Spotlight Series: Q&A with Navneet Bassan, Pensions, Risk & Compliance Manager

We caught up with Navneet, qualified solicitor currently working at Ernst & Young in the Pensions, Risk and Compliance team about the rise in importance of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance).

What is your ethnic and professional background?

I am Asian British born in the UK. I am a qualified solicitor.

Can you tell me about your career so far? What was the catalyst for you to take on ESG Pensions at EY?

I worked in a few City law firms in the early days, worked at PwC and also Thomson Reuters, I’ve been working at one of the Big 4 accountancy firms (EY) for the last five years. I no longer work in the capacity of a solicitor, since having children, I took a side step and now work in the Pensions HR Team at EY.

The UK has an investment market of roughly £8 trillion with UK pensions assets c.£3 trillion, so as a very rough estimate pensions assets are a third of investable assets. Given this proportion, switching pension investment to back the sustainability agenda is a strong lever to deliver real change and a mechanism to fund green growth. In line with the EY global commitment to tackling the climate change crisis, EY made recent changes to the investment strategy of its UK staff pension plan and as part of this introduced the EY Sustainable Fund. At present 10% of the default investment strategy is invested in the EY Sustainable Fund, a “green” fund that supports sustainable causes. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, this is only the beginning and EY is doing much more to ensure it invests its pension contributions into companies that are focused on reducing environmental impact and delivering sustainability. Watch this space!

What does your overall role at EY involve and how are you finding working on Sustainability compared to your other work?

I am the Risk & Compliance Manager for the EY in-house pensions team, so my day-to-day role involves ensuring EY remains compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements in relation to its pension arrangements within UK&I. However, I’ve recently become involved in a new cross-firm sustainability initiative created to focus on “getting our house in order” which is an aspect of EY’s Global Sustainability Strategy. So whilst EY is not only tackling sustainability in relation to services provided to external clients, it is also doing so with its own internal operations.

From a personal experience I did actually start to notice many small changes happening in our office pre-covid… Disposable cups within all EY offices were replaced with reusable cups, they ceased producing branded EY carrier bags and even dish sponges were removed from communal kitchen areas to reduce plastic microfibres in wastewater. It’s such an exciting area to be involved in at present and is a definite change from my usual day role!

Being South Asian, did you face any pressure from family, friends or society at large to choose the career path you did? Would you have done anything differently if given the opportunity again?

I didn’t feel direct pressure from my family, but I think it was the norm when I was growing up to either go for medicine, accountancy or law – so I just went for the last one given I loved English and History at School! If I had an opportunity to choose another career when growing up it would probably be around nutrition and diet but that wasn’t a well-publicised career path back in the day!

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

The biggest change I’ve made was a few years ago in changing from a petrol vehicle to a fully electric one. It’s been the best decision made in terms of being more “green” and definitely cost efficient, the only challenge has been in planning the charging points for longer journeys!

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 would you go about solving the issues?

I don’t believe there is any form of stigma, I think it is more of a lack of understanding and knowledge of the climate crisis. For me, it really hit home when I attended a work-related conference where Lewis Pugh presented and spoke about his experiences of climate change, especially when he first swam in the waters of Antarctica compared to more recent times. He’s a very inspiring speaker and really hit the message home.

I believe more education and publicity is needed in this area and suggestions on what changes people can implement to make a difference.

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?

Everyone can take “baby steps” to make changes in their day to day lives. It doesn’t have to be costly, even just ensuring rubbish is sorted and recycled where possible or using reusable shopping bags even helps. In recent times vegan lifestyles and products have come more to the forefront, which has helped with promoting foods that have less impact on the environment, so I believe being carbon conscious is more accessible than previously. Even making a few changes can help the cause.

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

Really start making a difference now by becoming more sustainable in your day-to-day lives. When I was growing up, this wasn’t a “thing”, but now it has been brought to the forefront through the likes of many individuals and climate “influencers” trending on social media platforms (i.e. the Greta Thunberg effect). Going back to pensions, which is typically an area where apathy is a challenge particularly amongst the younger generations, recent research has shown that

Millennials are most likely to believe that a measurable ESG impact can make a difference and for their investments to reflect climate change concerns. Hopefully this will mean the younger generation are more likely to engage with their pension if they can see if has a positive impact on climate change.

Coming from a background in law and working in a major financial company, would you say a career in the environmental sector would be just as financially and economically viable and stable?

Yes I believe in this day and age, a career in the environmental sector can be just as rewarding financially as well as from a job satisfaction perspective. Many companies are jumping on the “sustainability wagon” and if you do a quick google search for jobs in the sustainability field you will see many listed. I believe the only challenge may be a lack of awareness of what is involved in these types of roles.

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

Yes of course – when on holiday in Mauritius a few years ago, I found it quite alarming when we came across so much dead coral on the beaches. We also went on a glass-bottom boat excursion, where we could see first-hand all the dead coral. When you compare this to living and healthy coral which you view when watching David Attenborough programmes, the difference is shockingly stark. While there was still some fish there, it was abundantly clear to see how much climate change had impacted a large proportion of the coral reef surrounding this beautiful island.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Climate change has been brought to the forefront in recent times, taking one example of the Australian bushfires, which I believe impacted many when you could see the devastation caused. The next step now is to take action and remember that as an individual you can make an impact by starting to make changes yourself and also educating others. The best way to do this is to “speak the language” of each generation e.g. the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials (Gen Y) and the Centennials (Gen Z). Generally most people switch off when I start talking about my line of work(!), however,

I have noticed that if you can find the right hooks to discuss sustainability within the context of pensions, I have been able to engage both my parents’ generation as well as my nieces and nephews. 

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Farah Ahmad, Sustainable Design Architect

We spoke with Sustainable Design Architect, Farah about her job and what inspired her into sustainable innovation.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

Ethnic: Pakistani American born and raised in New York City

Academic:

  • Bachelor of Architecture from The Spitzer School of Architecture
  • Certificate in Sustainable Design, Construction, and Development from NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate

Professional Background:

  • LEED AP BD+C (LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction)
  • RA (Registered Architect)
  • City Government Worker in Architecture and Sustainability in the built environment

What does your current job in sustainable architecture entail?

I am a Sustainable Design Architect. Essentially, I review projects for compliance with green building standards and assist in the development of technical standards based on building code, local laws and green third party certifications that exist.

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

Competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon as a student gave me my first look inside the evolving technology of energy and water efficiency and my interest has only evolved as our design standards become more stringent and high building performance has become the forefront of design.

I loved the approach of interdisciplinary collaboration that design and construction entail – the number of specialty consultants/sub-consultants at any one project and working together to create a solution from the project onset is incredibly dynamic.

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash about this career choice from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?

Quite the contrary! My father encouraged it because he is an Engineer who worked frequently with Architects- I came to appreciate the technical and creative side of this profession. Although, I will say that there are very few South Asians in Architecture. I do believe that diverse STEM fields aren’t as widely recognised in our culture, which is a shame because Architecture needs as many diverse points of view as it can get!

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

I’m the green police around family and friends sometimes- water conservation, turning off lights, minimising my heat/cooling usage, etc. are all basics that I preach regularly. I also believe in raising awareness and use my social media platforms and website to talk about building sustainability trends that everyone can practice in their own homes!

You can’t have liability without awareness.

I also lead a sustainable office group where I work, where we share sustainable office practices with our colleagues to drive down material (paper and plastic), food, water and energy waste.

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 would you go about solving the issues?

I’m not sure if the climate crisis is a culturally-related issue, but I do have family and friends in the South Asian community who are totally unaware and unwilling to change their habits! We take our resources for granted here in the U.S. I think we need to create more social media groups and social clubs that evolve around this theme.

Congregations, events and celebrations are a huge part of our culture, so maybe we simply need to change the format of how we share our information and make it more interactive and engaging. 

What have been your greatest successes and learnings?

My greatest success has been obtaining my professional license three years ago! It gives my voice more credibility in all of my publication ventures – I frequently write about sustainability in the built environment.

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? Why is it important for them and their future?

Environmental Sustainability will trickle into every profession and provides such a sense of purpose to your work – it makes me feel very fulfilled since a lot of the information I pick up from my professional work can be applied to my daily life. 

Connect with Farah:

www.farahnazahmad.com

www.twitter.com/farah_arch

www.instagram.com/renewablefarah 

Spotlight Series: Q&A with PhD Climate Change Researcher, Zarina Ahmad

We spoke to Zarina about her climate-equality based community projects, creating pathways for diverse groups in Scotland to have an active voice in sustainable solutions

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background? 

I was born and brought up in Newcastle and moved to Scotland when I was 16. ​Both my parents were born in India and after the partition were displaced to Pakistan. I hold a BSc in Psychology from the University of Glasgow and worked briefly with the Education Department. However, for the last 10 years or more I have been working with diverse communities to help tackle climate change.

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

As a child I was always one with nature, a child that spoke to plants. I believed that trees had souls (still do), never ate meat however, growing up I wasn’t aware that my passion for the environment would lead to a career in this field.

