Exclusive interview with Arushi Madan, Environment Ambassador to the Middle East (by Tunza Eco-Generation) and President of youth community group “Students for the Earth”
What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on? – Henry David Thoreau
17-year-old Arushi Madan isn’t just a regular teenager. She’s extremely dedicated towards lending her voice to the larger cause of conserving our environment.
Known as the “Green Machine,” due to her great passion for the environment, Arushi takes every opportunity to spread awareness about the need to protect the environment and reduce waste.
In an era where most youngsters are not motivated enough to take up green-causes, Arushi manages to capture their attention by speaking their language – videos, games, quizzing, give-aways and Green Talk sessions are some of her tools.
Interestingly, she campaigns at food courts, cafeterias and high school football areas to spread environmental awareness.
With the sponsorship and help of environmental agencies and corporations she keeps on mobilising the youth to work towards environmental protection.
The fact that Arushi has won so many national and international awards is a testimony to her work in the field of environment advocacy. Some of her notable achievements include :
- Won the “International Diana Award” – one of the most prestigious global award with the certificate signed by the British Prime Minister Mr. David Cameron.
- Won International Young Eco Hero Award from US based “Action For Nature”.
- Selected as High Achiever Youth for “Commonwealth Young Achievers Book” published in 2015.
- Featured as inspirational teen on US based website inspiremykids.com.
- Middle East Topper in TERI Green Olympiad Contest.
- Won the “Best (Environment) Ambassador” award from Tunza Eco-Generation (an initiative by Samsung Engineering & UNEP) among more than 60 global ambassadors.
- Won the “Best Foreign paper Statement” award in MUN 2014 (Model United Nations).
- Was invited to represent UAE in Global Youth Eco Leadership Summit at Seoul, South Korea in Feb 2014.
- Selected by “Women for Wildlife” as one of the 35 Global Women Visionaries and heroines of today’s world who are passionately devoted to a cause.
- Won “Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum award for Distinguished Student” in 2013.
- Won “Sharjah Award for Educational Excellence” in 2015.
Excellence in academics and extra curricular activities (dance, cricket, chess, public speaking) coupled with her strong leadership quality, her active involvement in social & humanitarian activities and her passion for environmental advocacy has shaped her personality as an all rounder.
But it’s her dedicated efforts towards protecting the environment through her self-initiated projects and by inspiring and encouraging others through campaigns, that sets her apart.
Arushi is also seen as an inspirational figure and a role model for many youngsters.
In an exclusive interview with NRICafe, Arushi Madan talks about her journey as a sustainability ambassador.
NWhat was your pathway to the environment becoming your cause?
Ever since I was young, my parents used to tell me to switch off the lights when not in room, not to waste resources, not to throw waste around, keep the place clean, care for plants etc. That’s where my interest in environment built up.
It developed into a passion and concern towards environment causes when I started reading about alarming levels of global warming and it’s harmful consequences in the form of increasing natural disasters (like floods, droughts, cyclones), spread of diseases, extinction of species etc.
Once I went for “Earth Day walkathon”, where I noticed participants happily joining the walkathon without knowing what it is for and what message it is conveying. Ironically, at the end of walkathon, I saw people carelessly throwing waste including empty plastic water bottles, cans, chips wrappers etc in the open ground.
Then I realised that there is lack of awareness on basic environment values in common man. It made me to think how can a serious problem of global warming, an environmental menace, be tackled unless people are aware that problem exists, it is realistic and they are the stakeholders in contributing to the problems and suffering from it’s consequences.
This realisation inspired me to adopt the cause and take up the issue of spreading awareness. Ever since then, I have been into environmental advocacy by campaigns and working at grass root level.
NYou are known as the “Green Machine” because of your passion for environment. What are some of your proudest achievements so far?
I have been trying to mobilise and impact people mainly youngsters to work towards environment protection through various campaigns like International Youth Day campaign, Tree Plantation (with kids), Medicine donation, Enviro-art and various self initiated projects like Waste Segregation system and energy saving system set up in our building.
People started noticing me, contacting me and following me. I was looked upon as role model for many youngsters. All this made me visible and helped me in winning various national and international awards.
My proudest achievements are when:
- I won International Young Eco Hero Award in 2015 (I was the only one from UAE among 10 global winners) from Action For Nature, USA.
- I was honoured and featured as Young Achiever in Common Wealth Young Achievers Book (CYAB) by Commonwealth Youth Council. I was one of the 9 Indians featured for my extra-ordinary efforts for a cause.
- I was recognised and appreciated as one of the only 3 UAE inspirational teenagers for “Making A Difference” by UAE’s “Friday Magazine” (by Gulf News).
- I was honoured & awarded as the “Best (Environment) Ambassador” from Tunza Eco Generation (an initiative by Samsung Engineering & UNEP) among more than 60 global ambassadors.
- I won cash prize for achieving distinction and being the Middle East Topper in TERI Green Olympiad Contest (which is an exam conducted internationally by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India).
- I was selected by “Women for Wildlife” as one of the 35 Global Women Visionaries and heroines of today’s world who are passionately devoted to a cause.
