Wricha Johari finding her own WAY out to protect the environment

By Tanvi Dubey|17th Apr 2015
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Wricha found her love for environment through her best friends passion, dedication and drive to do something for the environment. In the field of environment she finally found her calling and is now busy taking up challenges like the PenPal to do her bit for the environment.

A mother and an entrepreneur, she is working to save the world we inhabit through up-cycling.

Early years

Wricha’s schooling in different parts of India due to her father’s frequent job changes meant a lot of moving around. Average at academics, Wricha was always inclined towards art and music with dreams of being a commercial filmmaker since she was 11.

She worked towards this dream for 10 years by doing theatre at Mumbai under Sanjana Kapoor at Prithvi Theatre and studying Development Communication to be able to score well in FTII (Films & Television Institute of India). She found her co-founder, Prakshal in her classmate and best friend while she was doing her Masters, and that was the turning point in her life.


yourstory-Wricha-Johari

 

The WAY out

Her friends passion towards environment conservation inspired her to work towards this cause. She bid adieu to movies and took to this task with a vengeance tapping on her skill especially expressions and communications, which she says, “is in my blood.”

However, finding a job in the field of environment communication after completing her education was the biggest challenge she faced. Given that this is an unorganised sector, there are no existing markets or platforms for professionals in the environment communication field. In fact, the sector is highly driven by voluntary workers.

“There were no ready positions available which could utilise my qualification and satisfy my interests. But this challenge was a boon in disguise, as it pushed me to find my own WAY out,” she says.

Conceived in 2007 and based out of Ahmedabad, Way Around You (WAY) is an organisation working in the field of sustainable development using environment communication (EC) as a medium. Wricha is the Co-founder. “We wanted to bring innovative solutions to the community which can bring solutions to environmental problems they face daily in the world around them.” At World Around You, she looks after communication and strategy building.

Wricha explains that traditionally environment conservation is considered as an expert’s domain where the common person does not feel empowered, skilled or educated enough to contribute. This is a notion she is trying to break to make conservation everyone’s domain by inculcating environmental manners among people from all spheres of life.

Challenges

“Running a venture is like growing a baby. You play a major role in its growth and well-being. It makes me feel empowered as I am able to positively contribute something to the society,” she says. Though the journey has been like a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs, lows and highs, for Wricha it has been worth it.

PenPals and The Yellow Chair

In 2012, what started as a challenge posed by Ahmedabad Global Shapers to Wricha and her team to do something about waste pens, turned into the PenPals project.

A pilot collection in schools to understand the problem at a local level led to a collection of nearly 500 kgs of used pens in just eight months. “Bic, one of the largest manufacturers of pens sold its 100 billionth pen

Wricha and The Yellow Chair
Wricha and The Yellow Chair

in 2005! Every year, more than six billion disposable pens are used and thrown all over the world. These pens don’t get recycled and mostly end up in landfills, ocean or incinerators creating pollution. Manufacturers of these pens admit that their products are generally not designed to be recycled. Pens are everywhere and so is the problem of waste pens, says Wricha and add that, “even countries with advanced recycling technologies like Sweden and USA don’t recycle their pens.”

PenPals is a unique and one of its kind initiative using waste pens to make designer utility products. Wricha believes up-cycling (using in original form and thereby reducing use of other raw materials like wood, metal etc.) is a more effective way of dealing with waste problems than recycling. With PenPals pens are up-cycled into utility products, including tea coasters, photo-clocks, book-stands, lamps, boxes, The Black Box Chair and The Yellow Chair.

The Yellow Chair is a piece of art made by using 300+ waste pens.

Wricha’s project recently won the first Gandhi Change Award under Global Shapers Community for its mission of Litter-Free Literate World. The project was also represented as Global Shapers in the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in 2014 at Davos, Switzerland, at the Youth Connectors for Future program in Sweden and Shape Asia Pacific event by Global Shapers Community in Vietnam.

Working with a team of six from waste collection to research, product design and awareness, all the products created so far are prototypes.

To make the products into a reality, they have started a crowdfunding campaign that will close on 27thApril, 2015. With the funding, the aim is to give away the products as awards, enroll more organisations-schools, colleges and offices for awareness and waste pen collection and to train and support more local artisan families and provide them with better equipment and safety gears.

Apart from pens she also up-cycles old clothes, packaging materials and newspapers to create useful products.

Amidst challenges, Wricha continues to stay motivated through her love for what she does. She shares, “Looking around, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done for improving the state of our environment. It is a constant effort. Every time we conceptualise something and test it on ground the response and support we get from people strengthens my belief in my efforts and keeps me going.”

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