Approximately 15 years ago I was at crossroads in my life and knew that I wanted a career change, one that would allow me to follow one of my passions; either care for the environment or Psychology and human behaviour. I had to weigh up my options in terms of retraining, looking at costs involved and the time it would take to get into a job. After some consideration, taking into account all the factors, the environment sector won and that’s how I ended up following a career in this sector.

Can you tell me about your recent role at CEMVO? What sparked the choice in career change? 

There was an incident at a Hustings where a candidate from a political party made a racist remark to me, the comment he made was “your kind don’t grow do they?”. This remark made me reflect on how white the environmental sector was.

At this time, I thought naively we lived in a society which was zero tolerant towards racism, we had moved away from a racist society and we were accepted and integrated into the wider society. Hence led me to working with a race equality organisation addressing both environmental justice and race justice.

My role developed into 4 main areas:
a) I support BME community groups to develop climate change projects, help access the climate challenge fund and ensure projects are implemented and delivered well.
b) I sit on a number of stakeholder and working groups which help influence policy change and decision making.
c) I help to diversify the environmental sector and environmental NGOs through collaborative work and representation.
d) I set up and run the Ethnic Minority Environmental Network across Scotland which provides peer to peer support, upskilling and training and opportunities for collaboration to individuals and organisations who are interested in environmental work.

Zarina speaking at community event. She's wearing a beige long cardigan and standing holding a mic.

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

The biggest backlash I’ve received, and this goes back to my childhood, was my choice of following a vegetarian/vegan diet which didn’t sit right within a Muslim family. Regarding a career path I think the biggest issue was that it was not a recognised or valued career. It took my mum years before she was able to explain to her friends what I actually did. Even some of my friends still struggle to conceptualise my job as it doesn’t fit in with a traditional or known career path. 

Also being an environmentalist in the third sector isn’t a well-paid job, at least it’s clear that I do this job for passion and not money. Some people find this difficult to understand, as growing up we are taught that success is measured on a monetary level. 

I think taking a step out of this competitiveness has its challenges as I can’t afford the same lifestyle as others but at the same time, I’m aware that I don’t want that lifestyle as it has environmental consequences. 

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date? 

My biggest success and learnings are both linked as I have been fortunate to have been in a position to create space for many people across the country from various diverse backgrounds (age, ethnicity, gender, disability, sex, education and socioeconomic backgrounds) to have meaningful and relevant (to them) conversations on climate change. 

From these conversations I have learned so much about the global impacts of climate change, traditional, religious and cultural sustainable practices, which have been passed down many generations. I’ve also learned about community resilience and adaptation to climate impacts and how there is still a lot to be learned from grassroot movements.

Never underestimate someone’s knowledge and ability to influence change. 

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

There are a few things that I try to do. I only buy items that I need, I’m not a fan of shopping, and I try to mend and repair as much as I can. I’m a vegetarian and have been for all my life with only limited dairy in my diet, therefore I do try to source produce locally and cook from scratch. I try to source items that have less plastic packaging and look for non-plastic alternatives. There are more things that I would love to do but access and affordability are huge barriers. 

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? 

I don’t think there is a lack of understanding. In fact I think there is more understanding of what a climate crisis can actually look like within a South Asian context.

I think the issue is more to do with the narratives, discourse and jargon used by policy makers and campaigners which can come across unfamiliar, high level or irrelevant to South Asian communities. 

What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues? 

Some of the blockers are the climate language and jargon which is used, especially terms like carbon emissions and carbon footprint. This is too abstract a concept unless you are a climate scientist, or your work involves measuring carbon impacts. 

The other big blocker is embarrassment of and undervaluing of traditional sustainable behaviours, which have been passed down in South Asian communities. For example, reusing plastic ice cream or butter containers to store leftover food, growing your own herbs and vegetables in your front garden, no waste attitude – reusing and recycling wherever possible; however, these practices once in the west were looked down up i.e. perceived as behaviour of people who were unable to afford a better lifestyle. Unfortunately, a better lifestyle equated to overconsumption and a disposable society.  

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 we consider small steps to sustainable lifestyles then this is accessible to all, however some of the bigger steps such as installing solar panels, driving an electric vehicle or even buying organic may exclude a lot of us, simply on the basis of affordability. The easy steps we can take are just trying to be conscious of what we buy, what we use and need and what we eat. Try and reduce our waste by buying less, recycling and reusing more. Sharing with others instead of competing with others. 

You touched on feeling a lack of representation and your work since has been about amplifying voices and engaging more diverse communities. Can you tell me more about this and why it’s particularly important for there to be greater representation in the sector? 

When I started out there was very little to no representation from any person of colour within the environmental sector.

A whole portion of society was being excluded from any discourse on climate change, mitigation, adaptation measures and looking at sustainable behaviours and lifestyle.

If we live in a democratic society, surely all people should be included and opportunities for all voices to be heard should be created. 

Firstly, it is important to recognise that one approach for certain communities will not be fit for another community. Secondly acknowledge that there is diversity within diversity; having one person from a BME background to represent the views of all the ethnically diverse communities of the country, is simply not good enough nor is it appropriate or fair. 

Then there is the issue of climate justice – those that are being most impacted by climate change are the ones least contributing, but also have the least power to influence change.

Climate justice is also a racial justice issue similar to what we have unfortunately seen over the recent months with the pandemic. If we want systemic and structural changes, we need to see and have different diverse voices around the table. 

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

Firstly, you need to understand how we are connected to nature and the environment in order to understand where our produce, clothing and other consumable items come from. Look at nature-based solutions not just techno fixes going forward. Secondly, become active citizens, realise that you have power and are able to influence change by using your voice and actions, become more politically involved, don’t shy away from being involved in campaigning and activism. Lastly don’t be passive consumers become conscious consumers and try not to be influenced by fast trends or buy into the disposable culture. 

You’ve had much exposure to government processes in place, working on policies and engaging with grass-root organisations. Based on your experience, what do you believe the most important and effective methods are to have the largest climate impact? 

For me being interconnected in terms of dialogue and action is important i.e. policy makers, communities, industries and academics should all be working side by side, sharing knowledge and experience.

We should work less in silos and work more collaboratively to find solutions that fit the needs of society. 

Communities should be adequately resourced if they are expected to take local action. Adding to this, I also think it is important to act locally but think globally, we are connected to other parts of the world and what we do here does have an impact somewhere, our carbon emissions contribute to global warming – the UK is not in a bubble. 

Your example of actively using ‘positive environmental change’ rather than ‘behaviour change’ is really striking. Why do you believe our choice of language is important? 

The language we use is important as this is our main means for communicating and bringing people together however, it can also lead to pushing people away. Simply put, language can be inclusive or exclusive.

In the UK and indeed in the West, the narrative on climate change and sustainable behaviours very much focusses on “behaviour change”. From my experience of working with communities this terminology isn’t helpful because people become very defensive when they hear behaviour change. 

With the narrative of change as the premise, you are telling someone that how they previously lived and behaved was wrong and now they are going to be told how to live and behave better. The agency over their choices is not taken into consideration. Therefore, simply using a term such as “positive action” is more likely to result in people embracing change and steps to a better world for all. 

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

Early in my career I was working with a Muslim woman’s group and engaging them with activities to build their understanding of climate change. One day I was taking this group out on a trip to see a demo house with a number of energy efficiency measures adapted into its construction. 

One of the elderly ladies (probably in her 70’s) thanked me. I thought it was for taking them out for the day on a trip, but she said it was for raising awareness about climate change. Her son is a frontline journalist who was posted out in Pakistan and covered stories about the floods caused by the ice melting on the Himalayas, which in turn caused huge devastation.

Many lives and homes were lost as a result of the vast amount of water and ice sheets hitting villages. She told me there were weeks, even months when she would not hear from her son and would worry that one day she would get the sad news of him passing away. She knew this was because of climate change and wanted others to be more aware and realise through our actions we can change these outcomes.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I also think it is important to be connected to nature, be aware of our ecosystem, and understand the role we play within this system. Unfortunately, colonisation and capitalism have removed us further and further away from our connection to the land.  Only when we fully appreciate this, will we stop exploiting resources and relearn how to live as one with the planet.

Zarina on a boat, touching the ripples of the lake. In the background mountain ranges can be seen. She's wearing a tan coloured jacket

Find out more about Zarina and connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Dr Poshendra Satyal PhD, AFHEA, MPhil, BSc (Hons) Ag

Read our deep dive into Dr Poshendra’s academic journey, with key interests in environmental development, agriculture and conservation in the Global South

What is your ethnic and academic background?

I identify as a Nepalese and South Asian living in the UK (for the last nineteen years). I was born and raised in the foothills of Nepal Himalayas (near Mount Makalu, the fifth highest peak in the world). Our family later moved to Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) where I completed my secondary schooling and A-level education. I also did my BSc there before going to Haryana in India to study for my 4-year BSc (Honours) Agriculture degree (1994-1996). After finishing my degree I went back to Nepal, taught for a year in a private agricultural college and got involved with a couple of environmental NGOs working in the issues of sustainability and natural resource management. 

I came to study for my MPhil in Environment and Development at the University of Cambridge in 2001. Since then, I have been based in the UK. I continued for my PhD in Environmental Policy at the Open University (2005-2009) and then worked at various universities, institutes and organisations, broadly on different areas of environmental development (including climate change, forest governance, conservation and natural resources management). 

