading this, even now, would think “what does a young boy know about the challenges of the world?” Yet, to establish a multi-entity corporation between a State-Central shared Government organisation, like the Delhi Metro and to sign a Memorandum of Association with various schools is particularly challenging, especially for a 17-year-old. 

All of this was done whilst juggling school classes and assignments. In fact, I was so invested in my activism, there was a marked dip in my academic performance between 8th and 10th grade! I was able to overcome this with time – a lot of credit for which goes to my 10th Grade class teacher, who didn’t allow me to miss classes for environment work as my other teachers used to. He taught me how to manage my time and made me understand that no matter how passionate you may be about a cause; it can’t come at the cost of education. 

Environmental activities weren’t particularly helpful for my social life either. What’s more important to a teenager? Even some of my closest friends were very amused by this aspect of my life. 

My enthusiasm for environmental conservation was degraded and compared to that of a glorified school gardener, “there goes Bhalla to straighten every blade of grass in the football field”

For many years, I heard comments like this, but if anything, it only strengthened my resolve to make my mark in the world of environmental conservation. 

Looking Ahead 

Today, as I’m about to enter into my second year of university, a lot has changed, but there’s a lot that hasn’t changed. Year after year, I see and even participate in similar televised debates during October-January regarding air pollution. It’s the same political blame game, the same inaction and unfortunately, the same 2 million deaths every year due to the snail slow action (or perhaps even inaction) on air pollution in India. 

Motivated by international figures like Greta Thunberg, many more young people have begun to take up the cause. The sad part is, many of them are doing it only for their college resumes. For 2-3 years they’ll plant a tree here and there, speak a few words, take a picture and then disappear – a new way the environment is being exploited. Nevertheless, there’s also many people out there who are working day after day to bring about real change. 

My latest project is to carry the Swachh Chetna model forward, and I’ve proposed it to several corporate giants and multinational companies, all of which have expressed a keen interest in it. With new research proving that environmental degradation has played a large part in the emergence of the current COVID crisis, we must strengthen our determination to carry forward our work. 

My own plans for cleanliness and awareness drives have come to a screeching halt but I’m turning to the internet like many others – environment discussion related Zoom calls, webinars and outreach to maximise awareness and outreach.

At Care for Air, I lead a team of over 20 people with the aim of combating air pollution in India. We focus on the problems, the causes and the solutions. While we have multiple projects, our primary one currently is to conduct awareness sessions on air pollution with schools, colleges, Residents’ Associations and retirement homes. So far, we’ve positively influenced over 400 individuals and reached organisations spanning across India, emphasising and building awareness around the air pollution problem. 

It is time the world knew that the human race has turned our own planet against us. Having worked with national and international organisations, I’m looking to continue to work with like-minded individuals – professors, students, businesses – no matter the industry, provided they’re looking to work collectively to secure a better future for all of us.

Noteworthy Moments

I’ve been fortunate to have had my work covered by the media, and links for the same can be accessed via this link, which grants you access to all my print and TV media features, my articles and even my resume. 

Most recently, I was one among five international youth environmentalists from around the world, representing India on BBC World News in conversation with Mr. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. BBC further identified me as one of the foremost youth environmentalists, and their posts on their website identified me as ‘The Indian Teenager Fighting Global Air Pollution’. 

I’m currently producing a podcast on Climate Change for the Ramphal Institute, a UK-based think tank which is quite popular in academic and diplomatic circles amongst Commonwealth nations. As part of this partnership, I was invited by the UK Government and the Ramphal Institute to be a panelist on a conversation around ‘Air Pollution in the Commonwealth‘.

