How a Teenager Managed To Save 10 Million Litres of Water, Half a Glass at a Time!
Water, which is supposed to righteously be available to all, is now a privilege. A basic need that life can't survive without, is a privilege. We are incapable of imagining a time when we would have to struggle for a single drop of water to drink while many around the globe currently live the nightmare. That is where the world stands right now, and it calls for an immediate and collective response.
In these times where most people don't see the severity of the water crisis and the rest choose to overlook it, change that comes from young individuals stands as a strong hope for all of us. One such individual is the Water Girl of India, the CEO and founder of Why Waste? who is using her passion for water conservation to make a global impact. She is a girl from Bangalore, Garvita Gulhati.
One is never too young to change the world. This quote perfectly describes Garvita, who was a mere 13 years old when she started working as a changemaker and finding solutions to the water crisis in the country. She is the CEO and founder of Why Waste?, the largest youth-led organization working for water conservation. In 2021, Garvita was the youngest person on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia-Pacific list of Social Entrepreneurs. She also has been selected as one of the 17 Youth Climate Leaders representing the UN in India as a part of their We, The Change campaign.
If you have ever been to a restaurant that served you half-filled glasses with quirky notes on them, you have been confronted by Garvita's initiative #GlassHalfFull. At the young age of 13, when the main aim for most is to catch up with their academics, Garvita was spending time thinking about how she could save each and every drop of water possible. While she was at it, she ended up saving 10 million litres (and counting) of water and has touched over 4 million lives.
The birth of a changemaker
"My interest in water conservation began when I was a teenager during one of my trips to Ahmedabad, Gujarat. As I walked around one of the most iconic stepwells in the world, a little girl ran up to me. She looked exasperated. I thought she needed some money. Surprisingly, she pointed at the bottle in my hand — she just wanted water. I quickly gave it to her, and in no time, her eyes lit up and her face adorned a smile. The irony of this experience was tremendously pivotal, making me realize the importance of treating water with respect", shared Garvita.
A second nudge, which finally led Garvita working towards restaurant-centric water conservation, was a PPT that was presented on World Environment Day at Garvita's school, back in 2015. She came across the statistics which stated that the amount of water that is wasted through half-drunk glasses of water at restaurants is a massive 14 million litres every year. The impact on her was such that, despite attempts by teachers, friends, and family who insisted she focus on her studies since she was said to be too young to find solutions, she came up with Why Waste?
Garvita's Why Waste? started this initiative in order to reduce the massive amount of water wasted at restaurants. The initiative includes encouraging waiters to fill glasses only half instead of full, that way people take just as much as they need and not waste. This helps the restaurants save water and also treats restaurateurs' pockets.
Garvita and her enthusiastic team, The Waterpreneurs, have reached over 5 lakh restaurants thanks to their partnership with the National Restaurants Association of India, impacted about 6 million people, and prevented over 10 million litres of water from being wasted.
The stepping stones
Like any other initiative, Why Waste? faced criticism in its budding days. The ideas, and most importantly, Garvita's ability, were questioned from people around her forcing her to focus on her academics, to the restaurateurs, who thought a young one like herself couldn't possibly have something valuable for them. Garvita said, "Convincing authorities and organisations that we are in it whole-heartedly and are most keen to build the right change has been the most challenging. Initially, it was increasingly tough since most people didn’t want to hear what a teenager had to say. Convincing people in the early days of the ideas having the capacity to make a difference without them yet having seen the light of day, let alone real impact, proved incredibly hard."
But the passion, resilience, and belief in the idea that drove her, did not stop her from making the change that she had set out to make, and finally they were able to convince organizations like Ashoka-Everyone a Changemaker, Change.org, and the Global Changemakers to get on board with the idea and provide support and implementation. As the impact grew with time and effort, so did the number of leading organizations like the National Restaurants Association of India that joined hands with Why Waste?
"In 2018, I petitioned the National Restaurants Association of India and campaigned for an entire year persuading them to take this concept to the half a million restaurants they represent. Proving that this concept saves over 50% of the water being wasted earlier, finally won their support.", said Garvita.
Today, the global organizations: Facebook, Shawn Mendes Foundation, CNN Network 18, United Nations, The Diana Award, IKEA Foundation, Forbes, and many more are amongst the list of supporters and partners of Why Waste?
In partnership with CNN, Why Waste? has encouraged more people to calculate their water footprint through their app and become a part of the change through their national campaign “Mission Paani”.
Vision for the future
"Our goal is to help every single person realise that they can be a part of the solution when it comes to solving the water crisis. Through our simple, hands-on solutions, we want to empower each individual to take charge of their water consumption habits and pioneer change by simply altering their own habits!", explained Garvita.
The youth have been at the forefront of the climate change battle for recent years and Garvita is one of the 17 Youth Climate Leaders representing the UN in India as a part of their We, the Change campaign.
All of her achievements make her commendable, but she is still a regular engineering student who is a professional classical dancer and a calligraphy artist. She's like any of us, the only difference being the awareness and empathy that she shares with the world.
Although change happens from a collective effort where the authorities and the Government play a role in making a change, the change still depends highly on individual consciousness. We need more empathy towards the situations prevailing around us and need to be our own changemakers. As Garvita perfectly puts it, "In a world where change is the only constant, we are now in constant need of changemakers."
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Bhairavi Hiremath