I now work as Global Forest Policy Coordinator with the Policy Team of the BirdLife International (an environmental NGO), based in Cambridge. Prior to that, I worked for five years as a senior researcher at the University of East Anglia (UEA)’s School of International Development (2014-2019). I also serve as a Trustee of the Mount Everest Foundation (Royal Geographical Society), an affiliate fellow with the UEA’s Global Environmental Justice Group and a visiting senior fellow of South Asia Institute of Advanced Studies (Nepal). I have also worked as a research fellow at the Warwick University’s Department of Politics and International Studies (2018-2019) and Crichton Carbon Centre and ClimateXChange – Scotland’s Centre of Expertise on Climate Change (2012-2014). 

In the past, I worked as a researcher, lecturer and consultant with a number of institutions and organisations in the UK (The Open University, UNEP – World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Fern, and Forests Monitor) and Nepal (Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Forum for Sustainable Development Nepal, and Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Nepal). I was also an affiliate fellow of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (2014-2018), University of Glasgow’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies (2012-2014) and Open Space – Centre for Geographical and Environmental Research of the Open University (2009-2012).

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

Having spent much of my early childhood in a tiny remote village of Hedangna in Sankhuwasabha, a district of Eastern Nepal, I had witnessed the local villagers’ very close relationship with nature. The place was very rich in biodiversity, forests and other natural resources (the area later became the Makalu Barun National Park).

While the local indigenous Rai communities had a very simple lifestyle, most of the villagers had very basic standards of living, with no electricity, no proper medical facilities and other services (which we take for granted in the West). I also witnessed (and experienced myself to some extent), poverty, underdevelopment and spatial inequity arising from the remoteness.

This made me hyper-aware of the circumstances that make people vulnerable, due to a range of social and environmental issues (e.g. socio-political marginalisation, climate change and natural hazards). This sparked my interest to explore the dynamics of social, environmental and climatic issues that can impact local livelihoods. More particularly, my concern about injustices in the context of natural resources. This was the beginning of my interest to study and research these issues in greater depth.

Having studied and worked previously in the field of agriculture and natural resource management in India and Nepal, my interests, concerns and desire to understand the underlying causes of injustices in the natural resources context; based on what I had witnessed in the field, had a bearing on the choice of my research in environment and development. 

In fact, I began to realise and question the limitations of my own technical knowledge in agriculture that I had gained through my BSc (Honours) Agriculture degree in India when I returned to Nepal. I started to question whether natural resources and farm management involve not only technical and scientific issues, but also a number of other socio-economic and political issues.

I had concluded that, in order to solve problems in agriculture, forest management and natural resource governance, issues of justice should come to the fore.

This led me to apply for the MPhil in Environment and Development degree at the University of Cambridge, which would equip me with social sciences approach to environmental analysis in my chosen career. 

Can you tell me about your research over the years in conservation and what has interested you the most? 

With a background in natural and social sciences, I have a long-standing interest in interdisciplinary and policy relevant research in environment and development issues, particularly conservation, forest governance, and climate change in the context of developing nations. 

My interest in engaging with the theoretical debate on social and environmental justice and in exploring the empirical understanding of environment and development problems is related to my academic, personal and professional background.

In that sense, my work has a biographical connection. The underpinning research interest on various environmental and development challenges faced by the developing world, is primarily rooted in my background as a Nepalese and South Asian. While this was a starting point for my interest, there are also further reasons for choosing a research topic in social and environmental justice. 

My interest in exploring North-South differences in tackling the twin challenges of environment and development, progressed more prominently during my MPhil degree in Cambridge, exposing me to a broad range of ideas and concerns regarding the debate on environment and sustainable development.

As a new researcher and practitioner from the “developing world,” but studying in the West, I was constantly confronted with new ideas, including those on justice, in my participation in academic discussions; which further pushed me to engage in research that could explore the real tensions and differences in priorities between the developing world and the developed world, in terms of social and environmental dimensions involved in sustainable development and sustainability. 

Reflecting upon these issues led me to conclude that a productive research avenue would be to use an environmental justice framework. My PhD project thus worked on and developed theories of social and environmental justice, drawing from in-depth field research on community forestry and natural resources management in the Terai of Nepal; looking into issues of social equity and forest ecology in the context of environmental and socio-political change in the region. 

Building on my PhD, I have further used the environmental justice framework in policy research and analysis in the context of climate change adaptation, forest governance and water security, with various organisations in the UK.

The most recent role that I have in BirdLife involves supporting our Policy Team and advising project partners on forest policy issues. Forests have received renewed attention in recent years (particularly in the debates around Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and climate change policies) due to their potential for a ‘triple win’ in terms of addressing biodiversity loss, mitigating and adapting to climate change and providing other local and global ecosystem services. 

Ending deforestation, advancing forest conservation and restoration and sustainable management, of all types of forests and trees are vital for the purpose. Hence I see that there is an important role for advocacy and policy work on forest, biodiversity and climate change issues, at global and national levels to help develop and operationalise effective environmental policies across different scales of governance. 

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

There have certainly been various milestones, but I do not consider that I have achieved any big successes as of yet. Also, it depends how we define and measure ‘success’. I believe that we need to continue doing our Karma with persistence, trust in ourselves, and success will appear in different guises and degrees. In my case, the progress has been gradual as I have built and continue to build on some of my achievements. 

To begin with, I consider two of my early achievements (before coming to the UK) as the ones that still guide my passion for learning and hardworking: (1) in 1991 I stood among the top three positions during the national School Leaving Certificate exam (GCSE equivalent) among more than 150,000 students taking up the exam in Nepal; (2) I was also a gold-medalist scoring highest marks among more than 400 students in the BSc (Honours) Agriculture programme in India. 

In retrospect, my turning point was when I was selected for my MPhil degree in Cambridge, which I consider a significant milestone that opened subsequent opportunities and shaped my future. Coming from a remote Nepali village, I felt quite lucky to be selected for Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarships for my postgraduate study in Cambridge, among many competent candidates from around the world. My MPhil degree laid a foundation for my interest in further studying the environment and its development.

My selection for a fully funded PhD studentship was another milestone in my life. My PhD and post-doctoral research at various institutions further provided cumulative and progressive impacts, towards my personal and professional development. For example, building on my original doctoral research on social and environmental justice, I developed a climate justice framework for policy research and analysis in Scotland, which was very well received by the Scottish Government. 

I also consider my wide-ranging academic and professional experience, working on various projects and in different organisations useful experience. Through these works, I now have a good record of publications and my published items have ranged from peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, to policy reports, briefing papers and general articles. 

I have also widely presented in various forums and meetings involving a variety of audiences (e.g. international conferences, workshops, interaction programmes, and policy engagements).

I see my unique position as a South Asian researcher based in the UK as a strength. I’m placed in a prime position with exceptional potential for North-South collaboration and trust. 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for choosing to work in environmental research from family, friends or society at large? You originally wanted to study medicine – what changed?

When I did quite well in my GCSE exam in Nepal, the expectation from my parents, family and wider network of relatives in Nepal was that I choose some high-demand career such as medicine and engineering for my further study. 

Everywhere you go, people would ask you what you want to become in life. Most children in Nepal are still taught that “they will become a doctor or engineer and serve the society”. With such societal ‘pressures’, I also naturally aspired to become a medical doctor. However, there were only a few medical colleges in the country at that time and the competition was very high.

I did not manage to get a place and was feeling very low, thinking that my dream was shattered. It was only after that, I began to consider other subject areas for further studies, and I decided to go for an agriculture degree with a scholarship from the Indian government. 

Even then, many of my friends and family would sometimes tell me that I could have done better choosing medicine or engineering. In their minds, medicine and engineering subjects would land you a secure job and high salary, while those preferring agriculture, forestry or environmental studies would not have comparable future prospects. 

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

While wider policies and plans are needed across different sectors and scales of environmental governance, these would not be successful if we do not feel responsible to operationalise, practice and monitor, in whatever way we can. In that sense, every individual has the responsibility to change their behaviours and actions and adopt a sustainable lifestyle, while also engaging in some form of citizen activism. 

The reason for this is because every day we make choices in our lives that can affect the environment, the climate and biodiversity. From what we buy and what we eat to how we travel to work, there are a lot of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact. 

On a personal level, I have been conscious of all aspects of my daily life (e.g. how my shopping behaviour can impact the environment, going plastic free, switching off the lights when not in use, reducing unnecessary water use etc.). While this may seem a very small effort, individual actions are important to collectively address the enormity of the challenge we are facing.

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?

South Asia as a region is vulnerable to climate change. While rising sea levels and flooding threaten the coastal states of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives, landlocked Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Nepal face rising temperatures, drought, and glacial melting. 

The climate crisis can further exacerbate environmental degradation, natural disasters, extreme weather events, food and water insecurity and economic disruption. As high temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns and climatic variability and change have already started to impact people’s daily lives and livelihoods in the region, I think South Asian communities living in the region (and also South Asians living in the UK, to some extent) are aware of the climate crisis. 