Find out more about Abhiir here:

BBC World News:

Air Pollution in the Commonwealth:

Head – Operations and Community Engagement, Care for Air India

President – Executive Council at Youth Connect

Podcast Producer – The Ramphal Institute

Undergraduate Class of 2022 | Ashoka University |

Connect with Abhiir on LinkedIn: 

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Climate Change Activist, Ridhima Pandey

We caught up with 13-year old Climate Activist & TEDx Speaker, Ridhima, featured in BBC’s 100 most empowering and influencing women’s list 2020 and member of youth advisory council for COP26

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

The 2013 Kedarnath flash flood made me take action. In 2013 when I was 5 years old, a very devastating flash flood occurred in my home state Uttarakhand. Many houses and agricultural land were destroyed. Thousands of people died and many children lost their parents. I saw all this destruction on television and in the newspaper. My dad also went there to rescue animals. 

After asking my parents about how the flash flood occurred, thundering, cloudburst and flash floods became one of my biggest fears. I used to get nightmares that I died in a flash flood or I lost my parents due to a cloudburst so I was scared of rain – I was traumatized and terrified. That flash flood had a very bad impact on me mentally and after speaking to my parents about the reason behind this flash flood, I came to know about climate change. 

I was confused about how our human emissions change the temperature of such a big planet like Earth. I learnt that not only flash floods but many natural disasters are occurring because of it and as the global temperature is rising, natural disasters are getting more frequent and much more destructive. This made me take action for myself and for the coming generations. 

How do you balance activism and your studies?

It was a little difficult in the beginning as I used to travel a lot due to my activism and awareness program and had school at the same time so I had to take a lot of time off, my work used to be incomplete, my notebooks were empty, I didn’t understand any thing and as I didn’t do my work, my teachers consequently didn’t grade me. 

I used to study the whole night before my exams in order to learn everything. It was pretty hectic but with time I got used to it and now I manage my study pretty well compared to when I just started in my activism. 

Born in Haridwar and being South Asian, did you face any backlash about this choice of activism from family, friends or society at large? Particularly as you’re still in education – how did you overcome it?

I never faced any backlash from my family or my parents but did face trolls and unpleasant comments from society. People used to say that it’s a good thing that you are doing, but instead you should study and focus on your career. Some used to say that it’s useless and what you are doing is for fame and money. Many people used to comment on social media that we are anti-nationalist, we don’t want our country to develop, our parents are using us or someone else is using us for money and what not. 

I used to get a little angry and frustrated in the beginning, but

my mom used to tell me not to see how many people are discouraging you, instead see how many people want you to continue; how many people you inspire.

Now I don’t really care what other people say about me – it doesn’t bother me anymore!

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

I try to live a sustainable life – I save electricity, water and food. I do plantations, I try to reuse and recycle my things and most importantly I’ve reduced my consumption of fast food and things that come in single use plastic and instead I used biodegradable, eco-friendly products. I carry my own cloth bag when I go shopping. I try to reduce my carbon footprint as much as I can.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis among South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how do you go about solving the issues?

Yes I do feel that people in South Asia do not take climate change seriously. Most of them don’t even know what climate change is and if they do know, they don’t know what to do about it.

I feel like everyone thinks that it doesn’t affect them or if it does then government money can resolve it. 

Most people in the front line are being affected by climate change the most, but they don’t really know what to do and they also aren’t aware that all these things are happening because of climate change. I try to educate my community and especially children about climate change: how it’s affecting them, why the global temperature is increasing, how bad it can be, what their rights are, how they can protect themselves and what steps they can take to reduce their carbon footprint or to contribute to this fight. I also run different campaigns on different issues in India such as on air pollution and saving the Ganga river.

What have been your greatest successes and learnings so far?

I guess everything that I have done to bring change is a success to me. But being a TEDx speaker, being on the COP26 youth advisory board and being mentioned in BBC’S 100 most influential and empowering women’s list are the best successes I have ever had.

I have learnt a lot throughout my journey so far, but a key learning is to never give up on your dreams and never think that you are alone.

You work constantly with younger people, facilitating workshops across the world – what key advice do you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? Why is it important for them and their future?

When I create and run workshops, I try to be as open and interactive as possible, because I feel until and unless the kids are having fun they won’t learn and understand me. I try to give them real life examples rather than telling them some data as they can find that information anywhere, but they can’t find out about the reality on the ground, unless someone who has seen it tells them about it or they see it themselves. 

