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Like, Tweet, Plant trees

How smart entrepreneurs are using the power of social media platforms to spread the environment message.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2011 12:28 IST
Shreya Sethuraman

Our survey says youngsters are tweeting too much and doing too little on the ground. In that smallish segment that has made a difference on the ground is Environment Online (ENO), a global ‘virtual’ school network based out of Finland. It studies environmental themes through the school year and arranges campaigns across the world simultaneously to increase awareness. Over 10,000 schools from 150 countries are now part of this network since its inception in 2000.

“We are currently coordinating a program called ‘100 Million Trees by 2017’ in association with United Nations Environment Programme where school children plant trees themselves. In the last seven years, we have planted over five million trees,” says Rajiv Shrivastava, country coordinator of ENO. Students are educated about sustainable development and the need to preserve the environment by ENO.

Grow-Trees.com (GT), a website which gives ordinary people the ability to plant trees, is another example. “A lot of people are passionate about trees and the environment, but don’t have the time or resources to go and physically plant a tree. GT wanted to be a web platform where people could plant trees with a few clicks,” says Karan Shah, co-founder, GT.

Corporates are warming up to these ventures as well. “Today about 30 companies, including HSBC and Globus have planted trees through us to celebrate employee birthdays, honour achievements or celebrate client acquisitions,” says Shah.

Blog for a cause
Some individuals have taken their passion and concern for the environment online by writing blogs. Rahul Muralidharan (23), a marine biologist from Chennai, writes extensively on the marine ecosystem and ocean life on his blog Okeanos. Last year he even won a top blogger award for his work on marine ecology. “Very few people are aware about marine biology and the problems that have arisen due to global warming. I just wished to share my experiences with others.”

Delhi-based Caroline Howe (25), co-founder of ‘India Climate Solutions’, has also been an avid environmental blogger since 2006. “I’ve been working on environmental issues for the past 10 years and feel blogging on topics ranging from promoting cycles use to building smoke-free villages is the best way to get the message across,” she says.

The online sphere has helped these causes — by reaching out to more people. However, its impact is limited. Swechha is an environment NGO that runs a workshop called Green the Gap, which converts waste material such as old tyres, tetra-packs etc into new products and also uses Facebook and Youtube to further its cause and message. However, the executive director, Vimlendu Jha points out, “The online space has become more popular in the last two-three years. It gives power. But it acts only as a trigger, it does not deliver. We don’t rely on the online medium, entirely. For any concrete results, one needs to be out there.”

Online Initiatives
No impact project:
Empowers citizens to make choices and lowers their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action.

What’s with the climate: Attempts to provide an open forum for the discussion of climate change.

Energy action coalition: A youth-led environmental and social justice group, working to enhance the clean energy and climate movement.