When Prachi Shevgaonkar decided to choose Computer Engineering after Class XII, no one in his family, which included many IITians, was surprised. But they were stunned when she decided to drop out of college after a month.
Prachi from Pune found an essay she wrote as part of her homework when she was in class IV. The topic was: ‘Where do you see yourself after ten years?’ In the essay, young Prachi had expressed a desire to do something for society and bring about a change. Inspired by these words and dreams, Prachi decided that the time was right for action. With the support of her parents, she took a year off.
“When I left engineering, I started developing my own program. I went to social entrepreneurs, people who inspired me, and I followed them for months. “to open up my world and connect with more people, I decided to pursue a degree in media and communication at the end of my break year. I wanted to learn mass communication to drive change,” she says .
During his first semester, Prachi researched “What is the biggest problem in the world?” That’s when she heard about climate change. “Initially, I thought climate change had no direct impact on the people around me. It seemed like a larger than life problem beyond my control. real voices behind the catastrophic impacts of climate change that my perspective has changed,” she says.
While filming a documentary in a Pune slum, Prachi met a 12-year-old boy who was worried about his house after a flood. She met a farmer who explained how difficult farming had become due to changes in the monsoon (largely due to climate change). She spent a few months with communities of migrant waste workers and saw the effects of climate change-induced migration on women and children.
“Gradually I realized that climate change is not just about long, heavy words. It impacts our homes, our food, our health and life as we know it. That’s when I decided I wanted to do something about it, even if it was on my level.
Travel Cool The Globe
“One day I asked my father, ‘What can I do about climate change?’ We decided to leave home. We have embarked on a quest to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a target. Surprisingly, people around have started to take notice. My friends and family would come up to me and say, “You’re doing something interesting. We would love to be part of it,” says Prachi.
Prachi and his father started thinking about how they could take global citizens with them in this quest for climate action. From there was born the idea of Cool The Globe App. Prachi started Cool The Globe as a student and her father Prashant Shevgaonkar, an academician, joined the company and handled the coding of the app.
When launching the app, Prachi’s media skills helped spread the word. Together with his friends, Prachi started making simple videos on the app. These videos went viral and reached over 4 million people. It was just the beginning.
The ‘movement’ app
The Cool The Globe app helps citizens reduce their carbon footprint to a goal. Users set monthly and annual goals to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions. In the app, users can choose from hundreds of climate actions (in categories such as travel, home materials…) and see the CO2 emissions they have saved.
A global counter on the home page tracks the emissions avoided by all users in real time, to show the power of collective climate action.
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has more than doubled over the past century, mainly due to human activity. This is leading to an unprecedented increase in average global temperatures. Organizations like the IPCC continue to stress the importance of behavioral and lifestyle changes to limit warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Today, the Cool The Globe app has over 30,000 users from 110 countries, who have collectively saved 2 million kg of greenhouse gas emissions. Prachi says that is equivalent to planting about 1 lakh of trees!
Cool The Globe has also become a start-up. It helps companies integrate climate action into their workforce and start their net zero journey. Currently, seven people work full time with Prachi along with about 50 volunteers. The next goal is to add at least one million users.
“We are also planning city-specific platforms where local government and residents can unite in the battle against climate change. The effort is to make climate change relevant,” says Prachi. “Every day, I am inspired by our users around the world, who show great courage by taking climate action in their own lives,” says the 24-year-old, with an infectious smile.
“We have received enthusiastic responses from people who have downloaded the app,” she adds. A nine-year-old girl emailed her saying that since downloading the app she had started making changes in her own life to fight climate change. Another user called her recently to tell her that he had started cycling to the office and that he had logged over 60 kg of avoided emissions on the app.
According to the United Nations, climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. “From changing weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic floods, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly,” the UN warns ominously.
Deconstructing climate change
When Prachi and his father started creating the app, the first question they asked themselves was, “Will people use it?” “. But the father-daughter duo was determined.
“It was a major challenge when we started. The start of the journey was lonely, but when people started connecting, all the challenges were met. Now there are a lot of people with us to solve the problems we face,” she adds.
Ask her about her “aha” moment, Prachi says: “Meeting inspiring people, working with people from different walks of life and realizing that the experience that started in the family has now reached the whole country.”
In 2021, Prachi became the first Indian to be appointed to the Advisory Council of the Climate Leadership Coalition, alongside Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland. Recently, Google India ran a campaign dedicated to Prachi’s journey in building Cool The Globe.
Prachi is now regularly invited by universities, colleges, schools and organizations to speak on climate change. She also helps institutions design climate change curricula and advises organizations on their climate action plan.
Prachi is a social entrepreneur. Cool The Globe started as his personal quest. Today it has become a social enterprise, a start-up and a movement. Prachi’s mission is to make climate action easy, accessible and measurable for citizens and organizations. Her father now works full-time with her.
While her friends and many family members decided to go the beaten path, Prachi decided to take the path less travelled.
“I hope my journey can be a testimony to young people around the world, that our actions have power. When we as citizens come together, miracles can happen,” she says.
September 09, 2022