I try to make them realise the importance of the environment in our life and why it is important for them to work for environmental conservation. I try to make them understand that our future depends on the decisions that are taken today by policy makers and since money and development are the main focus areas for most policy makers; we have to make sure that they also consider the environment as a priority, because only then our future will become a priority too. 

You mentioned how some young people ‘jump onto the hype’ of being environmental activists. In your opinion, is this wrong or just the first step towards greater action?

It’s not wrong but it’s not justifiable because a lot of the youth here think that being an activist is a fun thing. They never realise the importance and responsibility that comes with being an activist; instead they think that being an activist will make them famous(!)

If you are an activist then you have to work and act like one!

Why is community, grass-root level activism and action so important?

I feel it’s very important because the indigenous communities, the local communities and the communities on the front line are the one most attracted to the cause. Since they are most affected, it’s very important for us to show everyone how their excessive luxuries, greed and emissions are affecting those people. 

Showing everyone what is happening at a grass root level is also very important, as most of the time we see our government reports and they say that they have done a lot, but in reality things are much worse and until and unless we show everyone what is actually happening, no one will know about it. 

Connect with Ridhima on Instagram

Find out more about Ridhima here and here

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Environmental Charity Partnerships Manager, Poonam Gill

We caught up with Poonam about her insights working in the environmental charity sector, as WWF’s Corporate Partnerships Manager

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

My ethnic background is Indian, my family are from the Punjab. I also identify as a British Indian woman. I’ve always had an interest in social and environmental justice so studied Geography undergrad and a Masters in Sustainability. I now work in corporate partnerships for one of the largest global environmental charities.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

We used to go on family holidays to India every few years and as I grew older I started to recognise the impact my life has compared to that of my cousins living in the village. It inspired me to learn more about sustainability, and understand the relationship between different cultures and lifestyles and how they regard the natural environment.

Can you tell me about your current role? How did you get into the charity sector?

I work in corporate partnerships for one of the largest environmental charities, working with businesses to reduce their environmental footprint and engage with their supply chains, employees and customers on sustainability initiatives. This is the first green charity I have worked for, as I was applying for lots of roles after taking a career break to do some solo travelling, and was lucky enough to land the job!

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

My biggest success – landing the jobs that I have had so far! After I graduated, I found it difficult to get a job in sustainability and at the level for my qualifications. But it has been a great learning opportunity and each role helped me develop skills and confidence to succeed in the workplace. I especially appreciate all the friends, colleagues and mentors that help broaden my worldview, provide support and encouragement, and those who accompany you to the pub after a challenging day at work!

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for choosing to take a niche/unfamiliar career path? Has it been challenging?

My parents still don’t fully understand what I do, and worry that working in the green sector I will not be as financially comfortable as my siblings, who work in the legal and pharma sectors. They tried to encourage me to take a more traditional professional route, but being 2 of 4 children, I was able to persuade them that this would be a good and fulfilling career path.

It’s been so great to build a network of fellow South Asian environmentalists, who have a similar story. The challenging part is being a minority in the sector, but this is slowly improving.

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

I have – I now eat mainly a vegetarian diet and make conscious food choices as the global food system has the biggest impact on climate change and biodiversity loss. I also try not to waste where I can – whether that be food, energy, resources and buy environmentally conscious or second hand clothing and products.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I think the culture of consumerism has a big impact on understanding the climate crisis. Having easy access to anything you could want at affordable prices by a click of a button is still novel, and not many people will understand the multitude of impacts. I think it’s up to businesses to be more responsible so they can help to influence everyday life choices. 

Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?

If you eat meat, try to cut that down to 2/3 meals a week choosing good quality options – share veggie and vegan options with family and friends. Buy second hand when you can – it means they come preloved. Don’t waste energy – turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Make gifts instead of buying them, and ask your workplace what they are doing to be a sustainable organisation. Sustainability is accessible to everyone – you just need to know where to look for information and support. 

You touched on representation and developing a POC (people of colour) network group with other charities. Can you tell me more about this and why it’s particularly important for there to be more representation in the environmental industry?