However, when it comes to individual actions to mitigate climate change and environmental issues, there certainly seem some cultural barriers. For example, while simple measures like using public transportation more often, reducing energy consumption, becoming more eco-friendly can help reduce our environmental impact and make this planet a clean and safe place, our society seems to have a tendency to ‘respect and value’ those who drive fancy cars, wear ‘big brands’, own big houses and earn and spend more. 

I also think that there is very low uptake of a ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ culture among us, as many of us feel hesitant to go to a charity shop and buy second-hand clothes. This is generally true for both South Asians living in urban or peri-urban areas in the region, as well as British Asians living in the UK. Having said that, I think it will be unfair to point a finger and put a blame just on South Asian communities, because the behaviour is common across all of us.

We all as human beings are responsible for this crisis and we need to work collectively to address the challenge. 

While our South Asian culture is generally considered to be based on the ethos of sharing and caring for each other and a common respect for the Mother Nature (e.g. there are references to this philosophy in most of the major religions in the region, including Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism), our modern lifestyle has made us more greedy and needy, as we are attracted to materialistic culture and consumerism. 

South Asian culture is also considered to take a more collectivist and holistic approach on social relationships and, supposedly, by extension on environmental issues. However, we have now become more selfish and individualistic and such dichotomy of culture does not seem to be valid anymore, both for urban and peri-urban South Asians and British Asians.

You mentioned your experiences in Africa and how you were misunderstood for working in a different profession. Why do you think South Asians are underrepresented in the environmental sector? Has it been challenging for you over the years?

I’ve had an interesting mix of experiences in the sector. My work experience has been both intellectually challenging and enthralling. In a good way, this experience has also changed my way of life and thinking as it has taught me to think critically and out-of-the box, at times. 

Of course, there have been a lot of challenges too. As an immigrant exposed to new culture, getting used to the new way of life in the UK was one of my initial challenges. I also found initially that there was a lot of competition in the job market and I had to get myself prepared to compete amongst the best in the subject area. 

Once in the sector, I realised that there are only a few South Asians with whom you could relate to or look up to for a ‘role model’.

The reasons for under-representation of South Asians in the environmental sector may be, as I highlighted earlier, due to the cultural preference over high-demand and well-paid STEM subjects (such as medicine and engineering) and more importantly, due to lack of diversity in the sector in the UK. 

Many of the organisations and institutes have not yet embraced diversity and inclusivity in policy and practice, hindering access and participation of BAME (Black, Asian and and Minority Ethnic) communities. 

In my personal case, there has also been a funny side to it. As part of international development research projects, I had to travel to new places, often in remote areas and countries. At times, I have been misunderstood for coming to set up a business or work as a medical doctor (in Uganda and Kenya, as many Indians go there for the purpose) or as a field support or research assistant to our research team (which mostly consisted of UK British White colleagues and local country partners). 

In some cases, I have been interrogated extra in immigration (e.g. Mexico – a country where many South Asians are trafficked for illegally entering into the USA) or sometimes being let go easily: in Liberia, when an immigration officer checked my passport and I said I am a ‘Nepalese’ but he heard ‘Lebanese’ (as Lebanese and Indians go there to set up businesses, the officer was quite relaxed on further checking). 

Similarly, I was once on a 16-hour road trip to a research site in Southern Ethiopia from Addis Ababa and we had to stop at a few places for meals. As the area was quite remote, local people were not accustomed to seeing ‘brown’ people traveling to their area for research or tourism. A waiter in a small motel came to me and said: “I think I have seen you before…probably in Bollywood movies” – I took that as a compliment!

Leaving aside the funny part, the upshot of my experience is that the area of international development and environmental sector is still massively underrepresented for South Asians and BAME communities in general. 

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?

I agree – there are some barriers to practice sustainable living at an individual level. For example, public transport is not timely and sometimes it can be costly too (e.g. train travel is sometimes costlier than driving or even flying in the UK). Similarly, organic products are more expensive than other products on the shelf. Theoretically, sustainable farming, shortening supply chain, cutting down water and energy consumption, reducing packaging etc, should also lower the cost in the long run. 

In order to change attitudes and behaviours into positive actions, we need some incentives and penalties (e.g. financial contribution to switch to renewable energy). Also, we need increased awareness and a socio-cultural shift towards sustainability, which will make consumers conscious about the climate emergency and damaged ecosystems; so they understand and are willing to pay a little bit more to help the planet (e.g. carbon tax added to our airfares). We also need to recognize, embrace, and reward sustainable values and actions of environmentally conscious consumers in ways that increase the uptake of sustainable consumption more widely.

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

For younger generations, I would like to encourage them to reflect on the urgency of saving the planet and embrace sustainability, making it more ‘mainstream.’ Sustainability, in essence, is about “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. In that sense, it is an intergenerational issue.

The younger generations have both the responsibility and power to change the world for the better so that we can bequeath the planet to our future generations safely, respecting their right to a healthy planet. More specifically, I would like the younger generations to see sustainability as a justice issue in our relationship to the nature: intragenerational justice (poverty alleviation and social justice); intergenerational justice (justice to future generations); and inter-species justice (justice to non-human nature, including other species and biodiversity). 

As younger generations also have the power to change the status quo and make the world a better place to live, I encourage them to actively engage in some form of environmental activism. We have already seen a number of youth role models in recent years (e.g. Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur, India) and their activism has started to bring some positive results in terms of increasing awareness on the issues and bringing some policy change. 

Networking and partnership with like-minded individuals and organisations would help maximise the impact of advocacy, hence I would like to advise everyone to work together in this collective goal. With a right mix of inspiration, aspiration and networking, I am sure we can make some real impact. 

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

I guess my roots and early childhood experience have impacted me deeply to continue working on areas of justice and sustainability.

As I elaborated earlier, my growing up in a small remote village of Nepal, witnessing local communities’ proximity, dependence and respect for nature, their sufferings and simple lifestyle had an empowering impression on me. 

Additionally, as I see similar circumstances that a majority of people in the developing world experience (pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in Ethiopia and Kenya, indigenous Batwa peoples in Uganda, ethnic minorities in Vietnam, community forest users in Nepal), I am even more determined to continue working to understand and bring to the fore their specific needs, concerns and priorities; so that their roles and rights are recognised and respected in global and national policies. 

There have also been some unique insights and experiences gained through specific incidents. For example, in my trip to Southern Ethiopia, I saw how long and harrowing a journey (sometimes up to 6 hours) that agro-pastoralist girls have to make to fetch one to two gallons of water for their household. This made me more conscious of my own use of water for daily use. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I do not have more to add but would like to thank you for providing this platform and opportunity to share my experience to fellow South Asians. I hope this was interesting and useful. I want to engage with young South Asians in the region as well as British Asians living in the UK on efforts to raise public awareness and activism in areas of sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity conservation in the coming days. I wish you all the best for your campaign and efforts. I look forward to working together.

Connect with Dr. Poshendra and follow his work on Instagram

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Climate Change Journalist Sharlene Gandhi

We spoke to Business, Climate Change and Food Systems Journalist, Sharlene about her insights and experience covering stories from the point of view of marginalised communities

What is your ethnic and academic/professional background?

I am a Hindu Gujarati Indian, and I am a journalist with a focus on small business, climate change and food systems.

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

In my final year at Lancaster University, I was chosen for a special bootcamp-style module to attend the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s liaison-delegate meeting. Before this, I hadn’t had any specific interaction with the environmental sustainability movement, but I had always been involved in social justice and grassroots community initiatives. Going to the liaison-delegate meeting was so eye-opening because it not only revealed the science behind the climate crisis, but also all the many social, economic, cultural and community impacts it will inevitably have. That was in April of 2018, and I’ve since been enthralled with the subject, reading widely, going to talks and eventually embedding it into my journalistic practice.

Can you tell me about your career in journalism and how you got into writing about climate change and environmental injustice/race intersectionality? 

It was really a matter of luck – I had always wanted to be a journalist because I loved writing, but often struggled with the difficult question of whether to become a specialist journalist or stick to general reporting. I decided to start specialising as a climate and business journalist on a freelance basis, mostly to also be able to learn about some of the work that was being done on the ground by communities and small / micro enterprises. 

The more I researched and reported, the more I started to learn about the intersections between the climate crisis and marginalised communities and came across the term climate justice as a result. That’s been one of my key focus areas ever since, because once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

I’ve been involved in writing about agricultural justice, housing inequality and land redistribution, as well as Indigenous rights. 

Find Sharlene’s Portfolio here: https://muckrack.com/sharlene_gandhi

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

For me, I’ve always been deeply inspired by the work of Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal communities around the world. There is just a wealth of information to learn from them and how they have championed an approach to living that is in harmony with nature. 

My biggest successes have just been people giving me the opportunity, time and time again, to write about, speak about and explore this deeply intricate and important topic. I was super honoured to be part of shado magazine’s editorial team for their Climate Justice issue, which was published in September this year, and earlier in the year, I also researched and wrote up an investigation about the design and psychology of emission tracking apps for the American Institute of Graphic Arts. 

