By Kanchan Khetan*
This article covers an exclusive discussion with Ms Garvita Gulhati, Forbes 30 under 30, on being “India’s Water Girl”, starting ‘Why Waste?’ and the power of youth for conservation. Also including my personal account of ‘Why Waste?’ challenge to emphasize how small steps matter in this long journey of sustainability.
In MBA, we learn the Pareto principle, which says roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. With implications of time, focus and effort constraints, we are taught to focus on the 20% to gain maximum payoff. While this rule is easy to learn and apply in practically all areas of life, but when it comes to water conservation – it being an important and urgent issue – we need to look beyond the biggies dealing with the ‘critical few’ and start asking ourselves ‘What can I do?’. And as the CXOs and the corporate giants catch up to the realities of water scarcity in an era where we need all-hands-on-deck, I say let us focus on every tiny bit that makes an impact. Save that extra bucket, extra cup, extra sip, save that extra drop!
My daily direct water footprint is a whopping 622L according to the ‘Why Waste?’ app, which now gives me engaging challenges to cut down on this. I will discuss my journey with this app in more detail later, but first, I will introduce ‘Why Waste?’. It is a youth-led organization founded by Ashoka Changemaker Garvita Gulhati, recently included in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia List for Social Impact. I recently interacted with her and was inspired by her journey as a 15-year-old to launch the #GlassHalfFull movement to conserve drinking water in restaurants. Since its launch in 2015, Gulhati estimates her work has reached 10 million people, more than 500,000 restaurants, and helped save 6 million litres of water. Gulhati received the prestigious Diana Award from the charity in honour of the late Princess of Wales last year for her efforts.
The app was launched in Sept 2020 by the team with a focus on conservation and sustainability. Since then, the app has cumulated 500+ downloads with a 4.8+ rating on the Google Play store, with the impact of enabling over 100 litres of water conservation every single day through interactive concepts to minimize water consumption.
Throughout my interactions with Garvita, she stressed the power of young people to drive change in the world. This app empowers youth to take the first step towards being responsible consumers of water – the most precious resource in the world. Being a change maker requires taking these small steps in the present to see the impact in your future, she says. Our conversation inspired me to check out the app and adopt this as part of the eco-consciousness journey.
I have used the app for a week now and completed 3 challenges, one in each category – easy, medium, hard – to boast of a total water savings of about 1000 L over one week. With various cool facts, articles and tips, the app motivates me daily to create positive change!
Challenge 1: Level Easy – Wash only full loads
Fun fact: Washing machines take about 110L per load!
This fact during a quiz by ‘Why Waste?’ app prompted me to take up the challenge to wash my clothes efficiently. According to the app, I can save up to 25L water per wash if I use full load settings for the highest efficiency. I started doing that, along with other water-friendly practices like skipping the extra rinse cycle, preliminary spot-treatment for tough stains to avoid rewash, getting more use out of clothes before tossing them in the laundry hamper. A critical switch was moving to concentrated detergents, which are eco-friendly on two accounts: smaller bottles/pods require less plastic and are less costly to produce, and it is less expensive in transportation and storage costs, meaning smaller carbon and water footprint. These small changes can go a long way in aiding the water conservation movement on a personal level.
Challenge 2: Level Medium – Shower faster
This was the next challenge that I opted for, wherein I tried to limit my showers to 10 minutes. It was more challenging than I expected. I had to optimize my time in the shower, and I took about 2-3 days to find my pace. What helped me was a unique strategy to time my shower activities to songs, 1st song for a set of activities, 2nd song for another, and the mission was to be out by the time 3rd song ended. This gave me a good rhythm to work with and helped me understand if I was running late and needed to pull things up. Although the challenge was only for a week, I plan to continue this new way of showering for at least 4 days a week to continue saving about 120L (!!!) water per day of the quick shower.
Challenge 3: Level Hard – Thrift shop
I love my shopping and my online purchases. And while switching to the thrift store for my purchase last week was hard, I was surprised by the collections that are out there. I was spoilt for choice among the many thrift stores listed on Instagram with clothing options ranging from second-hand reusable pieces to upcycled clothes. I bought a pair of second-hand jeans in good condition, and I’m pretty happy with them. Without accounting for the water footprint of new clothes (which is close to 8000L for a pair of jeans!), the app and my personal estimates say that about 70L water is saved in buying from thrift sources. This discovery of thrift stores has changed the way I’m going to approach shopping forever, and I recommend it – 10/10, it is not only eco-friendly but pocket-friendly too 😉
SAVING WATER HAS NEVER BEEN SO INTERESTING! All these fun challenges are easy ways to make a difference in our own environmental footprint and take the small steps to lower the world’s. An average millennial has about 67 apps on their phone – with the ‘Why Waste?’ app, I do suggest increasing this tally by 1 to reduce the water consumption tally by 100s. Garvita and the team have started a revolution with ‘Why Waste?’ and this app is another way of making water conservation more accessible to everyone who wishes to contribute. Most people think their individual action is small or insignificant. Yet, history shows it only takes the enthusiasm of a small group to turn the tide. We are young, but we are powerful. It’s time to use our collective power to make a difference today.
*Student in the MBA programme of IIM Bangalore, sustainability enthusiast and avid reader