The environmental crisis affects everyone on a local and global level, which means all voices need to be heard.

It’s hard to engage with issues when you don’t see yourself reflected, and having diverse thoughts and perspectives, particularly in the charity sector which has a history of paternalism, is so important in taking the movement forward.

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?

Keep fighting. No matter what age you are, you can be an activist. Also the importance of self-care when learning/working on these issues, as they can weigh down. Lastly, your voice matters and is your power!

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?

Recently, it has been the lack of response to racism. It really made me aware of power and privilege, and how it shows up in your life. More than that, it was just deeply saddening to see the effect it had on my friends, family, colleagues and community. 

Connect with Poonam on Instagram and LinkedIn

Spotlight Series: Deep Dive with Sustainability Sisters Jaanvi & Paavani

In discussion with creators of the Eco-Rakhi and WWF’s named Solution Seekers, Jaanvi and Paavani on sustainable lifestyle choices and more

What are your ethnic and professional backgrounds?

We are both British Indians. Our roots lie in Gujarat but our parents were born in East Africa and then moved to the UK over 50 years ago. We both work in healthcare, one of us is in primary care and the other is in secondary care.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

The short answer is our love for nature. But that’s not all. In recent years, there’s been an alarming number of threats to the planet, animals and people – and we have become more aware of the solutions needed to prevent these threats. Without the love and understanding for nature, we wouldn’t have this drive to want to change for the better, and inspire others to do the same. Of course, individual change is great, however, a ripple effect involving millions of people is what is necessary to give our future a different and more hopeful trajectory. Our aim is to create some sort of ripple effect, however small. Even if it’s a few people that will make conscious decisions moving forward. This is enough for us.

The longer answer is a little bit more deep-rooted; and goes back to us growing up. We were taught about nature and shown documentaries specifically by our idol, Sir David Attenborough. Like most people who watch his documentaries, we were inspired and fell in love with our natural world. However, over the last few years we’ve been informed about, and have seen first-hand some of the impacts of climate change, deforestation and plastic pollution. We snorkelled in a place that was once brimming with colourful life, and returned back and saw what seemed like a graveyard filled with coral skeletons. That was one of our triggers – seeing the reality of our human impact. It caused a whole array of emotions too like overwhelm, guilt, hopelessness and so on – and that’s when we decided we need to act!

Looking back at our childhood, we wish we were made aware about the environmental issues that concern people and the planet. If there was more of a focus on that whilst we were growing up, we wouldn’t have made half the choices we did, we would’ve made more conscious and sustainable decisions instead.

This led to the birth of our platform, and the drive to educate and inspire others to help protect the planet, and all its inhabitants. This is with why we decided to contact schools to do sustainability and environmentally-centered talks. We feel that if children are taught certain things from a young age, they will use that as a foundation to make conscious decisions as they grow too. By educating the minds of the younger generation, we trust and hope that this knowledge will spread within their own households, and spark the much-needed change, even further.

The Instagram account came about because we wanted a platform for children, parents and teachers to refer back to for educational resources. However, due to COVID-19 we haven’t been able to speak at schools in person. Therefore, we have used our platform to raise awareness and share sustainability tips such as DIY alternatives, the impact of certain traditions on the environment and sustainable swaps. Recently we have started virtual school talks which we hope to continue going forward into 2021.

In addition, recently one if us decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Not only did this change my diet, but it made me think way beyond just food, it made me think about the whole supply chain of any product – and the impact that it has on the planet, animals and people.


The spark of this journey began three years ago. A friend recommended watching Okja; a film essentially about a young girl fighting to stop her best friend, Okja, from being slaughtered. Until this point, I wasn’t vegetarian, but one specific scene was all it took to flick the switch for me – when the girl’s grandfather labelled meat cuts on an illustration of Okja. Now, I have a cat who is also my best friend, my favourite being and I couldn’t help but see myself as the little girl in the film, watching her care for this animal. This film made one thing quite clear, Okja, whether it’s a pig, a cat or any other animal, should be just as important, as my cat is to me. How could I love one, but eat the other? It just didn’t seem quite right.