- When I was invited as key note speaker for the 1st International Women’s Peak Performance Summit, I was the youngest speaker in the panel.
N Studies predict that India set to become water scarce by 2025 and already the signs are obvious. Do you think a U-turn is possible?
Unless population growth is slowed quickly, new structures are built to extract ground water and sustainable water conservation techniques/strategies are implemented (like rainwater harvesting, conversion of snow of North India to water) and the attitude of Indians is changed (towards NOT wasting water in ceremonies, functions, festivals and celebrations), I doubt that a U-turn is possible.
NWhat are the obstacles you normally face during you awareness campaigns?
Initially people were not willing to come for my campaigns. Youngsters & their parents thought it would be wastage of their time. Then I collaborated with companies like Bee’ah and Tunza Eco Generation (Environment networking platform for children and youth-initiative by Samsung and UNEP) and got nice give-aways / souvenirs to be given during these campaigns.
This strategy worked and give-aways worked in attracting people to attend my campaigns. Once they attended my campaigns, I was successful in convincing them, generating interest in them to work towards environment protection.
During my initiative “Waste Segregation system “ in our building , after putting the boxes (meant for paper waste), I saw few residents throwing cloth tie / liquid waste in that box which had clear label outside the box specifying to throw paper/paper-like waste in it.
Then I realised that this system won’t be effective till each & every resident of our building is visited and made aware about it’s purpose and significance.
So I started meeting each of the 66 families one by one. I visited door to door to ensure every flat resident or every family is aware of what and why I set it up.
At any point of time, some or the other family was on vacation or not available. I made a list of all those who were unavailable and later kept visiting them till I met and educated each and every resident in our building.
During my initiative “Energy Saving in our building “, initially when I used to switch ON dim light at 10pm , I used to see at 5AM that someone switched ON the main lights as well thereby causing wastage as dim & main lights both were ON.
Also many residents approached watchman complaining that lights are not functioning properly. All these were addressed when I conducted one session per floor and made all the residents aware that dim-light / dimmer consumes less watts and still is good enough for odd hours.
As I am in my senior class(12th class), at times sparing time for my campaigns becomes challenging but I overcome it by staying back or working in zero periods and managing my time optimally.
I have to customise my campaigns to make them convincing and interesting for target participants else people at times feel this “Climate Change advocacy” is a myth.
I mean they still feel issues like global warming are hyped up.
NIf you could have the ears of the world leaders, what is one message you would want to tell them?
Ensure global commitment and take bold steps to fight/stop climate change like ignite renewable energy revolution & put smart regulations to reduce emissions.
NYou have to be really focused to do so many activities along with your studies. What keeps you motivated?
Appreciation from friends, relatives, peers, teachers and when stranger comes to me and says “I have been inspired by your idea and have started following the same” – these all keep me motivated and inspire me to do more in bigger & better way to impact bigger masses and to generate many more eco-warriors.
Honestly, even all the awards and media appreciations also help me a lot by keeping me motivated and charged for the environmental cause I have adopted.
Overall, the urgency of each of us to reduce our carbon footprint and protect environment from the EVILS of CLIMATE CHANGE is what drives me and keeps me motivated.
NHow supportive are your parents and teachers in your journey?
My parents have been extremely supportive in my journey. Whenever I have an idea in my mind, I discuss with them and they promptly and actively support me by guiding me, providing me all logistical support to turn my idea into accomplishment.
My school environment in-charge Ms Anjum Hasan has always encouraged me to continue working towards this cause. She was instrumental in providing me platform within the school for my in-school awareness sessions.
NWhat is one message that you would give to the children of future?
My message to all the readers :
“Going green” doesn’t have to be a daunting task, we don’t need to bring drastic changes to our life style. Whatever we do impacts environment. So before taking any action, please ask yourself 3 questions : Is it necessary? What will be it’s impact on environment? And Is there any eco friendlier alternative?
Simple & small things can make a difference. They may be small at individual level but if all of us follow them, they collectively have a bigger & positive impact on the environment. After all my carbon foot print adds to yours, yours adds to mine and ours adds up to the global carbon footprint.
Remember, the earth can live without humans but humans cannot live without earth, We have only one planet, there is no planet B.
My message to the youth/children of future:
I would like to advise the global youth to shed away hesitations and not to wait for others to initiate. Have a “Let me” approach rather than “Why me”.
Apart from academics, involve yourself in social and voluntary activities to improve the lives of others, to give back to society and to make this world a better place. Be the change you wish to see in the world. For example if you find a place dirty, please don’t say “the place is dirty”. Rather, clean it and say “It was dirty”.
Do it and set examples for others. Youth has immense potential to bring about a revolutionising change, let’s use “Youth Power” and bring a positive change to the environment and to the world. L
Let’s increase our handprint to reduce our footprint. Let’s leave our mark (not our footprint).
Believing in actions more than words, Arushi works at the grassroots level to set an example for others to follow. She is on a mission to inspire and empower more eco-warriors to get into action to lead into a greener future.