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

I was luckier than most in that I didn’t face any particular backlash when choosing my career path, but I think being from an immigrant family – particularly one where money wasn’t always floating around freely – means that you have financial security in the back of your mind. So while I wasn’t pushed into medicine or engineering or law, I was certainly gently encouraged to do a degree that would lead me to a job. That is how I ended up with a business degree, because it would lead to a financially stable career.

And my parents weren’t wrong – I spent the first two years of my career as a consultant, with a very healthy paycheck attached. But ultimately I wasn’t happy with myself in that role and wanted to transition into a career that meant more to me in due course. 

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

Shopping locally and from small businesses has been a large part of the shift for me. It takes more time and more effort, but at least I know that I’m contributing to someone’s wellbeing and financial stability much more directly than if I were shopping from a larger supermarket that squeezed margins for their farmers and producers to make sure the end retail price was as cheap to the consumer as possible. 

Nearly three years ago, I also gave up all fast fashion and high street shopping, favouring secondhand, vintage and charity shop purchases for clothes, accessories and shoes. That hasn’t been easy, particularly because of the convenience and speed that fast fashion affords you as a consumer, not to mention the attractive pricing. But for me giving up fast fashion is crucial not just to planetary health, but also to climate justice. It signals to these companies that we can’t put up with the terrible conditions that they expect their garment workers to produce in.

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 wouldn’t say there is a stigma more than there is a lack of understanding. But that is highly ironic because a lot of the things that South Asian families do naturally are sustainable. It generally starts with low-income, immigrant families championing these practices, with the most famous example being using containers repeatedly to store curries and daals. South Asian cooking often involves using entire fruits and vegetables in order to minimise waste. South Asian culture is slower and more deliberate than capitalistic, time-driven Western culture, and a slower lifestyle impacts our surroundings less. South Asian food practice has always been about buying local and supporting grassroots shop owners, where possible.

Religions and cultures that are prominent in South Asia favour a lifestyle that works in conjunction with nature as opposed to extracting from it.

So, in other words, sustainability comes to South Asian communities easier than we might think, but the way that modern day sustainability is wrapped up and packaged makes them feel like it’s far away and unattainable. 

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?

Naturally, being sustainable is supposed to be accessible to everybody, because it actually requires us to live slowly, more locally and more deliberately. A plant-based or vegetarian diet can be cheaper than a meat-based diet. Shopping locally shortens the supply chain from raw materials / ingredients to the final consumer, which reduces the end price and makes sure that the original producers are adequately compensated for their effort.

However, the marketisation and mainstream branding that has now been attached to sustainability has meant that there has been a premium price attached to it, which has also in turn made it unaffordable for a lot of people to make sustainable choices. Starting small and stripping back your routine is a good place to start though, rather than thinking you need to invest in additional products or services at a cost to you. 

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

Personally I think younger generations are much more knowledgeable about social justice and environmental sustainability than we are, simply because they don’t have a choice. So there is probably more than we can learn from them than they can learn from us!

I think for those interested in making a difference, I would advise starting small. Start with yourself and your sphere of control, extend that to your social circle, then to any impact you can make in your local community through conscious consumption, volunteering and raising awareness. Only then can you learn about the issues on the ground, on a grassroots level, which help you understand the system at large and why it functions the way it does. Otherwise, starting with the system and its flaws can seem too monumental and overwhelming to be able to make a tangible change. 

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

I’m just humbled that I get to do so many wonderful things and continue spreading the word about sustainability! In the last couple of years, I’ve been so honoured to speak at the Almeida Theatre, at Global Action Plan, at Amnesty International, for IKEA, and for various smaller organisations looking to educate and inspire change. I’ve been able to interview amazing people, including Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm and Sana Javeri Kadri from Diaspora Co.

In one of my earliest pieces of work, while I was working with the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, I got to interview Arctic climate scientist Dr Oran Young. He has dedicated his whole life to the study of climate and spoke so passionately about the links to aspirational lifestyle and the worsening climate crisis. It really hit home then that this is more than scientific. It’s about how we define happiness and success. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For South Asians, there is an absolute wealth of literature to delve into in terms of prominent writing about environmentalism, anti-capitalism and racism. Two perhaps obvious voices are Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy – they give a great introduction, in the content of South Asia, of why environmental sustainability needs to tie into social justice.

Find some of Sharlene’s work here:

Supply Chain Transparency: https://mailchimp.com/courier/article/building-transparent-supply-chain/

Carbon Tracking Apps: https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/principles/app-design/how-carbon-tracking-apps-are-designed-to-foster-responsibility-and-why-this-might-be-flawed/

How Green is UK’s New Deal?: https://www.ourstosave.com/feature?id=ckda46h78000p07234osxdkme

IKEA project: https://lifeathome.ikea.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/IKEA_Life_At_Home_Report_2020-2.pdf

Follow Sharlene on Instagram and LinkedIn

Spotlight Series: Deep Dive Q&A with Dancer Nandita Shankardass

We spoke with Nandita, Founder of Welcome Movement about her creative dance journey and inspiration behind ‘returning to nature’.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

I am British South Asian born and brought up in London to Punjabi parents. I’m a performing artist, choreographer and movement facilitator and hold a BA Degree in Humanities and Innovation.

Trained at The Royal Ballet School, my dance career has taken me to work and perform with dance companies across Europe and U.K – Zürcher Ballet, Victor Ullate Ballet, Ballet black, Scottish Ballet and Compañia Nacional de Danza, touring internationally in a range of classical and contemporary repertoire.

I choreographed ‘Capture’ for the Zürcher Junior Ballet, ‘Synergy’ for Ballet Black and ‘Anjaane Ajnabee’ as part Young Choreographers of Compañia Nacional de Danza. I was commissioned to choreograph and perform for Television for Environment (TVE) Global Sustainability film awards and I co-created and performed with Flux in the collaborative work “In Other words” at Kings Place, London.

I embarked on my freelance journey in 2017 to focus on creating my own work and to explore more collaborative work. I have since collaborated with Beta Publica in Madrid, Sujata Banerjee Dance Company, performed with Adrian Look Tanztheater and with The Royal Opera house for their family events. I choreographed the solo works ‘Sundown’ and ‘Rainsoaked…’, the duets ‘Lightweight’ and ‘Umbra’ and most recently choreographed my latest collaborative dance film ‘Returns to Nature’. I assist artists in movement direction and dramaturgy and I have been teaching and facilitating a range of dance classes and movement workshops for over 10 years, across age groups and in various environments.

You recently created a piece of work on nature and connectedness. How did it come about?

Over the last few years I have felt increasingly inspired by nature in both my creative and teaching practices and simultaneously began to develop a curiosity and awareness towards its connection and relationship to our human race, our human nature and our health.

In 2020 I was commissioned to create a new work for ‘The Naked Truth’, an online fundraiser for World AIDS day to encourage awareness around HIV. Motivated by the year we were having, despite the pandemic restricting access to studios to create work and the use of stages off limits, my most natural instinct was to embrace the great outdoors as my creative playground and performance space in this new work. I was excited to explore different natural terrains under my feet and the different spaces I could move in and interact with. In deciding to manifest the piece outdoors with nature for company, I was presented with a fresh experience of scenery, backdrop and offering of props! 

The frequent walks I embarked on during lockdown had such a positive effect on my wellbeing, which led the way for me to take my art outside to create ‘Returns to Nature.’ During the creative and performance journey of the work, I recognised how significantly charged I became in improvising and dancing outdoors. I began to listen to the Earth, get closer and more intimate with its textures and movements. I enjoyed working in different dance gear than I’m used to; in outdoor boots as oppose to ballet shoes or socks and I welcomed a chance to dance bare feet on the grass. I am a big believer in the energy transmitted to our bodies from being in direct contact with the Earth!

I was humbled by being up close to the bark of a tree, in all its greatness, supported by the soil and refreshed and nourished by the fresh air I was breathing in. 

‘Returns to Nature’ explores a renewed curiosity and relationship with nature, engaging with all its qualities. Journeying through moments of exploration, nourishment, courage and hope, we are reminded of the infinite possibilities we have in returning to the natural world, to embrace our human nature and reconnect to ourselves.

Amidst a global pandemic and the challenges humankind has been facing over the last year, the work aims to inspire a reconciliation with nature and recognition of how it can beneficially impact and influence our physical and emotional wellbeing and our peace of mind. Time spent alone and with others in nature to observe, connect and absorb natural nourishment is healing and an invaluable source of strength. We are all spending our time in different ways according to our personal situations in this crisis.

By sharing this work, I wanted to remind us of the gift of nature, inspiring us to cherish our surroundings, wherever we may be and to stimulate awareness around the environment’s need for a sustainable future. Especially right now, in the moments we find ourselves in. I believe we have been offered a great opportunity to shift and gain new perspectives.

The process of researching and creating this work offered me an opportunity to deeply contemplate and experience how nature can influence and impact my own states of being. I found reflections in the dynamics and movements of nature, which allowed me to relate to what exists within our own human nature. Also how what we think and feel on the inside might be reflected in our actions towards the space and environment which we inhabit. The process became an inward journey of awakening, empowerment and an acceptance of the states within my own self, through observing and tuning into nature’s states, in all their variety, shades, textures and colours.