From that point onwards, eating meat was history, and I naturally became more conscious about any issue concerning animal welfare. I became vegetarian overnight, but the more I read about animal exploitation and the unnecessary animal by-products added to food, toiletries and cosmetics, I wanted to change. There was this realisation that animals are here with us, not for us. For me, Okja was THE moment that has honestly shaped my entire life – without that film, without making that connection, there would have been no realisation, no awakening – veganism really was the starting point of all of this, and as a result made me more interested in environmental issues and sustainability – because they’re so inherently interconnected.

Why do you spend your free time on environmental activism?

For hope. Hope for things to get better. There’s a wonderful quote that we want to add from Xiye Bastida – a 18 year-old Mexican-Chilean Climate Justice Activist– ‘The only way to deal with the world’s inaction is to act, because acting gives us hope.’

What have been your biggest successes to date?

Our biggest successes in the sustainability space to date include raising awareness about traditions that are unsustainable, and attempting to make a sustainable solution – our Eco Rakhi. We somehow managed to gain recognition by the well-known conservation organisation WWF (UK) and have also been featured on BBC News and BBC Radio because of it, something so far beyond our wildest dreams!

The positive feedback we’ve had from the Eco Rakhi has given us hope that people are willing to adapt to change and make their traditions and parts of their lifestyles more sustainable.

People have also wanted to learn more about the environmental impact other traditions and cultural celebrations have including Bonfire Night, Diwali and Christmas – it has enabled our followers on Instagram and those that have heard about the Eco Rakhi to explore their own traditions, assess and explore how they can be celebrated more sustainably. That’s a huge success for us!

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for choosing to take a stand on climate change? Has it been challenging to navigate through?

Not at all! We think if we had taken this stance 10 years ago when studying for A-levels, then yes, there most likely would have been backlash. However, as two individuals that have finished their qualifications, there’s no reason for friends and family to have an issue with what we decide to do in our spare time (not that they should have an issue with it anyway – but that’s a whole other topic!) However, we do secretly wish we were inspired to act earlier on in life, as a career in ‘healthcare’ wouldn’t have been our first choice, something like Environmental Science or Natural Sciences would have been. So, no we don’t feel there has been any backlash at all – everyone has been extremely supportive!

In terms of challenges, there are always going to be some when it comes to inspiring change! We have found that most of our family and friends do understand the impact of climate change, and act on it after they watch specific documentaries we’ve suggested. But from the conversations that follow, it’s evident that some are a little reluctant to act, because the impacts don’t visibly or directly affect them (yet). The challenge we have here is trying to make people see the whole picture and understand that the natural world is so inherently interconnected, and how our actions and choices have the power to make a difference – for the better. Real change takes all of us, and everyone’s efforts are needed.

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly?

This is an answer we will try to keep quite summarised! Lifestyle, diet, consumer habits, having open conversations with people, energy saving, cleaning products, transportation, talking in public, up-cycling, using sustainable alternatives and reducing our plastic usage are just some of the things we’ve been working on! We’ve changed aspects of our lives ranging from the simple, unsubscribing of emails to more complex issues like completely changing our diets and the products we buy.

We have made many sustainable swaps this year such as only using shampoo bars, soaps, face scrub and facewash – eliminating the need for plastic. We’ve almost ditched the plastic bottle, just a few old purchases to use up before we become completely plastic-free in the bathroom. However, we’d still be open to testing and trying different sustainable, ethical and organic toiletries, in the hope to find an alternative which works best for us.

We used to love shopping on ASOS but we can’t remember the last time we made a “fast fashion” purchase! Since reading and learning about the textile and fast fashion industry, and following activists like Orsola de Castro, Aja Barber and Venetia La Manna, we’ve understood the importance of opting to buy second-hand, or from ethical, sustainable and fair fashion brands.

Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve not yet bought a single item of clothing for ourselves. We seem to have far more clothes than we need – and will only be buying once those items break, or are unable to be repaired.

