For Aditya Pundir, the challenge – and opportunity – was crystal clear.
Living in India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people and a rapidly growing economy, he could see how a huge young population fast becoming part of a consumer society could make or break the nation's climate efforts.
So he set out to meet the next generation of doctors, business leaders, engineers, and more where they're at: in schools and colleges across India. Leading Climate Reality India and South Asia, he developed a Green Campus program that educates students about the realities of climate change and the environmental impacts of their consumer behaviors before they graduate, giving them the tools and know-how to become thoughtful professionals making climate-smart decisions.
Critically, the program doesn't stop there, helping students see what a sustainable economy looks like in action by bringing clean energy, rainwater harvesting, and other climate-friendly initiatives to their campuses. These solutions then give teachers and professors real-world starting points for their own lessons in climate science and sustainability.
For many students and the communities they call home, the program has been eye-opening to say the least, opening new perspectives on how they themselves can be powerful everyday forces for change.
As Aditya reports, what he's seen is that:
"The implementation of the Green Campus program helps the students and community in experiencing the solutions first hand. They can physically interact, verify and visualize the applications and how they are helpful in leading a sustainable lifestyle. The institution works like an experiment laboratory and educators can build lesson plans around the facilities available.
The Green Campus when established in the rural areas become technology and solutions demonstrators for the community, which does not have access to such solutions otherwise."
Let the journey of ‘Net Zero’ green campuses start with you, our leaders ; introduce us by email to the educational institutes in your locality or where you passed out from.
In Their Own Words
What was the problem you saw and which of the solution areas does it relate to?
India has more than 1.3 billion people, and also one of the youngest populations in the world. The economy is growing fast and bringing prosperity to its citizens. The young in school and college are now active consumers. As they will join the workforce, their consumption will increase and so will the impact on the environment. Currently the per-capita carbon footprint is less than 2 tonnes, but is rising fast, and air, water, land and biodiversity is under stress.
There is an urgent need to plan for a sustainable development approach and building green communities to solve the climate crisis.
What was your idea/insight to solve it and the end result you wanted to achieve?
The idea was to take climate and sustainability education to the schools and colleges. The objective is to bring about behavioral change and make them responsible consumers who are aware of their impact on their surroundings. They are familiar with practical solutions on clean energy, air, water, waste, and biodiversity, which can all help in solving the climate crisis.
Why is this solution important to your country and community?
The large population and rising consumption is leading to rising air pollution and worsening health. Water is under severe stress with waste becoming a major hazard. The Green Campus program will help take the message of solutions to the above problem in the community through schools and colleges. The community will also derive some direct benefits as the school gets reliable clean energy and the water table rises. Organic composting with aggressive tree planting will also help in cleaning the air and improving the micro-climate.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The challenge for taking the campaign forward was multidimensional. The educational institutions were not able to visualize the climate challenge and considered the program as an unnecessary workload on their teaching and non-teaching staff. They were further discouraged by the capital expenditure as installing solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and waste systems needed budgetary support.
We also had our organizational challenges. For example,the trained staff required for implementing the program in a large diverse country was missing. We had to also convince the donors to support the program financially.
What did you do and what happened?
We first designed a teacher training program for building awareness on the issues of climate change and sustainable development. This workshop was also available online. The relevant content was prepared and teams were trained to take it to the schools and colleges.
The program has been well received, and we have been able to train more than 11,000 teachers. This also opened the doors for the Green Campus program, which was more transformative. The school has to become a low-carbon institution and implement solutions like solar panels, rainwater harvesting, waste segregation, and enhancing the green cover in and around the institution. The past success of training teachers gave us experience and helped us in fine tuning the Green Campus program. Financial support from donors also has started trickling in.
Who were key stakeholders/partners?
The key stakeholders in this campaign are educational institutions, teaching and non-teaching staff, students, parents, the community where the institution is located, and local government bodies.
What insight, ideas, or suggestions would you offer someone looking to take action in a similar way?
The implementation of the Green Campus program helps the students and community in experiencing the solutions firsthand. They can physically interact, verify and visualize the applications and how they are helpful in leading a sustainable lifestyle. The institution works like an experiment laboratory and educators can build lesson plans around the facilities available.
The Green Campus when established in the rural areas become a technology and solutions demonstrator for the community, which does not have access to such solutions otherwise.
How did their actions promote equity?
The issue of social equity is deeply connected with the relationship an educational institution has with its surroundings. The institutions which are well funded and generally boast of surroundings which are healthy, safe, and green with energy security and resources like water available freely. The Green Campus program helps the ordinary institutions in becoming resource smart, and dramatically increases the access to water, energy access, increased green cover and can offer subsequent improvements in health and well-being due to the improved surroundings.