How this 16-year-old is encouraging society to adopt sustainability through his non-profit
As a 15-year-old boy, Silchar-resident Subhadeep Purkayastha was among those who would get excited about making a replica of a model city.
In 2016, when an opportunity came up to participate in a national level science project challenge, Subhadeep and his team presented their model on ‘Sustainable City 2050.’
However, one of the judges noticed that the model consisted of thermocol, deeming the project unsustainable.
Subhadeep addressing students and creating awareness for sustainable change
“This made me think more about the issue as I could not think of a better alternative at that moment,” he shares.
A year later, Subhadeep founded EcoAlarmist at the age of 16 to change people’s perception of environmental protection, and how they can contribute through their actions.
“I had learnt about sustainable development and global warming in school. By the time I was in class 10, the same things were taught as lessons, but practically, not much change was taking place around us to achieve this,” Shubhadeep tells SocialStory.
Creating sustainable change
EcoAlarmist primarily works in Assam, especially in and around Silchar and Guwahati. In urban areas, it helps people and businesses transform their lifestyle by making their actions more sustainable.
In the rural areas, the organisation uplifts the lives of people, enabling them to adopt sustainable practices in all aspects of life as they are the most vulnerable when it comes to global warming and climate change.
EcoAlarmist’s main activities include working with small businesses and startups to incorporate sustainability in their operations, conducting workshops on climate crisis with school students, and sustainable donation and plantation drives.
Subhadeep planting a sapling during one of the plantation drives
“We started initially with online videos and progressed to organising offline campaigns like plantation drives, sustainable donation drives, food wastage campaign for restaurants, and sanitation programmes with school students,” says Subhadeep.
In 2019, during World Environment Day, EcoAlarmist had launched a plantation drive where it planted over 200 saplings on a national highway and distributed 100 saplings to urban households.
At present, the group is working in a few rural areas which face severe water shortage to help villagers with proper water storage techniques.
In fact, EcoAlarmist has educated more than 500 children on climate crisis through its workshops.
It also reached out to more than 100,000 people through its social media awareness programmes.
With a core team of eight members and more than 50 volunteers, EcoAlarmist has influenced several startups, local businesses, and organisations to incorporate sustainability practices in various aspects of their work, Subhadeep says.
The team of EcoAlarmist
Sharing his experience of working with EcoAlarmist, Design Lead Parnadh Sinha, says, “Besides designing, it's always a pleasure for me to be on-ground, having to face the unseen environmental hurdles. I've been seeing our team grow since its sapling days to now becoming a registered organisation.”
Last year, due to the sudden imposition of a nationwide lockdown, the group had to halt its regular work and pivoted towards providing COVID-19 relief.
However, Subhadeep says, the pandemic provided them with an opportunity to adapt to new challenges and act accordingly.
During the first wave, EcoAlarmist reached out to over 1,500 daily wage earner families who lost employment opportunities, including 2020 Assam Flood victims, providing them with ration kits, sanitation kits, and pre-loved clothes.
Amidst the second wave, it has launched a COVID-19 help portal, which has already reached out to more than 20,000 people and helped over 1,000 lives.
At present, the portal is serving Barak Valley and Guwahati residents. Subhadeep plans to cover the whole of Assam and all the North Eastern States soon.
While EcoAlarmist does not have any sustainable funding — one of the group’s biggest challenge — it collaborates with various NGOs, startups, and small businesses to get the funding for its initiatives.
Distribution drive during the pandemic
Besides, it also depends on donations from generous donors for some particular projects. “For the COVID-19 relief, we had to approach donors to fund the campaign,” Shubhadeep says.
In December 2020, it launched the 'Share the Warmth' campaign, where it mobilised pre-loved clothes to a tea estate among tea garden labourers in collaboration with a local NGO.
While one of the members in charge of packaging bought plastic bags from the market to pack the clothes, the team later explained to him the sole purpose of the initiative is to promote sustainable development by keeping these clothes out of landfill by mobilising them and reduce the use of plastic that harms the biodiversity of the place.
“The next time we shipped the clothes, the whole packaging was done in discarded papers, and no extra plastics were used. That’s how we carried out a sustainable donation drive, maximising the costs of the campaigns,” says Subhadeep.
The way forward
“My idea is to create a movement #WeForChange, through which people who are already changemakers can help others identify problems they are passionate about, learn more about it, and do something about it,” shares Subhadeep.
According to him, this process has already begun, where it is connecting and trying to bring the changemaker community together across various domains, including animal welfare, menstrual hygiene, education, etc.
Along with four other Ashoka Young Changemakers, Subhadeep will be collaborating with the city administration and student unions to inspire and ensure more young people contribute to bringing a change in their communities.
“If every young person dedicates themselves to solve an issue that they are passionate about, we would not have to depend on government or other authorities to address the problems. For this, Ashoka helps us co-lead the change-making movement with various networks and platforms,” says Subhadeep.
It also plans to include more school outreach programmes with these changemakers, engaging with students through various workshops, and interactive sessions.
EcoAlarmist is also trying to collaborate with potential partners such as media, government, and corporates to raise funds to scale the organisation.
“I want to inspire young people around me to start solving problems that they see around them. Young people need to take ownership and work towards a world where everyone is a changemaker,” he says.