Youth wanting to change the world, leading by example

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Goumbook interviews two Drop It Youth Ambassadors: Neola Castelino, Grade 11, Our Own English High School – Sharjah, & Sainath Manikandan, Grade 8, GEMS United Indian School – Abu Dhabi

Why did you decide to be a Goumbook Ambassador and can you tell me about how you have inspired others to join or what initiatives you have worked on and been inspired by?

Neola: As I was recycling plastic bottles from 2016 and spreading awareness on the same, I came across Drop It Youth through social media. What inspired me the most was their goal, ‘Say no single use plastic’, I thought of joining them as an ambassador. I campaigned on single use plastic in my school, all my schoolmates took an oath against plastic usage. I used to take time and go to various environmental events and spread awareness about Goumbook and Drop it Youth. Moreover, I conducted few workshops as a DIY ambassador among young aspiring kids.

Sainath: When I visited my hometown, I was shocked to see heaps of plastic and wastage being littered all over the places. Then I imagined the amount of single-use plastics being used all over the world.

I started to realize that Plastic pollution is an important global issue. I want to change the world’s attitude towards plastic within a generation because if the same trend continues by 2050 there would be more plastics in the seas and oceans when compared to the marine species as per United Nations Environment Programme.

I wanted to do my bit and take small steps to protect our environment. I started to search online. I came across this wonderful organization “Goumbook” and decided to join as an Ambassador.

As an Ambassador, I am raising awareness about single-use plastic pollution and encouraging individuals and organizations to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions through simple everyday choices. I give presentations, pep talks and sometimes express my ideas in an artistic way to capture the attention of my schoolmates and classmates so that they can try their best to reduce single-use plastics. Ms. Tatiana Antonelli Abella and the entire DIY team have been very supportive in involving young children to be ambassadors for this campaign.

What are the biggest challenges to getting people to change their habits and realize the importance of looking after the environment?

Neola: One of the biggest challenges is how people post on social media all throughout the yearly events for comments and likes, but practically no one follows in real life. I made sure to personally go to my neighbours and speak to them about the current situation and harmful effects of plastic etc. Even though we have read about/ learnt about it in school, most of us often tend to forget about it during our day to day life.

Sainath: Most of us have got used to the habit of take it easy. When we read about the dangers to our environment, of course we are concerned, talk about it for some time and then we forget it.

The biggest challenge to get people to change their habits significantly was to used make them understand the after effects of using single-use plastics and the dangers of climate change to human health and mother earth.

After many government entities have started to imply new strict laws and regulations, people have started to realize the importance of taking care of their environment.

What would be your personal message to other youths reading this?

Neola: It is up to our generation to decide what kind of future we want to live in. If it consists of a healthy environment, then we need to start acting now. It can’t be about one government body/organisation responsibility or task. It is every individual’s duty.

Sainath: Educating young minds will surely make an impact towards preserving the earth’s resources for the future. Youth today just need to take one step at a time to save and heal our planet. Raising environmental awareness is very important and crucial not only for the present generation but for our future. I believe that together we can create a wave of change. People of all ages should understand the present danger that our world is facing. All of us should take a step forward and rethink plastic, reduce, reuse and recycle. It is our prime responsibility to take care of our mother Earth.

Apart from this DIY Campaign, I am running my own campaign, PEPC campaign and collecting recyclables in my school and community. My objective is to change our practices into green and sustainable solutions using the latest technologies. Let us align with UAE Vision 2021 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and lead a sustainable life.

What are you excited about in your future and what worries you?

Neola: I’m excited to see how many more youngsters I can invite on this environmental journey by conducting more workshops in this near future. My worries concern the amount of plastic that is being disposed, the lack of recycling and waste segregation during this pandemic and how we can overcome this plastic wave.

Sainath: One of the biggest environmental challenge right now is Climate change and its effects. The Earth’s Climate is constantly changing. Human activities including air pollution and water pollution have introduced a new area of climate change, global warming. Nevertheless, this pandemic situation has shown the world that the nature is healing by itself during this lockdown. We have seen the amount of air pollution being reduced considerably in almost all parts of the world.

We live on a blue planet, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. Oceans are facing threats as a result of human activity. Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans. I am worried about our marine species if the same trend continues.

The Environment Agency has announced a new policy to ban single-use plastics. Abu Dhabi will be joining more than 127 countries around the world that have already taken measures to ban or limit the use of disposable plastic materials.

EAD’s policy is aligned with international standards in order to make Abu Dhabi a pioneer in reducing the use of avoidable single use materials by 2021. I am excited that through these policies and initiatives, the production of single-use plastics will be reduced and after a point of time, it will be zero plastics in our environment.

What sustainable practices do you incorporate into your daily life?

Neola: Practices I incorporate;

  • Using reusable bags for grocery shopping
  • Using the public transport whenever possible
  • Re-use as much as possible.
  • Switch to sustainable clothing, and try upcycling
  • Unplug and switching off all appliances before going to bed
  • Finally, being more aware and making more Eco-friendly choices and learning about better methods everyday

All these practices are very easy to follow and can be made practical if we give it some thought.

Sainath: My friends have started to understand the importance of taking care of our natural resources and would like to be part of these campaigns which indicates that there is a positive impact on them.

They realize their responsibility and would like to take action along with others by following these simple tips:

  1. Carry a refillable water bottle
  2. Refuse plastic food packaging
  3. Refuse plastic straws, plates, cups….
  4. Take your own shopping bags (cotton/jute bags)
  5. Save water and electricity
  6. Plant trees
  7. Walk whenever possible to your school or office to reduce air pollution or use public transport

I am trying my best to incorporate these sustainable practices in my lifestyle. Together we can create a wave of change to heal the environment and love the planet.