This awareness has become a guide and a source of inspiration to evolve my own states and realise more within myself. We can find a sense of harmony and presence between our inner landscape and the outer landscape, reflective and supportive of each other in so many ways. I am gaining a deeper appreciation and respect for nature and its benefit towards our perceptions, emotions and actions – how we choose to live and behave. All it took was stepping outside to be with nature, to initiate and spark this new evolution within me!

Nature is literally right before our eyes, every single day, in some shape or form, expressing multitudes on a real life canvas. If we recognise that returning to nature and interacting with it is beneficial to us, we can express our gratitude through our actions by taking care of it, granting us the possibility to the return to the endless wonder and inspiration it continually offer us, day after day. If we can surrender to the power of nature and learn to appreciate and welcome it, in all its diversity, we can reach an acceptance that same power and diversity lies within ourselves and all of humankind.

We are nature, and nature is us, we are not separate but a part of this whole ecosystem and it is our responsibility to take care of what we are a part of and enjoy playing our part. We will only lose out on living well within our own inner ecosystem, if we separate or isolate ourselves from nature’s ecosystem.

By embracing nature I come closer to accepting and valuing my own natural states and cycles. It is an exchange that is vital for our wellbeing and nature’s potential to heal and thrive, supporting the longevity and health of our environment for now, and for generations to come.

Becoming more conscious and relating to nature in new ways last year nurtured and supported my life greatly. I feel I am just on the surface of discovering how much more nature can and will impact my work moving forward and it motivates me to find solutions in how I can work in harmony, in a fruitful exchange with nature in my life. 

What has inspired you to focus on the environment in your art form? Is there a particular story you can share?

Since becoming a freelance artist, a collaborator and an independent creator, I am experiencing a growing awareness around costs, creative labour and production processes in the Arts. Especially during the pandemic, we have seen artists go on to create innovatively with a lot less. Hopefully this allows us to reassess how we use our resources – personally, collectively and environmentally moving forward.

Right before the first lockdown, I was beginning to wonder how we could create our work in the dance sector in a more sustainable fashion and felt motivated to re-consider how much material and energy is needed and used to create a theatre production. I also realised how responsible we are in our practices within the industry towards waste and recycling.

When contemplating on more sustainable practice, I think about how we care for the humans – artists and collaborators we work with, how we market and publicise our work, the lighting and materials involved in designing and running a production and how we recycle materials post production.

Last year, I was invited to support difficult dialogues as a Youth ambassador with a focus on the environment in collaboration with TVE (Television for the Environment) for the 2020 Global Sustainability Film Awards. My body and spirit felt ignited and invigorated after coming together with the young activists I met via this platform, from all over the world, tirelessly contributing and finding ways to support the environment and encourage their nations to take action towards a sustainable future.

2020 was a year I felt encouraged to challenge myself to create with less and realise what is truly essential and necessary to express and create a piece of work. I am motivated and excited to continue this journey in sustainable creation and production processes in my own work, amidst the pandemic and moving forwards. 

My dance journey started with learning Ballet at the age of four, moving on to creative movement and contemporary styles as I grew older. Swimming was a big part of my childhood where I found the weightlessness of being in water very comforting and liberating, and a welcome balance to the time spent on my feet dancing. When my full time dance training and my performing career began at the age of 11, I encountered challenges such as injuries, stifled creativity and expression and struggles to conserve my energy over long periods of time.

In managing myself as a professional, there came a time when I felt I needed to address and nurture the state of my mental health. I found supportive practices to keep my mind healthy, positive and determined and started to understand how to maintain my energy levels more efficiently.

When I slowly started giving up eating meat around five years ago, I noticed eliminating it from my diet impacted the longevity of my energy levels, overall mood and thinking patterns, finding increased vitality and vibrancy and less stagnation of energy flow within my body. I had always previously believed that I needed meat to supply my muscles with its protein for dance, having a pretty fast metabolism and not keeping weight on easily. I was always trying to eat to put more weight on! In this process I learnt how much protein we can receive from alternative, non-animal foods. 

I feel blessed and grateful to have met some incredibly transformational coaches and mentors during the challenging times along my way, who all steered me to return towards natural approaches of moving, thinking and being. 

A particularly severe injury forced me to take time off from dancing to heal, rehabilitate and retrain. At this time one of my closest and dearest dance friends introduced to Boglarka Hatala – Embodiment Coach and Physiotherapist in Dresden, Germany, who reeducated and reawakened my body’s potential and capability. She encouraged me to recognise the power my body had to heal itself and strengthen through her blend of biomechanical and psychomotor approaches.

The process with Boglarka opened up space and opportunity for me to find efficient and empowering pathways to heal, communicate and express through movement. Boglarka’s guidance enlightened me in how I could work more functionally and with a more inclusive approach to my body in motion; taking into account and incorporating my personality, inherent nature, my culture and ancestry to understand my body on a personal level, holistically and within my working context or environment.

She suggested I retrain my ballet technique with Renato Paroni in London who teaches a sustainable approach to the form, (inspired by the late Tina Bernal) where taking care of the health, alignment of our bones and use of the joints and muscles in our body is the priority over the general aesthetic.

Ballet technique, as all dance forms, is extremely demanding on the body, inducing wear and tear on the joints over time if not training intelligently and well. I learnt from both Boglarka and Renato how to take care of my body and train in a sustainable way. This was a turning point in my career, becoming aware and understanding the best ways for me to dance within my body specifically, in both practice and performance.

I am enlivened and renewed by a holistic way of being and doing, in reverence to my spirit, energy and emotions and my body’s longevity, as I evolve, change and grow. I want to be responsible for my health to dance and live as long as I can, rather than the possibility being brought to an end by injury or not taking care of myself, which I have faced on occasions.

My pathway in understanding sustainability is through my body and its movement. In the fast paced society we live in today we want to push the body to the limits and see how far we can go to produce as much as we can, we risk over use, wear and tear and burnout. Just as we need to balance and manage our movement and rest periods for the longevity of our bodies, we can find this parallel in our environment and how we respond to it and to nature, which works around the clock for our benefit – in just the same way, it needs our care, love and attention.

I am often inclined to dig a little deeper and research what I think I know and challenge what I am being told or asked to do living in a western working world. I have missed out on eastern and South Asian approaches to the body, mind and soul in my early training in ballet; initially being away from my family and home at boarding school from the age of 11 and then moving to Europe at the age of 19 for work, all the while in predominantly white institutions and surrounded by cultures other than my own. Later in my career I felt drawn to acknowledge and engage with my own South Asian roots and approaches to movement.

Initiating this responsibility within myself and taking my dance journey into my own hands and feet also meant that as my body changed, my inner world yearned to express itself in different ways. I welcomed the diversity and freedom of contemporary movement approaches in dance, as well as different practices and approaches such as Meditation, Yoga, Feldenkreis, Alexander technique, BMC, Tai chi and somatic processing. These all continue to nourish and support my journey, allowing me to access greater awareness, grace and possibility to discover and explore the diversity of movement within myself.

Yoga and Tai chi – the ancient practices of the body and mind from the east, invite us to connect with nature and move in harmony with it rather than against it. The foundations of Yoga and Tai chi, each in their own ways, take their inspiration directly from nature, human nature and the animal kingdom at their core, allowing us to embody the nature within us and connect to what is around us, becoming a part of it and joining with it through our movements.

These practices help us realise how the effectiveness and quality of our mind and body can be measured by our awareness, not by the length of time or quantity. This gracefully allowed my movement experience and practice to become more sustainable and heightened. To practice these techniques, few materials needed, if any at all, working only with the bare essentials of your body and its relationship to the Earth and the space in and around you. I find movement practices that come to life through nature’s laws and our connection to them to be deeply authentic and organic.

Taking care of my inner landscape has in turn, turned my head and perception to look in different directions and find parallels in how we can take better care of our planet earth and the environment more genuinely.

Learning to understand and train my body as an individual, respecting and honouring both its limits and boundaries whilst developing its capacities, permits me to start to understand this concept of the sustainability of our environment in all its elements and resources. 

We can choose what we feed our minds, bodies and souls with from our external environment, we can be shaped and informed, guiding us to eliminate toxic elements from our consumption. In turn, we may become aware of any toxicity we may be contributing to our environment which impacts the quality of the food we eat and the air we breath and water we drink etc.

How are we taking care of what we have? How do we use resources and consume? How are we renewing and replenishing our environment to last, without getting utterly depleted and burned down? I have come to realise that the times when I have been faced with burnout and extreme exhaustion and pain, occurred when I wasn’t feeling entirely connected to what I was doing or the environment I was in.

Transformational life coach Yashwant Patel gently guided me towards observing nature around me and has been a mentor to me in this infinite journey of discovery of listening to my body and soul. Yashwant introduced me to Bhavin Solanki, wellbeing physiotherapist, who brought my attention to Gary Ward’s Anatomy in Motion, at a time in my career when new assessments of how I was moving were greatly needed.

I am so grateful to have met the right people along the way in just the right moments to inspire, support and guide me on this path, as I pick myself up after challenges and keep on walking and dancing forward! It gives me great comfort and assurance that dance, health, life and our environment are intrinsically connected and we can find ways for them to be mutually supportive to live our best lives, in harmony. 

