Education is all about making young minds more aware of their surroundings, and to enable them to think in terms of addressing the challenges and solving the problems that the world faces today. The biggest concern of our age is the environment. So the most helpful innovations of tomorrow will be directed towards sustainable living. This was the message of “7 Days Challenge”, a week-long educational event to encourage sustainable lifestyle, organised earlier this year by the Embassy of Sweden, in collaboration with the TERI School of Advanced Studies.

The event was part of the Swedish embassy’s larger set of celebrations to mark the 11th edition of Sweden-India Nobel Memorial Week. In this seven-day initiative, youngsters from the 14-24 age group, from across Delhi-NCR, were invited to showcase their innovative ideas on the themes of environment and sustainability.

The drive was organised from 17-23 January 2018, and it focused on three categories: eat, move and live. Over 1,300 students participated in the challenge, out of which two were announced as the winners at an award ceremony held earlier this week at the Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi.

The “7 Days Challenge” was aimed at encouraging both innovation and awareness about lifestyle choices that contribute to sustainability and create a positive impact on the environment that can last beyond one lifetime.

On the occasion of presenting prizes to the winners of this competition, Klas Molin, the Ambassador of Sweden to India, said, “We are overwhelmed by the innovative and creative solutions we received for sustainable living.  Today’s young generation has great potential to enact positive change and such challenges help combining their creativity and dynamism to achieve a sustainable future.”

Talking about the idea and theme of the challenge, Molin told Guardian 20, “ I thought, why do we think of complicated steps when it comes to making our environment eco-friendly? Why not start with something simple that we can do every day? There are small things that we are very well aware of, like carpooling or using bicycles to avoid pollution and so on, but we need more such ideas. That was when we decided to take it simple, and to make as our aim innovative ideas that anyone can practice in their day-to-day life.”

The ideas presented on this forum by the young participants included primers on generating calcium from eggshells, manufacturing affordable slippers and organic charcoal, creating phone alarms that can indicate a 100% battery charge, and much more. “We came across some really creative and new ideas, which are not at all expensive,” Molin added.

“Women in urban areas are quite aware of sanitary napkins but in rural areas this is not the case. This is what sparked the idea behind my project.” said Krishi Bhat, a 9th standard student of Amity International School, Vasundhara. Bhat was declared as one of the winners of the “7 Days Challenge”, for his proposal of making herbal, biodegradable and cost-effective sanitary napkins.

“I thought, why do we think of complicated steps when it comes to making our environment eco-friendly? Why not start with something simple that we can do every day? There are small things that we are very well aware of, like carpooling or using bicycles to avoid pollution and so on, we need such ideas.”

Talking about her project, Bhat said, “Even in the 21st century, women in rural areas cannot afford sanitary napkins which is really disturbing. I also studied that napkins that are available in markets are non-biodegradable, which is harmful for the environment. So I decided to take up these concerns and started working on them. Another thing that makes our project unique is that we have given our product a herbal treatment, which restrains the growth of bacteria and fungus that are majorly responsible for vaginal infections in females. I had two more fellow students and a teacher with me who helped me in this project.”

In a conversation with Guardian 20 at the award ceremony, Bhat said, “My project serves two purposes. First, these napkins cost only of two rupees each, and second, women face problem of vaginal infections due to some commercial napkins, so unlike those my product is herbal and biodegradable.”

Speaking about her experience while working this project, Bhat said, “I have been a part of many such competitions, and forums like these have helped me develop my confidence. I am now quite fluent in public speaking. This whole journey was a great learning experience for me. Moreover, I think taking sanitary napkins as my project has helped me speak about menstruation more openly. Menstruation is a natural process. Every woman should feel proud of her body and should embrace it.”

Now, Bhat is planning to take this project to the next level. She said, “We are applying to get the patent for our product very soon.”

The other winner of the challenge was Manvi Jain, for her beeswax cloth wrap, which is a reusable and biodegradable wrap. It eliminates the use of aluminium foil papers and of cling foil. About the idea behind her project, Jain said, “Actually, I happened to attend a workshop where we talked about reduction of processed food and the energy wasted in the packaging of food. I thought of making some alternative that might replace regular foil paper and other plastic materials. Moreover, the packaging of food is a daily thing that we do and creating an eco-friendly alternative can bring a change that everyone can practice.”

Jain found a simple solution to this problem in beeswax. She said, “This beeswax cloth has all the qualities of normal foil paper, but it is biodegradable and can be reused. We had to make the cloth bacteria-free, so I found some things like cloves, tulsi leaves and so on. Also, after many experiments I found out that only linen and cotton are the best options that I could use in this product.”

Jain is an 11th grade student, also from the Amity International School, Vasundhara. “This beeswax cloth is available in India but is expensive. Moreover, people are not much aware of this cloth. My aim now is to create awareness of the same so that people can contribute to making the environment sustainable and more eco-friendly,” she said.

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