Why this journalist created an app to measure greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and Pune-based Prachi Shevgaonkar took that step with a single Google search.
The 23-year-old was studying mass communication at Symbiosis International University, Pune, when in her first semester of college she googled, “What is the biggest problem in the world today?” Climate change popped up.
“I was very surprised to see this because while global experts and scientists were talking about how climate change is one of the most pressing issues in front of us today, nobody around me was really talking about it.
“I started reading more about climate change, the role I was playing in it. I learned that we only have three decades to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It troubled me. I wanted to do something about it, at least at my own level. My family and I took a simple pledge to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent every year,” she tells HerStory.
Why Cool The Globe?
Prachi started researching how she could reduce – and measure - her GHG emission.
“I realised that numbers are important because I needed to measure in order to change anything,” she says.
The idea of Cool The Globe was born out of Prachi’s college dorm room. “Each semester, we would apply for industry internships. I convinced our director to let me work on this crazy idea for an app, instead of interning somewhere else,” she recollects.
Once she started measuring the impact of her actions, her friends, neighbours, and relatives took note and wanted to join her in her mission as well.
That’s when she got the idea of Cool The Globe – a free, citizen-led app for climate action that helps individuals reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a target.
What it does
The app gives a monthly and annual target to users to reduce their GHG Emissions. Users can make savings across 100+ customisable climate actions embedded into their day-to-day life. They can also see the emissions they avoided with each action.
“If a user travels 10 km by public transport instead of a personal car, they can see that they saved 2.3 kg of CO2eq GHG emissions. If one switches off TV for two hours in a day, one can see in the app that they saved 1200 grams of CO2eq emissions. If one did not purchase two sarees (about 1 kg in weight), one can know that they saved 10 kg of CO2eq GHG emissions. All this gets recorded in the user’s monthly savings, and they can see how much of their target is achieved,” she shares about the app, adding that individual actions may seem ordinary, but the collective impact can be extraordinary.
The app also has a global meter that shows in real time the emissions avoided by everyone on the platform.
The road to making this app wasn’t an easy one. A key challenge she faced was determining how to quantify individual actions.
“We considered many options and zeroed in on the amount of CO2eq-avoided GHG emissions as a uniform metric of measuring impact,” she says.
Making an impact
Prachi took the help of 200+ students from her college for beta testing to “make the app foolproof”. She says it took her three years – from conceptualising to design. The app was officially launched in December 2020.
Prachi ran a video campaign to promote the app, which went viral on social media. Entrepreneurs like Harsh Mariwala, Chairman of Marico, tweeted about it and helped spread the word.
Harsh Mariwala's tweet
Cool The Globe now has 24,000+ users from 100+ countries, coming together to take action against climate change. The users collectively avoided 1 million kg greenhouse gas emissions so far.
Prachi was recently awarded the Olive Crown Award by the International Advertising Association and named the young Green Crusader of the year.
She recently became the first Indian to be appointed on the advisory board of the climate leadership coalition, along with the former prime minister of Finland and global leaders.
Now that the app has reached several countries around the world, Prachi wants to create Cool The Globe for organisations, teams, and communities.
“Our goal is to support global organisations, embrace sustainability, and integrate climate action in the lives of one billion citizens. So that together, we can cool the globe,” she says.
Prachi was awarded the Olive Crown Award by the International Advertising Association and named the young Green Crusader of the year.
Reaching net-zero GHG emission
At the global COP26 annual UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India would achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
Prachi views PM Modi’s announcement as a step in the right direction even if the timeline is two decades beyond the 2050 target to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees.
“This is a difficult commitment. But not an impossible one. Our emissions per capita are significantly lower than in the developed world. The cost of renewables is dropping by the day, battery costs are dropping, in some parts, renewables are already cheaper than fossil fuels.
“Some major transformations such as electric vehicles are set to happen in the next two to three decades. These are some very positive signs,” she says.
Focusing on citizen-led movements and action, she says, “Most importantly, we are witnessing more and more ordinary citizens being vocal about climate action. It is creating a ripple effect to drive larger, systemic changes.”
Prachi says there is a long and difficult journey ahead to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2070. “I believe we can reach there with consistent, collective and contagious efforts from every fabric of society.”