Garvita Gulhati, a Herstory’s Women on A Mission Summit awardee, speaks of the difference she could bring about with a simple, often overlooked change.Rekha Balakrishnan
Garvita Gulhati was in Class X, barely 15, when she came across this alarming piece of information: on an average, 14 million litres of water are wasted everyday, just through the water we leave behind in glasses in restaurants.
It’s a common habit that most of us hardly take notice of. But one that Garvita made it her mission with her initiative, Why Waste? she founded in 2015.
She recalls the experience, “When I was 15, I came across a number of news articles about water shortage and drought, and how 14 million litres of water are wasted everyday in restaurants. This shocked me and I felt I needed to do something about it, go out there and make people aware of water conservation.”
A little research threw up more startling facts. She realised how trivially we waste water in so many different ways. The technologies we create are using a lot of water to be built, and the this loss far outweighs the effect.
Garvita came up with an idea that was simple but made a lot of sense; a small beginning of sorts to a larger purpose.
“I thought why not propose simple solutions to solve the global water crisis, and how every person can make a difference. That’s when I started off with the glass half-full idea and took it to restaurants. From there, we helped optimise water usage across industries, offices, NGOs, and other places. We are also working on getting young people from low-income groups and government schools to join the initiative,” she says.
An engineering student at PES College of Engineering, Bengaluru, Garvita was a high-school student at National Public School when she started ‘Why Waste?’ People were sceptical about where it was going and why she was wasting time on it.
“People couldn’t fathom how a 15-year-old could change the way things were always done. Restaurants didn’t want to listen to me. People around me thought studies was more important than what I was doing during the moment. A lot of people said mean, hurtful things. It was hard to hear all this and still convince myself I was doing the right thing, but I carried on.
Garvita was the only Indian among 60 others from 42 countries to win the ‘Global Changemaker’ title in 2018. It’s a youth programme for social entrepreneurs and community activists.
“The email informing me of my selection went into spam. When I saw it, I screamed. It was a great feeling, and it gave me an opportunity to meet people who are doing phenomenal work in different fields. I began feeling that power in making a difference,” she says.
After coming back from Zurich (where the Global Youth Summit was held), she started Scale 2 of the initiative, which was to reach out of hundreds of schools and inspire thousands of students, and empower them to stand up and do their bit for what matters to them.
Why Waste? since its beginning in 2015 has allied with bluebooks and Zomato to start a new rating for restaurants based on how eco-friendly they are. It also works at saving water and recycling organic waste in restaurants, and optimising usage.
Running an initiative like Why Waste? while being a student is not easy.
“I am glad I became a social entrepreneur,” says Garvita, adding, “the challenges are endless, but the beautiful part of this journey is that it teaches you so much everyday - to be better at work, with people, to fail and then get right back up. Challenges come and go, and it’s all about learning to embrace them. Use your obstacles to learn more about yourself, and your failure as the fuel.”
Right now, as Garvita urges the world to have their glasses half-full, hers is brimming with a lot of plans. The young woman along with an engineering degree is also certified in the fine arts, and a trained Kathak dancer.
Apart from other accolades, she also won HerStory’s Women on A Mission Award for Young Achiever at the Summit held recently.
Now 19, Garvita looks back with a sense of achievement. “When I started Why Waste? I never knew it would reach this stage. Right now, I don’t want to limit myself. I don’t like boundaries, silver barricades… I want to keep doing as much as I possible can.”