Luckily, we are both similar dress sizes so we share a lot of our clothes which is great but more recently, we have had no shame in re-wearing our outfits and normalising that fact that re-wearing our old clothes is not something to be embarrassed about. We also borrow some of our clothes from friends and family too, we did this last year with some dresses when the pandemic wasn’t governing our lives and we were able to go to a bar for a social drink!

We both have reusable bottles for water and our tea/coffee when we’re travelling or going to work, one of us actually uses an upcycled mayonnaise jar as a cup at work, because it’s made of glass and doesn’t leak! It’s also a great topic of conversation as people are always intrigued as to why someone wouldn’t just buy another travel cup instead(?)! We use glass containers for storing our food, and we proudly take these to restaurants if we go out to eat, in case there are any leftovers. Although restaurants provide containers for you to take your leftovers home in, majority of the time these containers are made of plastic – it’s just another way for us to reduce the amount of plastic we’re allowing into our lives.

We’ve recently bought a sewing machine to repair our clothes or even make some upcycled items, so we can continue using garments for longer, we still have a long way to go with learning this skill, but it’s definitely something we’re trying to put more energy towards.

Even switching bank accounts to more environmentally conscious and ethical companies is something we’re in the process of doing – this is because the banking sector is massively responsible for funding the use of fossil fuels – which is something we desperately need to move away from! We could go on and on and there are so many other aspects that we’ve changed in our lives, the majority can be found on our Instagram feed and highlights, and we still have loads more to come! So please take a look @sustainability.sisterss!

Being carbon conscious on a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?

Being sustainable can be accessible to everyone, but it also depends on your personal circumstances. We see it as a type of venn diagram. ‘Sustainable for you’ in the left circle, ‘Sustainable for Earth’ in the right circle, and ‘sweet spot’ where both the circles intersect. Everyone’s diagrams will look a little different, some with more focus on the left, and some with more focus on the right – and that’s okay!

We’re all at different stages of our sustainability journey. Everyone just needs to do their best and what works for them, but also making sure they don’t sit back and do nothing at all.

Sustainability is mending clothes, eating leftovers, walking or taking the bus, re-wearing the same outfit over and over. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Overall, it’s buying less but better quality – and making what you do have last. Sustainability is how our ancestors used to live, and it’s what many marginalised people have been doing for years.

There’s a saying that’s been thrown around a lot recently in the sustainability community: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” And it’s true. In our respective circumstances, sustainability is something that we can all try. But we must remember to try and keep a positive balance between what’s sustainable for you and sustainable for the earth.

The easiest way to begin a sustainable lifestyle is to reduce consumption of unnaturally derived/toxic products from brands with unethical practices and opt for products that are derived from the Earth

There are so many small cost-effective steps you can take if you’re in a position to do so, to help reduce your carbon footprint and become more sustainable:

  1. Ditch plastic bags when shopping! Opt for produce that is not in plastic packaging and if you’re worried about germs, then wipe your veggies in apple cider vinegar wash when you get home.
  2. Consciously make your tea/coffee from home and this will save so much money and avoid disposable cups (which are nearly impossible to recycle!)
  3. Go paperless with your bills and receipts – you’ll be cutting down on enormous amounts of wasted paper and most receipts are not recyclable!
  4. Go plastic free in the bathroom. Replace traditional tooth brushes with bamboo ones. Use bar soaps and shampoos. There are so many alternatives available! Normally one shampoo bar lasts as long as 3 medium sized bottles of shampoo which is better for your pocket and the environment.
  5. Think about reusing or repurposing everything and avoid new products where you can (in the long run this will also save you a lot of money!)
  6. Say bye to single use plastic razors! Investing in good safety razor will eliminate the need to buy single use plastic and save a lot of money. The only thing you would need to buy are razor blades which don’t cost a lot and can be recycled.
  7. Transition to a more plant-based diet: by doing this you are reducing your carbon footprint, as the energy used to produce plants is significantly lower compared to meat production! Eating less meat can be cheaper and healthier overall too.
  8. Buy “in season” foods! These are most likely to be locally sourced, so you are supporting your local farmers and if they are in season then vegetables are often cheaper.
  9. Only buy what you need – make a grocery list for the week, meal plan and stick to it! This way you’re not buying unnecessary products and it leads to less waste – another huge source of carbon emissions!
  10. Walk or ride a bike where you can – or try to take public transport where you can.
  11. Switch from plastic bottles to reusable ones! Or up-cycle something you already own to use as a cup (i.e. a glass jar)
  12. Make your own DIY cleaner at home. There are so many alternatives you can find on the internet. It will be cheap, non-toxic and zero-waste: we have recently made an all-purpose cleaner from orange peels and white vinegar!

