Sitting in the university’s canteen, pondering over my recent learnings of the concept of system’s thinking (or the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole) – I found myself caught in the circle of chaos while attempting to connect together, the physical elements present in that moment. Trust me, it was both confusing and frustrating. However, in the middle of my ‘existential crisis’ moment, I ordered the most affordable and best filter kaapi (Indian filter coffee)
People who know me well are aware of how much I love to talk. While sipping one of the tastiest kaapi, I found myself chatting with Arvind Anna about the importance of straws. It was then that he mentioned his strong opposition against their use and his helplessness due to excessive demand. I asked back, “Arvind Anna, why do they ask for straws? Most students drink juice while sitting in the canteen. Unless they are travelling, their use of straws cannot be justified, right?” Anna just smiled, reflecting on his years of his experience, where many students asked him the same question, and replied, that this isn't something he can control.
From the following day, whenever I sit down in the canteen or at the basketball court, I would catch hold of one of my peers and discuss why they chose a disposable cup every time they decided to drink coffee or juice. In fact, on many days I noticed a few of my peers bringing their own cups, which made me think I should do the same. It was challenging. Well, the only challenging bit was to remember carrying it every day and making a habit of it. Just one little step and I enjoyed the hot kaapi in my cozy cup while relishing the lovely weather in Bangalore.
After several chats with one of my professors (whom I also looked up as my mentor), I realized the critical role conversations play in understanding the background of any idea or opinion. I, therefore, started interacting with my peers more often to express my thoughts on the subject, and to my surprise, some of them were excited to volunteer in adopting this little change of habit, which would have a compounding effect in reducing their collective carbon footprint. In contrast, the others refused to believe in the impact.
As a matter of fact, all these opinions were valid in some or the other way. In addition, focusing on consumer driven changes without pushing industries to invest in producing sustainable alternatives is like an incomplete recipe. Therefore, for its proper implementation, I realised it was important to build my knowledge on the subject, create discussion spaces and collaborate with major stakeholders to address the issue of excessive dry waste – something that can be easily avoided.
Personally, I have found immense power in positive reinforcement, which marked the beginning of ‘Wake-Cup’. I started documenting the stories of people in my University who brought their own cups or lunch boxes. In support, Arvind Anna, kindly offered an extra shot of coffee to those who brought their own cups :) Adding to the joy, he even stopped giving away straws and has started using areca nut bowls and plates now.
The idea of Wake-Cup is to create a community that believes and practices sustainable methods to address challenges as well as engages in discussions to help understand mindsets. More importantly, Wake-Cup is about waking our inner consciousness to the existing reality, and using its power to understand and believe in our abilities to create change.
About the author: Vartika Gupta started the Wake-Cup campaign at Azim Premji University while pursuing her MA in Development in Bengaluru, India, to celebrate grit and initiative-taking towards sustainable lifestyle changes. Prior to her masters, she has been a Teach for India Fellow and a student of Biological Sciences. Over the years, Vartika has gathered experience working in diverse sectors including education, youth leadership, gender equality, health, environment and socio-economic sustainability. @WakeCupIndia