At low points in my dancing career, where I felt unsure of what direction to take and yet empty enough to receive, I had the opportunity to meet two incredible pioneering women in dance and movement, whose approaches and practices were holistic and broadly encompassing what it is to be human. Susanne Linke – whose approach to training includes movements of the body inspired by animals, the drive of our emotions and the energy of our spirit and Minako Seki – whose methodology combines the practice of developing a conscious mind, our attention towards nature and a healthy diet. 

Movement can be exhausting and draining mentally, emotionally and physically and I learned that in understanding our true inner nature and how we navigate and manage that across the spectrum of being human, we can create and move from a source of joy, abundance and unlimited creativity and expression.

This brings me more sensitivity towards how we exhaust our Earth of its resources and I started to learn more about the nature of our environment and what can contribute to its health. Becoming more individual in my practice and learning about the possibilities in my nature and of the body, made me more aware of the diversity in nature and humanity, along with our commonalities and the power of coming together in our communities to work together and support each element.

We observe and learn about patterns in nature and how each individual part feeds into the whole, to support the collective. This generates an understanding of a similar dynamic, in how each individual’s actions feed into the wholeness of our environment and contribute to climate change and other environmental issues.

The elements, movements and dynamics of nature continue to inspire me in how to take care of my body. Connecting with the elements of air, water, fire, earth and ether influence my practice greatly, inspiring and guiding the quality of movement for a deeper understanding and experience as we learn to embrace and feel our own way through them. The elements give life and quality to our movements, allowing them to blossom and evolve.

We can 

Connect to the lightness of air to create and breathe space within us,

Invite the flow of water soft and yet so powerful to gently cleansing away stagnant energy within us,

Develop a sense of groundedness within us through the support and fertileness of the earth below our feet,

Ignite the fire within us propelling us into action

and we can Grow an awareness of ourselves in the space we inhabit and how we interact with it.

Connecting with the elements has helped me find new pathways and uncover intuitive and natural movement within myself. Observing nature I learn about growth, resilience, renewal and rebirth and connect to those qualities and energies within myself. Nature is an endless source of inspiration for us, and one of our greatest teachers. The movement and shift towards sustainable living is an action we can involve ourselves in daily, in how we go about our day and asking ourselves if our choices are healthy for our body and for our Earth. More times than not we find they are one of the same.

Learning about sustainability through my being, on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels is like looking at the ecosystem, holistically. Renewing the energy sources of our body, mind and spirit allows us to understand how we treat the resources in our environment. We learn to understand that how we create stress on Earth is not too dissimilar from how we create stress on the joints of the inner Earth of our body, both through a pressure and desire for more.

Just as we become conscious about how we reach exhaustion within ourselves, we understand better how we might be exhausting and taking advantage of our environment. I feel that the practice and experience of dance and movement is about how you manage and use your energy, emotions and ideas and how you express them and go on to keep being able to express them.

Looking and feeling through the lens of the body and how we sustain ourselves, not only to survive but to thrive, we understand how our actions contribute to the quality of resources and how much it actually takes from the earth to be healthy and function at its best. Respecting the elements of nature around us is in turn, good for our health; maintaining healthy soil for crops, clean water to drink, unpolluted air to breathe. It is apparent that caring for our environment serves it well to keep on taking care of us.

Learning to treasure our bodies and human experience within the ecosystem and the part we play in it, creates a deeper, on-going relationship with the Earth.

I do believe that it can work both ways – in starting to become actively conscious about the environment’s health and how we contribute and care for it can in turn motivate one to take better care of themselves and others.

Our environment is here to support, feed and nourish us to live and thrive upon it and to enjoy these benefits, we must value and honour this exchange and find the ways in which we can give back and support its replenishment – if we are to continue to receive nature’s gifts and co-exist in harmony with it. Becoming aware of how we live, how we consume and being more mindful and efficient in our practices, helps us to understand what really is necessary and enough.

In my experience, what is humanly sustainable for me opens up a portal to appreciating what is sustainable in nature. The delicacy of a flower, that can literally break in your hand and yet its stem may have such strong roots that it can breathe new life and flower again- in resilient splendour. Likewise as humans, we can recognise how delicate we are, yet can recover and experience a sense of rebirth within one lifetime and renew ourselves and our own energy resources, before our time is up. Understanding how delicate, vulnerable and yet resilient our Earth is for things to grow, flourish and rebirth too, we must take care of it before natural resources run out. 

Just as the current state of many issues have come to light during the pandemic, giving us time to wonder, contemplate and begin to figure out how we can begin to heal the necessary, we have been offered an opportunity to realise just how much we are destroying on Earth and reassess our impact on the planet through our choices and decisions. Has the Covid-19 virus come perhaps as a spiritual signal directly from nature about how we are interacting with it and what we need to improve? 

Living with and through nature at our core, humbly with a sense of wonder and appreciation, might just bring us more into sync with Earth for collective benefit and the good health of all species and our environments.

Nandi in a forest setting, looking up to the sky with her arms in the air. She's wearing a long brown and maroon printed dress and has dark curly hair
Image credits: ©Simon Richardson

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

We have all had a little more time to really sit and think about the environmental emergency this last year. A year of different possibilities and a clearer 20:20 vision of so many issues which have come to light, which have existed for a long time and yet still increase and are on the rise. I have been less distracted by a busier lifestyle during lockdown to take more time to digest and feel my responses towards things such as sustainability and what actions I can implement right now. 

I progressed a little further during lockdown in eliminating fish from my diet and most animal products. I have found this much easier being at home and preparing every meal I eat, due to time saved in not commuting for work journeys and grabbing food on the go. I hope to keep this up. I would like to be more responsible in how I consume plastic packaging which cannot be recycled too.

Moving back to London in 2018 and reconnecting with the South Asian community, I have been brought closer to its traditions and practices in health. Connecting with Dr Indira Anand, I began eating with more awareness through the Ayurvedic approach to diet and nutrition. The principles of Ayurveda are governed by the elements in nature and connected to our emotional tendencies, mental abilities and physical traits.

Ayurveda analyses our physical, emotional and mental attributes to guide our eating habits and routine with the foods that suit and compliment our nature best. Dr Anand introduced me to the practice of Yoga Nidra – deep rest in the conscious state before between being awake and asleep.

I am encouraged and motivated to take more time to assess and research the products I consume moving forwards, across food, fashion and beauty, learning if products have been ethically sourced and if their production process damages our environment or the animal kingdom.

In beauty, I am becoming more aware of the products I choose to use on my hair to take care of its inherent curly nature, choosing products with less to no chemical ingredients, that are sustainably sourced and produced and therefore better for the health of my hair. In embracing my natural curls I have realised the value of accepting your natural self, and discovering and staying true to your own nature. These are some of my life’s biggest personal challenges, which have helped generate and guide that awareness in me towards nature and the environment. This journey feels so NATURAL and organic!

I have switched over to drinking loose-leaf tea or biodegradable tea bags, shocked by research proving that some brand’s tea bags still contain plastic. It has been encouraging to notice over this last year that packaging from some retailers now come in paper bags instead of plastic. I have yet to research deeply in fashion production processes, but I hope to address how I consume in that area with more awareness moving forwards, towards more sustainable options such as vegan clothing lines, which I see are on the rise and some brands having started consciously made lines of clothing.

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?

In South Asian communities as in any community, I feel we can readily explore and journey deeper into our roots, culture and ancestors to help us understand and solve current issues. We can ask more questions – what wisdom can we still access and bring forward, which ancient practices and philosophies are there for us to keep alive and breathe new life into, to support us in today’s world? We can look back at how indigenous tribes survived and managed, when humanity was not over producing things at such a rapid rate and in such large quantities.

This is our challenge to manage in today’s world of consumerism, we can ask ourselves what we can do with less, what we truly need and what is merely a distraction? 

We can come together as a community in facilitating and having more discussions, dialogues and talks by professionals and activists in these fields, to educate, bring more awareness and inspire our South Asian communities to move forward. We can engage and take part in activities and projects together, use storytelling to communicate messages in a multitude of forms, share our discoveries with each other, and encourage support and togetherness in our actions.

We can trace traditions and practices which have been recorded or passed on from our ancestors and learn how they managed with what they had. The youth of today can actively converse with senior members across the community to find out what they can share with us from the past to inform their practices and efforts to tackle current environmental emergencies.

I believe it starts with us, as individuals, making conscious changes and improvements and simultaneously coming together to share what we have come up against and the solutions we have found to generate change in our environment with our community.

Our South Asian heritage and culture is ripe in its practices to support our wellbeing in accordance with nature and environment  – from Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda – connecting to our bodies and minds in an essential way, wisely and safely in our own habitat. We can encourage a ‘waste not, want not’ perspective and way of living. I am beginning to acknowledge and value what we can learn from our heritage and ancestors and India’s ancient past. We can choose to actively seek out guidance to understand more about our South Asian roots in education and practices. 