Remember: always try to keep a positive balance between what’s sustainable for you and sustainable for the Earth.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

From our own personal experiences here in the UK, yes. We can’t think of many people in the UK South Asian community that are not only aware of the environmental impact but actively acting on it. We feel it’s a combination of a lack of awareness, language barriers and their life journeys.

Hardship was faced by our parents and grandparents when they came to this country, because they lived the lives they did, they focused all their energy and efforts in to teaching their children that the most important thing was to get a good education, grades and a stable job.

It’s a long-standing joke that every Asian parent wants their child to become a doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant etc. and because children weren’t exposed to other issues like the climate crisis or left to find their own passions because the focus was career-based, we feel that it has allowed this ‘lack of understanding’ to manifest. But it is also important to point out that the world that our parents and grandparents raised us for isn’t the world that we live in now. Things have changed a great deal since they came to the UK.

Updates about environmental issues probably haven’t been communicated to them in a language they understand well enough – so a ‘lack of understanding’ is multi-factorial, and probably out of no fault of their own. As a result, not a lot of South Asians are aware of the impact their actions have on the planet, especially the older generation. So, changing the mindset of those around us has been somewhat challenging.

Like anything, it requires a lot of explanation and even then, sometimes certain aspects of living a sustainable lifestyle is not fully understood. For example, Ghee (made from milk) and has been used for generations to light candles and to cook with as a substitute for oil. In India and Africa over 50 years ago, milk could be obtained sustainably from cows as most people had their own cattle which they cared for like members of their own family. However, it’s a much different story now with current dairy farming practices and the carbon footprint associated with it. Most cows are exploited and milk is obtained unethically and unsustainably. To explain this to the older generation can be a difficult task as we feel they are still in the mindset that milk is ethically obtained, with no real impact on the environment.

We think having continued discussions and educating our family, friends and work colleagues about little steps they can take to help is the fundamental way that change can be inspired. In short, education and awareness are the solution.

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?

It only takes one nature documentary to realise that our Earth and its inhabitants are worth fighting for. Watch documentaries with your family and friends about the reality of what’s happening to our world, (we of course recommend David Attenborough’s Life on Our Planet documentary as a starting point).

Use this knowledge as your inspiration. Your fuel. Your energy. And share your thoughts and concerns with your friends and family, keep the conversation going. Empower them to care. Talk about how you can collectively take small steps in your lifestyle to minimise your impact. Research how you can make more sustainable choices. Ask tough questions, especially when it comes to the status quo. Challenge it. Do we really need to use harmful fireworks for New Year’s Eve, Bonfire Night, Diwali? Do we need to always buy brand new? Read about why it’s unsustainable and harmful, make others think, and suggest some other alternatives.

Lastly, remember that these changes won’t happen if people do not understand why they need to be more sustainable. For us, that’s always the best place to start.

For environmental activists that are already taking a stand – our advice is to keep going, but take breaks so that you don’t burn out! It’s easy to feel a sense of overwhelm when it comes to environmental issues, but you just have to practice self-care, take time off from your screens and do what keeps your heart happy. Go back to the root of what made you passionate in the first place. Remember: only by meeting the emotions you have about a problem, with the passion you have for solving it, are you going to be able to sustain your activism so that you don’t burn out! It’s so important to take breaks.

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