Empowering Others to Preserve Nature through Education
20 years ago, “sustainability” was not a buzzword and was restricted to the vocabulary of environmentalists. As a fresh textile graduate with the focus of getting a job in the area of sustainability, I was introduced to the Soka Gakkai by a friend in 2004, which empowered me to take charge of my life and contribute to building a sustainable world through my individual efforts.
I joined as a Training Coordinator in the first ever Zero Waste Project established in India in a tourist village in Kerala. The Zero Waste philosophy aimed at boosting the local economy, generating livelihoods and converting local resources into environment friendly products. I began training a small group of young underprivileged women. The training focused on converting textile waste into works of textile art that brought high financial returns and uplift the lives of these women. The training transformed their lives economically and made the women courageous in sharing and expressing their personal stories of exploitation due to tourism.
From around 2012, I began creating awareness in urban citizens about impacts of pollution on our ecosystems by illustrating bird species, trees and insects through textile waste. I began participating in peoples’ movements to conserve trees in Trivandrum city and awarded a hand stitched textile badge to each citizen who stood in solidarity to save a tree. Keeping the words of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda in my heart, who says, “The understanding and cooperation of others is critical in everything we do. The key is not to count on their help but face the challenge firmly on our own, thus winning their respect and support”, I kept moving ahead with focus and determination.
However, my neighborhood was not adapting to sustainable lifestyles and my studio was mounting with waste. I realized that inculcating values of loving nature could sow seeds of sustainability in the younger generation. I started the Bug Club in 2013, with a Nature library for the neighborhood children. Gradually, I received support from journalists who published articles in the newspapers, environmentalists donated books on nature, and friends opened their gardens and hearts for me and the children to conduct workshops and discover the beauty of trees, plants, birds, seeds, fruits, insects and our interdependence on them. Today, these children are in their youth, and I feel proud to see their Instagram posts sharing their appreciation and respect for nature and their strong beliefs in conserving their environment.
Since 2015, I have tried to incorporate the SDGs through teaching assignments, lectures and talks in various design institutions. In 2018, I guided five design students as part of their two weeks course, in reducing waste by nearly 40% by altering the consumption practices of nearly 1000 students living on campus. I was featured as the Green Warrior by Freedom Tree, Mumbai and was invited as the Green Hero in 2020 by the Global Shapers India Chapter to motivate the youth towards climate action and sustainability.
Today, we seem to spend our lives making more money and buying more things that feed, but never satisfy. The solution to this exploitative economics is that we need to be raised on gratitude. We need to speak to the natural world and raise a pledge of interdependence with respect towards all of life – the winds, the waters, the natural world. Gratitude is the powerful foundation of sustainability.
Towards 2030, I am determined to create an environment of having greater gratitude and respect for our environment and develop a spirit of constant learning amongst the people on preserving and protecting nature.