I’m not 100% aware of how active India is as a country in being sustainably responsible and how they are contributing to climate change in this present moment with increasing demands and economic challenges, but I feel that all generations of South Asian people globally, can exchange and share ideas of what we have learnt from our experiences and from other cultures to support tackling issues. We can pave a bright path ahead collectively through and across generational learning. We can embrace exchanging practices and knowledge between the east and the west to create innovative solutions. 

Meanwhile, currently in India, with the farmer’s protests and the future of farming and agriculture being challenged, one cannot help but recognise the value of this essential connection between humans and the earth and appreciating those who are literally working and caring for the soil and whom have dedicated their life to that mission.

We can understand how essential it is for humans to manage agriculture well, to honour and value their work, and recognise how much is being asked of them and nature to over produce. This is another avenue in which we can improve how this relationship between our selves as humans and our planet can be addressed, in how we care for it and contribute to its wellbeing. I support and can only hope that industrial methods will not win over traditional and indigenous methods of farming in agriculture and how we sustain a decent and good level of human rights and nature’s rights. 

Do you find such lack of understanding makes communicating the message through your art form more challenging or difficult? 

In the dance industry, being an artist in some instances can mean forming part of a mute culture where not every artist’s opinions and thoughts are always considered or integrated into a creation of a work. It is a challenge for all artists to recognise when this is happening and take a decision if they really want to participate in this and get used to or stuck in it. As a creator in the dance world, you are required to share, verbalise and express your opinion and thoughts via your marketing and publicity, as well as the work itself with your collaborators. 

The action of Dance itself being a ‘silent’ non-verbal art form, has immense power to communicate ideas, meaning and messages through movement, yet at the same time, I feel dance artists and creators can always compliment, supplement and support their messages and work via verbal communication in speaking out.

Audiences don’t always get a chance to communicate verbally with the dance artists in response to their work, yet we can create and facilitate this channel to welcome written responses, feedback and dialogue. Voicing and writing about what we do supports the message we are trying to get across and I think dancers and creators in the sector should provide opportunities to verbally express, talk and write about their work and creative processes, research and development and put it out there. You never know whom it could reach and or provide more available access to, to learn about your journey from an inspirational idea to a finished performance. 

So I feel, finding our physical voice, as well as learning to express it effectively through movement is important to support and create greater access, inclusion and belonging of our work and the comprehension of our message, in the bigger picture.

I have seen waves of insights and sharing increase over the last year through the lockdowns and art being shared so generously and innovatively, creating space for more interaction and discussions with artistic creators. I look forward to this movement continuing and evolving in the future!

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

My encouragement for the youth of today, is to start with yourself! 

How is your inner environment serving you and what does your outer environment and habitat look and feel like, how can you serve it better and treat it with the same respect that you could treat yourself? 

How are you taking care of your inner landscape and nourishing it – your inner earth, your inner fire, the breath that passes through you? Are you contaminating those elements within and around you with toxic habits? Do you feel you are only just surviving and existing? Do you feel you could thrive more? Ask yourself about it all.

Taking this responsibility towards ourselves in turn lends itself to teach us to become more aware of our actions towards our earth. Check in with how clean you feel the air and water to be around where you live and where you travel to and what actions of yours might be contributing to its quality. 

Get in touch with yourself, check in with you how you are feeling in any given moment, how you are nourishing yourself and your nature and replenishing your reserves. Spend more time out in nature and observe and feel what resonates with you, and see if and how that experience might plant a seed and inspire you to have a new perspective, take a new action or direction or simply bring you into an improved state of being.

Evolve your practices as you get older and in conscious ways that feel natural to you. Take care of the renewable energy of the Earth as well as you can of your own. Tune in to the phases of life, its cycles and those of the Earth, like the harvest season, the planting of crops, the energies of the day and the night, of the moon and the sun. 

The Earth has to survive and thrive well to support the next generation of humans. If we abuse it here and now, selfishly in our own personal timelines on Earth, we are not supportive of others receiving all the possible resources and experiences in the future, that we may have enjoyed till now. Find joy in being responsible. If you might believe in reincarnation, then think about what your soul will come back to, do you wish for a healthy Earth for yourself or at least for the next generations.

In starting a journey and enquiry for yourself, you may find yourself endlessly motivated. Throughout our lives we may face spells or periods of boredom, and this journey of discovering ourselves, as a part of nature and as an active force within the environment, is vast and I feel it doesn’t lets us down.

The learning process can be fruitful and infinite, through the states of nature we can welcome experience and understand the changing seasons of our life, along with the seasons of our environment. There is so much possibility of evolution that a human can go through in a lifetime, culture goes through over years, society goes through across eras and nations go through over decades and centuries. 

Its important for the youth of today to initiate journeys for themselves that can be continual in their education and development, opening up new pathways, avenues, diversions and branches that may lead to new enquiries as they move through life.

Dance has been this evolving and infinite journey of discovery within myself and how I relate to the world around me and more recently merging it with my interest in the sustainability of our environment and its health now only adds to my big adventure!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am soon to launch my website (www.nanditashankardass.com) offering my wellbeing service Welcome Movement which is available to all organisations and individuals. The service provides a range of movement and dance classes or tailored sessions from Organic movement, Yoga, Meditation, Ballet to Creative movement, drawing inspiration and guidance from nature, our human nature to encourage a better experience of ourselves and possibility for our growth and evolution. 

I look forward to learning not only how I can create sustainable practices and productions in the future of my work but also communicate messages of the environmental issues we face and spread awareness of the power of nature through my work. 

I am passionate about how creative and production processes in the arts can generate a sustainable future, for the environment which surrounds us, and the inner environment of our body, mind and soul.

Website: www.nanditashankardass.com

Returns to Nature: https://vimeo.com/510284291

Nature Feels: https://vimeo.com/505694179

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Shamika Salvi

We caught up with Scrapless App’s Marketing Director, Shamika about her zero food-waste journey: from Mumbai to Vancouver

What is your ethnic and professional background?

I am a marketing and communication professional from India and I have spent close to 5+ years in this profession working for various ad agencies and brands like Ogilvy, Bajaj Finserv to name a few in India and Canada. 

Can you tell me a bit about your startup? How did it come about?

We at Scrapless are a food discovery and redistribution platform which connects people with businesses that have surplus food. We help food businesses reduce their food waste and promote their products on our platform. Foodies on a budget get food they love at a reduced price. 

Which groups of people have shown most interest in your startup so far?

We have an equal mix of client and businesses who have shown interest in our start up from large grocers to individual restaurants, influencers who promote food and sustainable living.

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

I have always been inspired by Ms. Sudha Murthy, a well-known Indian philanthropist who has dedicated her life to help people who are less fortunate. She always abided by the principle that just because one has something in excess does not mean they should waste it, but always think about ways to help others who are not so lucky. This learning is what cultivated the thought of sustainable living in me. It made me realize that if we make small but important changes in our lifestyle by doing simple things, we can help create an eco-friendly planet for us and our future generations. 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash about your sustainable business career choice from family, friends or society at large? (Please feel free to share any relevant experiences)

I have received extensive support from my friends & family and they in fact now understand the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle and are too trying to do their bit for the environment. 

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

I have adopted simple practices like using more eco-friendly products, and have reduced the usage of electronic appliances that require a lot of electricity or water. For example, air drying my hair instead of using a hair dryer. Trying to reduce the use of a dishwasher, replacing plastic with sustainable materials like using bamboo-based toothbrushes etc. 

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?

Yes, there seems to be a lack of understanding when it comes to climate crises among the South Asian community and the major reason behind this is probably a lack of awareness and interest towards environmental stewardship – no one wants to go walking even if the store is nearby as we have cars at our disposal. One way to bring awareness in the minds of the people would be to have government initiatives to reduce causes that contribute to climate change and incentivize the same and also have sound education about climate change.

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?

Well, it can start with a step as simple as car-pooling or reduction of usage of things that are not eco-friendly. A plastic toothbrush can be replaced with a bamboo one, newspapers can be recycled into bags or bags for dry garbage, sorting garbage into dry and wet waste, buying products that can be easily reused or recycled – e.g. glass bottles for milk can be reused over and over instead of a milk carton or milk in a plastic bag. 

While sustainable lifestyle is being adopted by a lot of people, I feel it is not something everyone has access to and that is the gap that needs to be filled, by helping people who need help. It can be done simply by donating goods that we don’t need to someone else who can make good use of it. Donating things to thrift stores as they stop items going to landfills by providing a space for old items to find new homes. 

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

The time is now, take small steps now to help save the planet because we only have one. Emphasize on the importance of environmental science at school and practice sustainable living in whatever way you can, even if it means using your older sibling’s study materials instead of buying new ones. 

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

Being from Bombay India, I always loved being at the beach. I have seen beaches go from clean to being filled with some sort of waste at every step while at the beach. The beach clean up undertaken by Afroz Shah, a lawyer and an environmentalist of the Versova beach started around 2015 which had almost 5.3 million kilograms of trash before the clean up. The drive and the passion that was shown by Afroz and the team to do something for the environment was something that impacted me the most. It took him around 3 years to get the beach trash free and he did not stop until it was.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work at Scrapless?

We are always looking for new businesses to try our platform, new connections and leaders in food to support our mission. 

You can find out more about the Scrapless App here: @scraplessapp and here: scrapless.ca